The Heroic Legend of Arslan
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The Heroic Legend of Arslan (aka The Heroic Legend Of Arislan aka Arslan Senki) is a series of fantasy novels written by author Yoshiki Tanaka with illustration by Yoshitaka Amano (Kadokawa) and Shinobu Tanno (Kobunsha) and published by Kadokawa Shoten then later Kobunsha. The series is currently on hiatus at 13 volumes; the first having been published in 1986 and the series not yet complete, although volume 7 marks a sort of halfway conclusion.
A Manga adaptation of the novels was crafted by Chisato Nakamura and published by Kadokawa Shoten in the magazine Asuka Fantasy DX. Originally running between November 1991 and September 1996 the Manga also stands at 13 volumes.
An Anime OVA adaptation was also created, animated by studios Movic and J.C.Staff under the direction of Mamoru Hamatsu (episodes: I & II and V & VI) Tetsurō Amino (episodes: III & IV). Released August 17th 1991 to 1996 the Anime OVA consists of six episodes and is notable for its beautiful animation for its age (at least the in first two episodes), its music, its voice acting talent, and for being unfinished due to funding issues.
There's also an Audio Adaptation series (10 volumes plus a special one) that roughly covers the first 10 volumes of the novel and shares the anime voice cast (mostly).
The story of all incarnations is very loosely based on the Persian epic Amir Arsalan. It takes place in a fantasy setting reminiscent of ancient Middle East and feature the warring states of Pars and Lusitania (Pars is roughly the same as Persia/modern Iran). The king of Pars, Andragoras demotes one of his most loyal generals, Darun, on the word of a man who proves to be a traitor. During a battle between the Lusitanians and Parsians the Lusitanians achieve victory and Darun escapes with the crown prince of Pars, Arislan. The story details the ventures of Darun and Arislan as they attempt to reclaim Pars and gain revenge against the Lusitanians while facing innumerable obstacles between them and their goals.
- Action Girl: Ester, sometimes Arfrid.
- The Archer: Melrein and Farangis, though she's equally good with a sword. Sometimes Gieve.
- Arrows on Fire: Used to lit an entire plain covered in oil.
- Battle Royale With Cheese
- The Beast Master: Jaswant, apparently. He travels around on a tiger.
- Beast of Battle: Shindrans use elephants in battle.
- Better to Die Than Be Killed: Kahran.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Arslan is normally gentle, soft-spoken, patient and doesn't like violence. However, when Rajendra cynically puts Darun's life in danger, he snaps, draws his sword and tells Rajendra that if Darun doesn't survive the fight, he, Arslan, will personally have Rajendra's head. This comes as a surprise not only to Rajendra but also to Arslan's own followers.
- In the novel he says "I swear by the gods of Pars that if that monster kills Daryun its head will decorate the city gate - along with yours!" The novel also informs us that this was the first time Arslan ever threatened anyone.
- Bishounen: Every single male under 30, especially Arslan.
- Bunny Ears Lawyer: Narsus is a formidable strategist and statesman (think Oberstein) who nevertheless regards himself an artist first and foremost. In the second part of the story he says he's a "Royal Court Artist who happens to be First Minister as well." Darun's utter and vocal distaste for Narsus' artwork is a running gag throughout the story, but while the anime would have the viewers believe that Darun is too boneheaded to appreciate true art, the novel series implies that Narsus' art does actually suck.
- Cain and Abel: Gadevi and Rajendra, the two Shindran princes. Also Hirmes and Arslan, although they're cousins. As it turns out, not even that.
- The Champion: Darun to Arslan. At one point he makes it clear that he doesn't care whether or not Arslan is the rightful heir or even of royal blood, he's loyal to him as a person.
- Combat Pragmatist: Darun
- Coming of Age Story: For Arslan, at any rate.
- Cool Mask: Hirmes/Silvermask's mask has large bull horns (one wonders how strong his neck must be).
- Dark Is Not Evil: Darun dresses in all black, and in the novel he's known in-universe as the Black Knight.
- Decoy Getaway: How Queen Tahmine tried to escape from Ecbatana. (It didn't work.)
- The Drifter: Gieve. A Wandering Minstrel with a Gray and Grey Morality who hates nobility and initially only joins Arslan's group because of Farangis and his own hatred against Lusitanians.
- Dual-Wielding: Kishwad uses two swords.
- Eek! A Mouse!: Played straight with Rajendra's battle elephants.
- Executive Meddling / Art Evolution: Aside of the Spell My Name with an "S" incident mentioned below, the character designs changed between the first and second episodes. The designs in the first episode follow Amano Yoshitaka's beautiful artwork while from second episode onwards they're more indigenous to the style of Kamimura Sachiko. It's most obvious in case of Darun who, in the first episode, has sharp and dangerous looks, slanted eyes, and hair that tends to fall into his face. In the 2nd episode and afterwards his hair is less wild, and he has milder features with rounded eyes, giving him a more classic "good guy" look.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Pars is Persia, Lusitania is a mix of Macedonia and the Kingdom of Jerusalem, Maryam is the Byzantine Empire, and Shindra is India.
- As for religion, Pars and Shindra are polytheist while Lusitania and Maryam worship one god, Yaldabord. Lusitania is a lot more militant about it: they torture "heathens" and destroy art and scriptures that depict and mention other gods. To drive the point home, the current king of Lusitania is called Innocentius VII, an obvious reference to Pope Innocent III.
- Fiery Redhead: Arfrid
- Five-Man Band: Prince Arslan's little group.
- The Hero: Arslan
- The Lancer: Darun
- The Smart Guy: the role is divided between Narsus, The Strategist and Gieve the Wandering Minstrel.
- The Big Guy: early in the story it's Darun, due to him being the tallest and strongest. Later Qubat joins the team and takes up this role.
- The Chick: Farangis, mostly by default since she's a Lady of War.
- Tagalong Kid: Elam and Arfrid. The latter is a more straight example as she actually decides to tag along, but she goes back and forth between this trope and The Chick.
- The Fundamentalist: Jon Bodan, High Priest of Lusitania.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: Hirmes' mask hides a rather nasty burn scar.
- Hey, It's That Voice!
- Heroic Bastard: Arslan. Only alluded to in the anime, expanded upon in the novels and the manga. In fact, he's not even of royal blood, he's the son of a cavalry soldier and a serving girl, whom he thought to be his nanny. He quickly proves that he is charismatic, kind, and intelligent enough to deserve his followers' loyalty and grow up into a great ruler regardless.
- Hitchhiker Heroes: Arslan and his supporters who wander around Pars looking for supporters and allies. It starts out with only Darun, then gains Narsus (and Elam), Farangis and Gieve who make up the core of Arslan's growing group of allies. Originally none of them were very enthusiastic about it and supported Arslan only because they opposed the Lusitanian invasion, but eventually Arslan's personality won them over.
- At first Darun was only following his uncle's orders, Narsus joined because he found Arslan interesting, Farangis because she hated Lustianian religious fanaticism and Gieve because Farangis joined, and because he hated oppression of all kind.
- Hopeless Suitor: Gieve to Farangis, Arfrid to Narsus. Subverted a little in that both Farangis and Narsus are very much aware of their respective suitors' feelings, and they find the situation annoying.
- Ho Yay: Darun and Arslan have quite a few moments, especially in the early OVAs, and their relationship could be easily interpreted as a sort of Bodyguard Crush. There's also Darun and Narsus who used to be best friends before Narsus was expelled from the court, and now play Vitriolic Best Buds to each other.
- It doesn't help (or does, depending on your point of view...) that many of anime character designer Kamimura Sachiko's fantasy characters look exactly the same as her Arslan characters, down to their costumes... and she's done a number of BL novel illustrations. At one point she actually had to clarify at her website that the couple in a picture are, despite all appearances, not Darun and Arslan. (She wasn't very convincing.)
- King Bob the Nth: Innocentius VII
- Lady of War: Farangis is this trope personified. Incidentally, she's very much aware of her own skills and beauty. She can also drink her Hopeless Suitor Gieve under the table without losing her poise and dignity.
- Ladykiller in Love: Gieve, the smooth talker, falls head over heels for Farangis the moment he meets her.
- Nice Hat: Arslan's helmet has large bull horns.
- Pet the Dog: Hirmes' romance with Princess Irina.
- Rescue Romance: Subverted. Gieve, finding Farangis surrounded by assailants, intends to sweep in, rescue her, and bask in her gratitude... but by the time he reaches her, she's handled the situation herself, leaving him stunned with admiration.
- Played more straight in Arfrid's introduction scene, though also with a twist. She's trying to avenge his father on Hirmes but he easily disarms her. When Narsus shows up, she demands he give her his sword so she can continue fighting. Narsus rescues her instead, and eventually she decides she's in love with him.
- Shirtless Scene: Gieve in episode 2, though technically he's full naked (as he's swimming in a pool).
- Spell My Name with an "S": And how. To start with, originally the names of characters and places either came from Persian legends (Arslan, Farangis, Giv, etc.) or are native to various languages like Farsi, Hindi, Urdu (Daryun, Elam, Etwar, etc. Many places mentioned in the story, such as Ecbatana or Atropatene, actually exist or existed in real life). The person who translated the anime to English Did Not Do the Research and treated the names as if they were random fantasy names, hence Arislan, Pharangese, Darun, Gieve and so on. The most jarring decision was turning Etwar/Ester into Etoile/Estelle, despite the very obvious ancient Middle-Eastern type setting. And then for the last two episodes of the OVA Executive Meddling happened on the Japanese side, and the spelling and pronunciation of the names were changed for all major characters, turning Arislan, Darun, Narsus, Pharangese, and Gieve into Arslan, Darun, Narcasse, Farangis, and Guibu.
- The Strategist: Narsus.
- Time Skip: After Arslan's coronation the novel jumps four years ahead.
- Surrounded by Idiots: Guiscar of Lusitania, who actually runs the kingdom in place of his utterly incompetent brother.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Darun and Narsus, especially when it comes to Narsus' artwork.
Darun: (to a prisoner) "Start talking or I'll have [Narsus] paint your portrait. And nobody wants that."
- Wandering Minstrel: Gieve, though he's more of a wandering warrior and thief who also happens to be a bard.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Ester dresses as a boy and goes by a male name so she can fight with the other knights. Elam also crossdresses once.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Hirmes is deathly afraid of fire, as a result of having survived Andragoras' attempt to burn him alive.
- Yoshitaka Amano: Illustrated the original novels and the Audio Adaptation cassettes.
- You Killed My Father: Subverted in that it's the villains who tend to do this. Hirmes when he reveals himself to Andragoras, while Zande, Kahran's son does the whole My Name Is Inigo Montoya You Killed My Father Prepare to Die routine with Darun. Arfrid, however, also has a moment of this with Hirmes after the latter kills her father.