There’s a thing in sports where sometimes the greatest players don’t make good managers because they are incapable of understanding why less talented people can’t do what they themselves find easy and natural. They can’t explain to the lesser talents why they can’t do something the manager thinks should be simple. Or how a teacher incredibly smart at their subject is actually a useless teacher because they can’t engage with those students who are struggling to understand the basics. This is how I feel about Yoshiki Tanaka, the author of Arslan and Legend of the Galactic Heroes, and what appears to be his incredible memory.
He will flash across the names of multiple characters and somehow expect us to remember the names of every single bloody one. This was a common occurrence in Galactic Heroes and it’s starting to happen already with Arslan. There was a scene where they flashed the names of like 8 generals one after another. I of course remembered none of them bar maybe the one guy who spent his whole time drinking. Then towards the end of the episode they suddenly revealed that one of them was a traitor and I thought “oh snap…which one were you”? I knew there was going to be a betrayal because I read the plot description (and even if I didn’t I’m sure that narrator would have spoiled it for me anyway), but I thought it was going to be the sword trainer or his son or the queen. I only realised right when I went back for screencaps that it was the same guy advising the king that yeah we totally surveyed the terrain sure we did. I’m sorry but they all look the bloody same when they have the helmets on.
My confusion in following names is part of the reason why I decided to start blogging Arslan, because I feel like my failing memory is the only thing getting in the way of me completely falling in love with this show. I really enjoyed this second episode a lot. The writing is very clever in how it lays out things like character motivations and implies a lot without directly stating it. The conversation between the bearded dude and his son about whether Arslan resembled the king or queen implied a lot in there. Maybe Arslan is an illegitimate child which is why neither parent can care for him. Getting his son to swear specifically to Arslan shows that he knows something is going to happen in the future that will put Arslan in danger so he wants to give him the best protection he can.
I can’t say I’m too fond of the animation quality, but even if it’s not as impactful nor as high quality as I would like, there are still neat ways of framing shots that I liked. The dramatic comparison between the king’s war cry and Arslan’s own wimpy little cry emphasised their huge disparity in commanding authority. The soldiers reaction to Arslan expressing simple concern about the weather drew complaints that he’s just a whingy little baby rather than an insightful strategist. Plus hey, while I may not be crazy on the animation, it includes scenes like Aniki here having people fly away from his horse, swooning like fangirls at a boyband concert.
I feel like I could really get into Arslan in a deep way in a similar fashion to how I got deep in Legend of the Galactic Heroes. But while LoGH had over 100 episodes allowing me to take my time to learn all the character names, I won’t have that luxury with Arslan. The original novels aren’t even finished yet, despite the author writing them for over 30 years and being 14 books deep. Plus this is adapted from the latest manga adaptation by Hiromu Arakawa, the author of Full Metal Alchemist, and she only started writing this in 2013 and is only 3 volumes in (although news that she’s designing characters that haven’t appeared in her manga is promising that it will continue beyond that). I need to start learning these characters now. So to help I’m going to give them nicknames.
That’s enough for now. If you have better nicknames, or nicknames for those random generals that showed up, then do share with the class.