The overall story of The Heroic Legend of Arslan follows a rather predictable framework: Arslan, the kindhearted prince of a conquered kingdom, must gather companions, build an army, and retake the capital, rescuing his mother and father in the process.

For the entire first season, the anime worked its way down this path. There were distractions from time to time–like an invasion by another bordering country–but by the time the season ended, Arslan was on the march toward the capital at the head of a grand army.

The second season, The Heroic Legend of Arslan: Dust Storm Dance, begins as Arslan and company encounter another diversion, turning the army around once again for another border defense. However, this just seems par for the course, giving Arslan another trial to overcome and allowing the villainous Silver Mask the time he needs to strengthen his own position. That’s when the completely unexpected happens.

As Silver Mask goes out hunting a legendary sword and Arslan battles invaders, Arslan’s father, King Andragoras III, breaks out of his dungeon, rescues his queen, and escapes the capital all on his own. Despite being pursued much of the way, he makes it to Arslan’s army.

While you might think the return of the rightful king is a good thing, Andragoras is quite a different type of ruler compared to Arslan. Where Arslan is kind and understanding, only fighting when necessary, Andragoras has one solution to every problem: war. Any challenge to his power must be crushed. Even the idea that his son raised an army on his own leaves Andragoras a single step away from executing Arslan.

However, Arslan has proven himself a capable leader, winning over the loyalty of the country’s generals and people in general. He is also the only heir to the kingdom Andragoras can afford to recognize, no matter how much Andragoras detests that idea.

With this, we get the twist to the formula. With the King back, he simply takes Arslan’s army as his own and orders Arslan to build another army 50,000 men strong–and not to return until he’s done so. As Arslan’s companions rightly point out, this is an exile in all but name: Arslan has already gathered nearly every able fighting man in the country.

Thus, Arslan has been taken out of the game. Banished and on an impossible quest, he must start again from scratch. And while Arslan is yet undefeated against Silver Mask thanks to his reliance on clever tactics over brute force, Andragoras has already lost once and, eventually, could lose all the men that Arslan had gathered. It’s real stakes for both our hero and all he’s worked for so far.

So what comes next? Well, if the anime’s opening is to be believed, we’ll get some high seas adventure over the course of the series. And that’s something I’d never have expected two episodes ago.

The Heroic Legend of Arslan: Dust Storm Dance airs for free in the US with English subtitles on Funimation.

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