12 Days of Anime #5: Loyalty in The Legend of Arslan

“No matter what His Highness’s origins are,  my liege lord is Prince Arslan.” -Daryun

I don’t know about you but a story about a ruler and his faithful knight gets me every time.

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Loyalty has long been heralded as one of the highest human virtues. It’s a precious gift, to have someone’s devotion and faith in you. What speaks about your character more than your deeds is perhaps the company you keep, specifically the strength of the faith your loved ones and friends have for you and your well-being.

Prince Arslan, the titular character in The Legend of Arslan (Arslan Senki) strikes to me as a very lucky guy. Well, okay, maybe not so lucky in that he’s been chased out of his kingdom in a coup d’etat…but he has some of the most skilled and capable people behind his back, who wholeheartedly believe in his cause and will go to the ends of the earth and back to protect him. Which, funnily enough, most kings and princes in Arslan-verse, seem to be lacking. Our moe Prince Arslan must have a monopoly on reliable, capable retainers in Pars.

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“There is no way Lord Daryun will lose. He is the greatest hero who walks this earth, after all!” -Elam

Unlike the others in his merry band of followers, Daryun has been with Arslan from the very beginning. His staunch loyalty to Arslan was mainly that of a mix of obligation and devotion to the kingdom as a whole–in fact, his uncle, Vahriz, charges him to protect Prince Arslan alone. However, like the others, along the journey, Daryun’s loyalty evolves to that of a more personal and passionate bond, as he grows to care and admire Arslan not because he’s a prince but because the gentle and compassionate soul he is. Even when Arslan becomes troubled at the thoughts of not actually being a true contender for the throne due to the mysterious origins of his birth, Daryun only becomes more zealous in his role as Arslan’s protector.

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But loyalty–true loyalty, that is–is always a two way street. Daryun’s steadfast devotion is never called into question in Arslan, but when he is called as Prince Rajendra’s proxy (at Arslan’s behest) in a “duel before the gods” against Bahadur,who is best described by Farangis as an “animal who wears the guise of a man”–the battle does open an opportunity for us to see a contrast between two princes and their proxies. Gadevi’s quick and desperate acquisition of Bahadur, a monstrous criminal seems cheap and tawdry compared to Arslan’s faith in Daryun.

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“Your Highness, this will be a time when your stateliness will be tested. It may not be where your heart truly lies, but…” -Narsus to Prince Arslan

Interestingly enough, although Daryun’s battle is the visible one present, the episode is less about his battle and more about the more subtle battle being fought outside of the arena. Despite Daryun being in a tight spot, the plot armor around him is thick indeed and we never doubt for a second that Daryun would find some way to overcome the monstrous odds set against him. However, the compelling part of the battle is watching as our fair-haired Parsian prince gradually lose his composure when he fears for his knight’s safety.

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Whoa…turns out our dear sweet prince has a berserk button after all! And while Gadevi may jeer at Prince Arslan’s total lack of composure, we don’t criticize Arslan’s loss of temper. In fact, his temper only serves to humanize him and affirm what we already know–that he’s a guy who cares for his subordinates deeply and won’t hesitate to resort to the same dirty tactics he despises if his people get hurt. It’s a neat bit of characterization that makes Arslan a bit more real than the moe prince that we’ve been seeing so far and an act as King Karikala II of Shindra deems as befitting that of a ruler far worthier than either of his sons.

 

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3 thoughts on “12 Days of Anime #5: Loyalty in The Legend of Arslan

  1. The pacing was too slow to make this one of my favourite shows of the year, but I enjoyed it nonetheless for exactly the reasons you outlined here. I like Arslan’s character well enough and I like Daryun’s as well, but it’s that intensely loyal relationship (which, happily, goes both ways) that makes the series really stand out to me.

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    1. Epic fantasies do take a while to build up but I find that the pay off is big at the end. I’d rather have a story go slow and tell it well rather than rush it through and not do it justice. I had a similar experience watching Twelve Kingdoms…which moves even more slowly than Arslan. Arslan and Daryun’s strong faith in each other is really one of the highlights in Arslan for me and it’s great to see how the dynamics of their relationship shift a little as Arslan grows into his role as a leader and future king.

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      1. Yeah, the payoff in Twelve Kingdoms was definitely worth it, though I do think that particular buildup was too slow as well. I’m reserving judgment on Arslan Senki as far as payoff goes since the story is still only halfway there.

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