The Heroic Legend of Arslan
Original Story by Yoshiki Tanaka
Manga Adaptation by Hiromu Arakawa
Sweeping fantasy manga is a particular favorite of mine. While I absolutely love my girly, slice-of-life dramas, manga series with extensive worldbuilding and fantasy elements are fantastic. The Heroic Legend of Arslan fits nicely into that genre of manga.
Hiromu Arakawa may be a familiar name to you – she is well-known as the creator of Fullmetal Alchemist. Her involvement in this project is what drew me to the manga in the first place. The original story was written by Yoshiki Tanaka, and it was presented in novel format. There was a previous manga and OVA adaptation of the story, but I have not personally seen or read them yet. Hiromu’s manga adaptation is available in serialized, “simulpub” format on crunchyroll. I just couldn’t resist.
The manga follows Arslan, a crown prince of a prosperous kingdom. His parents are distant and unloving, but Arslan still cares deeply for them. He is weak and soft, completely different from the king and queen. When tragedy befalls his kingdom Pars, Arslan must step up and save his people.
The Heroic Legend of Arslan is a coming-of-age story with a variety of themes that recur throughout the story thus far. One is the relationship of the Parsians and their slaves. Arslan never thinks twice about the role of slavery in his kingdom until a recently enslaved boy opens his eyes. Arslan wrestles with the concept of slavery and the inequality of man as he travels to reclaim his kingdom. Another important element of Arslan is the nature of the Lusitanians, the invading kingdom of Pars. The Lusitanians worship a god, and their mission is to impose their beliefs on the heathens that surround their country. They approach conversion to their religion through pain and torture, which leaves much to be desired of the state of their converts. Though religious freedom is not explicitly mentioned yet in the manga, it is an important underlying story point.
Hiromu’s artwork is crisp and clean, and her ability to add weight to a story is seen in every page. At times, I found some of the characters to be reminiscent of Fullmetal Alchemist characters. However, as the story progressed and my interest deepened, I recognized the characters for their own personalities separate from my initial impressions. The Heroic Legend of Arslan manga is ongoing, with new issues releasing shortly after their release in Japan. There is an anime of the current manga adaptation.