[A review/ ramble about Arslan Senki (anime)]
Arslan Senki seemed promising at first, and I generally like fiction involving monarchies and feuds over thrones (ahem, A Song of Ice and Fire). I was eager to get to the end to see the baddies overthrown and Arslan earn himself his kingdom. Of course it was only halfway through that I realised: Oh shit, this story isn’t anywhere near the end.
I genuinely think that I would have liked this show more if the story had ended. A complete story is always better than an incomplete one, especially when the plot is nothing we haven’t already seen in at least a hundred other historical, war epics and high fantasy fictions. There, actually, is the primary problem with Arslan Senki. It’s nothing new. It didn’t push any boundaries and it didn’t surprise. With a genre like this, the story has to try harder.
Another one of Arslan Senki’s weak points was its characters. Arslan and his team were a collection of extremes right from the start. It begins with the eponymous Arslan himself. Kindness and compassion are wonderful qualities in a leader but the issue with Arslan is that those seem to be his only qualities. His kindness can be excruciating to watch at times, because it’s not just kindness; it’s naivety. It’s not technically wrong for him to be naïve – he’s only fourteen and was raised sheltered from hardship. However, given the situation he ends up in, and with his entire country facing certain calamity, it would have been nice if he could grow up a little faster. On this matter, the portion of the story that was animated certainly doesn’t do his character any favours – it’s far too short to make a real impact. While he does become more resolved regarding his ascension to the throne, he’s still a long way from the king he wants to be.
I guess this explains why Narsus, Arslan’s ally and advisor, is often the one making the calls. That doesn’t mean Narsus is a good character though. He’s far too intelligent, and that is almost as vexing as Arslan’s flailing. His strategies are always effective and no matter how dire the situation is, Narsus’ perfect foresight gives Team Arslan a victory. It’s interesting at first but becomes dull quite quickly after that. Then there’s Daryun and his exceptional strength as a soldier. One for brains and one for brawns – how convenient it is for Arslan. The rest of his retinue are just as impressive, and convenient. They don’t have much room to grow and I suppose their general awesomeness also makes them flat and favourless characters.
The show also seriously fails at comedy. Some stories don’t do it, and that’s fine – maybe they’re going for a dark and solemn tone. Some stories like Arslan Senki try and fail quite horribly. It’s hard for me to put my finger on precisely why their attempts at comedy were not funny but I think it has to do with inappropriateness and improbability. For instance, Alfarid, this girl from the Zot Clan, proclaims herself to be Narsus’ lover, just moments after they meet. I suppose this is intended to be funny, with Narsus protesting and all, but seriously… didn’t her father and various members of her clan just die in that battle where she met Narsus? Shouldn’t she be devastated? Why is she behaving like this? And no, the whole thing with Narsus’ painting isn’t funny either – he’s a smart guy and he should know when he sucks at something. I don’t see why he doesn’t, so I don’t find that funny at all.
Good comedy has a lot to do with characters and it’s important that characters are consistent. Situations that are funny with some characters may not be so with others. A character has to be introduced and built properly so that when he or she reacts to a certain situation, the audience can notice it and laugh at it. To me, Arslan Senki didn’t do this. Characters were just randomly thrust into awkward situations and while it was frequently confusing, it was never funny.
So was it altogether horrible? No. The scenes depicting the wars and some of the fights were rather well done. However fights alone do not make a story. Arslan Senki was lacking in many areas. They had one dimensional characters, lame humour and the story was as dry as a bone. Perhaps if the story had been complete, it could have been redeemed to some extent. As it stands, it’s just unsatisfactory on all levels for me.
(If you’ve watched Arslan Senki, and wish to share your thoughts, do leave them here!)