One of the big anime this upcoming season looks to be the second season of The Heroic Legend of Arslan. As I had never finished the first season, I made watching it a priority this past weekend. That’s when I discovered that it’s not the climatic battles or the devious plot that truly stands out, but rather the season’s final episode, the epilogue.
Few stories these days, be they anime, film, or even novels, leave enough time for an epilogue. In fact, a lot of anime have their series climax continue right up to the end of the final episode, leaving only the limited space afforded by the ending credits to explore anything that comes after.
However, The Heroic Legend of Arslan leaves a good 22 minutes–its entire final episode–to tie up loose ends, explore relationships, and basically show just how Arslan has changed over the course of the series, an aspect that is very much needed.
While the series may be named The Heroic Legend of Arslan, the storyline isn’t really about his legend most of the time and rarely does he take the role of hero. Much more time is spent following those who have chosen to serve Arslan than following the prince himself. After all, as even Arslan is quick to note, he does very little in the way of practical work, spending much of his time waiting as his companions do the dangerous jobs themselves.
At the start, Arslan is an innocent boy, largely isolated from the world around him. However, thanks to the trials he is forced to overcome, his innocence slowly transforms into idealism. We see this as the final episode plays Arslan (and the rest of the main cast) off against Étoile, the enemy female knight who taught the young Arslan about the evils of slavery years before. While the two encounter each other several times over the course of the series, it’s not until the last episode that they have an opportunity to truly talk after learning each other’s true identities.
Étoile is a true believer in her god–a belief that borders on fanaticism–and it is the lens through which she sees the world. To her, the holy book is the Truth and to any who reads it, the state of the world should be self-evident.
When faced in the past with a strong will such as hers, Arslan would likely defer to it. But at the series’ end, though, he is clear in goal and purpose–to end slavery and bring peace to his people. While he believes Étoile’s religion may work for her kingdom, he feels it wouldn’t work for him. The reason is simple: Étoile’s holy book allows non-believers to be slaughtered; but Arslan sees value in all life and believes that while killing is sometimes necessary, it is never morally right. He also sees how belief and scripture can be used as an excuse for war. Thus he hopes to find a different way to peace through learning more about Étoile, her worldview, and her people.
Étoile, on the other hand, is enraged at Arslan’s presumptions about the scripture and her country’s rulers. Yet, while he apologizes for antagonizing her and even offers her an olive branch in the form of allowing her to say a prayer for her dead soldiers, he doesn’t change his viewpoint.
From there, Étoile seeks to understand more about Arslan through his fellows and learns the simple truth: People don’t follow Arslan because he is a prince; they follow him because he is a good man who truly cares about his people and their future. Although Arslan may not think he does much as he doesn’t fight on the front lines or plan intricate battle strategies, he is the army’s moral center. Even as prisoners, Étoile and her followers are allowed free rein more or less and are not belittled or harassed by the army regulars.
The epilogue ends by setting up not only the next season as Arslan and company march to retake the capital, but also the next step in his growth as a person. Despite her beliefs, Étoile has come to see Arslan as a righteous non-believer and a good man—which leaves her no choice but to stay by his side in the hope of converting him. And likewise, her continued presence gives Arslan his first true potential love interest.
The second season will begin airing in Japan on July 3, 2016.