This was almost as gay as the opening episode of No.6. Not quite as gay, and I sure hope it doesn’t devolve into magical bee queens like that show did. But then again both stories started with pampered rich kid from well off society meeting and being taken semi-hostage by kid from different culture until they start to develop possible ~feelings~ for each other and oh god this isn’t going to be another No.6 now, is it? Because this first episode was really quite good and I would hate to see it collapse.
I liked quite a number of things about this episode, although since it was a near identical retread of the manga’s opening chapter there wasn’t too much surprising here. Set in a middle ages Arabian city we have our pampered yet good natured prince try to expand his horizons by meeting with some slaves captured in his buff manly dad’s recent battle, only to get himself captured by one around his own age as they learn things from each other. I usually have a bit of a dislike of stories where they make out as though the pampered kid has it tough because his parents lead an unloving sexless marriage. Oh woe is me, however can you handle living in unrivaled luxury with all the food, clothes, education and personal servants on hand to wash, dress and train you at all times if your parents aren’t very nice?
But it’s not quite that. Our kid Arslan going out to see the slaves revealed to him how narrow his viewpoint is. Thinking his country is one where you will never be unhappy but failing to see the slaves as desiring something other than being beaten for their lives. Another issue the story sidesteps is with slavery stories they usually don’t seem to be able to move beyond “slavery is bad guys” like we hadn’t realised that yet. But this is more complex than that. The scene at the end of the dead slaves being packed onto a wagon and Arslan not understanding why they wouldn’t allow themselves to be slaves and live rather than fight meaninglessly and die is interesting in understanding the importance of freedom and equality, to the point that people would die for it. Would you prioritise surviving of fight to seemingly pointless death for your ideals?
I have a few niggles. I do wish the animation was better. It’s not awful and I understand why they use CG for big battle scenes because they would be near impossible to do otherwise. Plus the CG isn’t as irritating as it was in, say, the Berserk CG movies. There it bugged me because it gave this clean look to a story so intrinsically dirty. Meanwhile Arslan is much more grand high fantasy, and the CG has a grimier look anyway so it fits. It still doesn’t look very good though, and neither does the regular animation for everything else. I wish a story this grand got the polish I feel it deserves. Also this is by the author of Legend of the Galactic Heroes and unfortunately he decided to bring along his awful narrator from one novel to the other so we get a nice final scene punctuated by the narrator going “AND THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED WITH THIS GIANT SPOILER I’M JUST GOING TO SAY BECAUSE FUCK YOU”.