My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I've seen snippets of earlier versions of this story and having Arakawa do the newest version was definitely something I wanted to see. I have to admit, it starts a little slowly for me. I would never have guessed this wasn't pure fantasy if not the interviews in the back (It's ancient Persia). The titular Arslan is a fourteen year old boy who is the sole (as far as I can tell) heir to his father's throne, ruling the well-off kingdom of Pars. His father seems to be a brutish king and his mother an ice queen. In fact, neither parent seems to have time for nor care about their son. He is left to be raised by his various mentors, including Vahriz who is teaching him to fight.
It's rather obvious the King and his soldiers see Arslan as soft (and unless I miss my guess Vahriz even seems to suggest that there is nothing of the king in him at all which might be true? Certainly the queen seems unimpressed with her husband). There is a telling scene where a young boy of a neighboring kingdom has been taken prisoner of war and made into a slave. Arslan sees being a slave as an honorable thing but seems to start rethinking it.
When Arslan finally goes to battle, things go sideways. What the King doesn't know and would be too arrogant to admit to is that he has been betrayed. Daryun, Vahriz's nephew and one of the best warriors tries to warn him and is nearly killed for it. He is stripped of everything but Vahriz makes him promise to look after Arslan. What no one knows is the lengths the Lusitanians (which is a name that keeps throwing me) will go to. Their god demands no god before them and Pars is of a different (or no) faith. Their god has no problems with throwing women and children of non-believers into the fires (though some of the soldiers do). To be fair, Pars and its king don't seem to balk at this much either.
Having been betrayed the king and his men don't have much of a chance. Arslan is saved a little by his own swordsmenship but mostly because Daryun is a killing machine. Daryun now has to get Arslan to safety.
What slowed this way down for me was too much battle and worse endless recitation of how many of what kind of soldiers there were and how many died and all the titles of people I didn't have a chance to get to know. It wasn't a great balance between fight scenes and storytelling and for anyone reading my manga reviews you'll know this matters a great deal to me.
That said I loved the art. Arslan and Daryun are interesting as are the two characters we see for just a few panels at the end. I will definitely get more of this. I just hope the balance between fight fight fight and actually advancing the plot will improve.
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