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This is an epic series of the highest order. Each episode plays out like a Shakespearean tragedy with its blend of intrigue and action.
Review by Matthew Anderson
4 Episode OVA series
Company: Central Park Media
Running Time: 240 minutes (4 episodes)
Rated: PG-13 (Violence, language and gore)
A war is being raged between countries of Pars and Lusitanian. King Andragoras, so obsessed with winning, fails to listen to the sage advice of his son Arslan or his Military Advisor, Darun. Instead he banishes the two men to the far end of the kingdom. As soon as they leave, King Andragoras finds himself betrayed by his "trusted" advisor General Kahrlan, and imprisoned.
Behind the scenes, there is a man called Silver Mask. Manipulating both the Lusitanians and Kahrlan, he plans to claim the throne as his own. He is more than willing to destroy the country of Pars and kill the entire royal family to do so.
Arslan and Darun, on the run from their own forces, seek the aid of Narcasse, a brilliant tactician and artist. They also gain the help of wondering minstrel/mercenary Guibu, Warrior Priestess Farangis, and a vast assortment of interesting characters. Following the young prince, they begin a quest to free Pars from the treachery of Silver Mask and drive the Lusitanians out of their home.
This is the Heroic Legend of Arslan!
DVD VISION TEST
VIDEO: The quality is excellent. There are no pixels or errors noted. The colors are solid, and the motion, fluid.
AUDIO: There is very little difference between the Japanese and English 2.0 audio tracks. It will depend on your equipment on which one sounds better.
EDITS: Depending on the episode, it can be anything from the text on the Japanese opening being replaced with English, to the entire ending. No edits to the actual episodes have been noticed.
EXTRAS: On both discs you have a "Meet the Cast" section that shows clips about the character you choose. There is an section that gives an explanation on why the names were changed half way through the series. Last but not least, a CPM trailer for Arslan rounds off the extras.
STORY: Epic doesn't begin to describe the story. Based off the novels by "Legend of Galactic Heroes" author Yoshiki Tanaka, Arslan gives "Lord of the Rings" a run for it's money. Full of epic battles, interesting characters, and almost Shakespearean dialogue, this will appeal to a wide range.
Parts one, three and four were written by Tomoya Miyashita and Kaori Takada. They do a good job at setting up the story, and manage to keep it on track. The second episode written by Megumi Sugihara gets a little confusing for some viewers. New characters are introduced, with little or no explanation. It can make for a disjointed narrative.
ACTING: On the Japanese cast, I can say that they are absolutely wonderful. Inuyasha fans will delight in hearing Kappei Yamaguch as the voice for the noble and sweet Arslan. One of my favorite voice actors, Masako Katsuki (Deunan in Appleseed, Sailor Neptune in "Sailor Moon") gives us a great reading for the strong and swift Farangis. The entire cast is top notch, representing the best Japan has to offer.
On the other hand, I have some problems with the English dub. Let me say first that acting on the first two episodes is fantastic. The entire cast gets a big thumbs up. Unfortunately, the rest is all down hill. The next two episodes, the voices are done by two totally different sets of voice actors. The acting also goes south, which makes the last episode uncomfortable to sit through.
FAN SERVICE: Nothing really, unless you are a fan of the novels or the manga.
If you are a fan of Legend of Galactic Heroes, you will love The Heroic Legend of Arslan (or Arslan). This is an epic series of the highest order. Each episode plays out like a Shakespearean tragedy with its blend of intrigue and action.
I never expected to enjoy Arslan as much as I did. Too many times, "Medieval" style anime winds up being slow, with too much dialogue and not enough action for it's own good. I expected the same with this series. After the first 20 minutes, I was hooked. Everything about it; the animation, the acting, and especially the writing had me in Arslan's razor sharp talons. Never has being wrong been so enjoyable.
This looks and feels very much like a Shakespear play. There is so much going on, it would take pages upon pages to cover it all. Suffice it to say, there is something for everyone. Impressive battles, swords, sorccery, romance, and even some comedy. Even the most jaded fan will find themselves cheering for Arslan, and booing the villians!
Arslan is an interesting character. I was riveted to my seat as I watched our hero go from Prince, to fugitive, to an inspirational and strong leader in just 45 minutes. I saw him raise an army, create an alliance, and even convince a Lusitanian that he was not an evil heathen. That's quite an undertaking considering the Lusitanians. Despite the foolishness and cruelty of his father, he still was loyal to the big oaf. All Arslan ever wanted to do was serve his father, and be his trusted aid. This young man was able to overcome all obstacles, paving the way for Arslan to be better ruler than his father ever was. Even at the unresolved ending, you knew that some how, Prince Arslan would survive. Truly, a legend of his own time.
The rest of the cast is also interesting. I really like the character of Narcasse. His effete nature hides a sharp mind. He is also reputed to be a warrior of great skill. In one scene, the captain of the guard backs off when he sees Narcasse reach for his sword. We later learn from Darun that the captain knew of Narcasses reputation, and that Narcasse would kick his ass.
Xena fans will notice some similarities between Farangis and our favorite sword toting heroin. She can hold her own against any man, and in many cases, more than one man. She is so skillful, a fight with her is over before it starts. One minute she draws her sword, the next, 20 men lay dead.
With a cast this large, everyone will find their favorites. It may the womanizing Guibu or the obnoxious Éram. It could even be the vengeance driven Silver Mask, the coolest looking of all the characters.
The character designs are beautiful. They are also highly detailed, with a style and grace that many anime lack today. While the names may be a bit confusing, you know who is who just by the design alone.
Along with the character design, the animation is quite artistic, at least on the first two episodes. The level of detail is outstanding, and the animation flows smoothly. Unfortunately, the obvious reduction in budget in the last two episodes reduces this work of art into something less. It's a shame that the production company didn't make the second half as good as the first.
The acting on the English dub also takes a turn for the worst. It's very disjointing to get used to one voice, only to have it taken away in the next episodes. The British voice actors that made the first two volumes so elegant are replaced with frankly, crass American talent. By the last episodes, the acting was awful. The biggest looser was the voice of Silver Mask, reduced from an powerful sounding character to a "mad villain" style of voice acting. Farangis also lost out when the refined and exotic voice of Pamela Merrick was replaced with the rather plain Simone Grant in episode 4. Fortunately, we have the great Japanese cast, and the cast of the first two episodes to make up for the "Age of Heroes" section.
I also don't understand why KSS made such a big deal about the name changes. While I understand "artistic integrity", was it so wrong to name Arslan to Arislan. Can you imagine the jokes? Arse-lan, Ass-lan! The same goes for Gieve to Guibu. Sounds like a new name for bat guano. "Excuse me, I have to take a Guibu!" I do with changing Pharangese to Farangis .
I think that CPM has picked a wise time to release this series on DVD. With all things "Lord of The Rings" at an all time high. this one will fit right in with that epic tale. Arslan could very well be the anime that gets some LOTR and mainstream fans to crossover into our world.
The Heroic Legend of Arslan is truly the definition of a classic anime. In spite of its limitations, I will watch this epic many more times to come. Perhaps by watching this anime, I too can learn how to become the stuff of legend.
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