My thoughts on the nineteenth episode of Arslan Senki.
I liked the approach of this episode, focusing heavily on Hermes along with the recent happenings in Ecbatana rather than Arslan in order to bring us up to speed with Lusitania and Pars after the whole of the Sindhuran campaign. I think what was most important about this episode was giving Hermes some character insight – specifically in how he interacts with his subordinates such as Sam and how Sam’s respect for Hermes is becoming established.
This episode attempted to paint Hermes in a more positive light than how he has been perceived subsequently by Arslan and his company though I don’t think there was any doubt beforehand that Hermes thought his actions righteous to begin with. His interactions with Sam and later Kubard reinforce that he is a more complicated character than Bodin for instance who is inexplicably and beyond-all-reason evil to his core. This will make for an ultimately more interesting showdown between Arslan and Hermes if we believe both parties have some moral merit to their actions and desires however, as Hermes seems to have the legitimate claim to the thrown by means of his bloodline, then both claims were fairly legitimate to begin with and this simply further complicates the matter. Hopefully the show continues in this way a bit more so that Hermes becomes a fully established character to the point where it becomes hard to say whether he or Arslan are most deserving of the throne – though I think a great deal of work will have to be done to reach this point.
Lastly, the end of this episode concluded with somewhat of a sour note in my opinion. We saw Arslan sign two important documents, the first being a declaration of war against Lusitania and a call to his banner for all Parsians and secondly an document that freed all of the slaves in Pars. Now the first document makes perfect sense and progresses the story in a necessary manner however the second where he frees the slaves I found highly troubling for a myriad of reasons. Firstly, Arslan is far less likely to garner support from his fellow Parsians when they know that he aims to free the slaves beforehand – this is something we have already seen in his immediate falling out of favor having brought up this notion before. While I would not expect Arslan or Narsus to doublecross or lie in order to attain the throne and keep Arslan’s intention a secret, to be so forthcoming does not seem tactically or even logistically sound as the number of followers he will gain will likely pale in comparison. Then again there is something to be said about recruiting people who uphold slavery to begin with however this is the lesser of the two issues with this document.
The second issue and what I found most troubling is the fact that he signed it at all and with no hesitation or apparent deliberation in that moment. Freeing the slaves has been a recurring sentiment that has proved problematic in the past and something that Arslan himself has struggled to wrap his head around. In the past he has expressed a wavering belief that, while he would like to agree with Narsus and free the slaves, he is not learned enough to understand the implications of doing so and knows at this point that freeing the slaves could very well do more harm than good as seen when the newly freed slaves attacked him having lost their master. To suddenly have Arslan sign the document that frees the slaves without further insight into his mindset or an on-screen conclusion to his thought-process is problematic and undermines the work that was done earlier in the show to present a complicated issue to which Arslan could not find an easy answer to. I hope that there is either some retrospective insight into this event next episode or at least some acknowledgement of what he was thinking because if this is dismissed entirely then I think one of the major conflicts of the show will have been completely dismissed.