[Synopsis]: After Arslan’s victory at the Battle of Saint Emmanuel he and his army are forced to postpone their assault on Ecbatana as they return to Peshawar fortress in order to repel a Turan invasion. Meanwhile, Hilmes discovers the whereabouts of an ancient Parsian artifact – the legendary sword Rukhnabad, a symbol of the true king of Pars and proof of it’s wielders claim to the throne. Outright conflict looms on the horizon between Lusitania, Archpriest Bodin’s renegade, temple knights, and Arslan’s own loyal forces. Matters grow even more complicated when Arslan’s father and former King of Pars, Andragoras III makes a daring escape from the dungeons of Ecbatana and flees in pursuit of reestablishing himself as the kingdom’s rightful ruler.
Arslan Senki returns with its second installment in full force, hosting a similarly massive cast as it did before in its first season. Many of the characters should be quite familiar between Arslan’s loyal retinue, the Lusitanian royalty and soldiers, and Hilmes’ own contingent of followers. In a very similar style to the previous season, Arslan introduces a handful of new characters across the different factions however none of greater import than anybody we already previously knew. For the greater part, many of these characters serve world-building purposes and often represent various nations or countries as well as their own interests
Arslan himself remains much as he was near the end of the previous season. Though still young, the show does a good job of following through on what development he received before and illustrates him with greater conviction than he once had. He’s more decisive and there isn’t so much going on narratively that challenges his intentions or beliefs. He remains kind, overly forgiving, and a core part of the show is still his reliance on his allies for strength but he does show changes in subtle ways.
The protagonist aside, the rest of his entourage still seems to beg for attention and relevance at every turn. Narsus practically foils every enemy plot, Daryun charges in during every action sequence and dispatches effectively everyone single-handedly, and the rest of them are relegated to being vaguely supportive in various situations. Characters like Elam and Alfreed continue to feel nearly purposeless as they wander about each scene but this isn’t anything new.
Arslan is all about building up its core cast of characters as these larger-than-life legends capable of turning the flow of battle, heroically defeating their enemies, and seizing back the throne for their liege-lord however this is all the show tries to paint them as. When it comes to individual characterization, they are woefully flat and uninteresting which makes for rather dull dialogue which highlights a pretty pervasive problem with the cast in general. Fortunately some flashbacks shed some light on Hilmes as a character which help pull him into a more human and understandable place than before. It becomes significantly more interesting when there are two comprehensible rulers vying for the throne as opposed to the first season’s more one-sided dynamic favoring Arslan
What was previously the most problematic part of Arslan’s previous season has actually improved some this time around. The poor CG that once hampered the show’s visuals has been dialed back considerably and is now a little better blended into the scenes in which it appears. It’s certainly still present and not all that great to look at but it’s a step up none the less and one of a few improvements brought on by the show’s shorter episode count. A similar improvement can be seen in the art and animation in general though there remain plenty of instances where the the cast are drawn considerably off-model and move somewhat awkwardly – they just appear slightly less frequently than before and in not such a severe fashion. This second season certainly strengthens the series visuals but they still fall short of being entirely engaging.
The story I thought showed a good deal of promise during Arslan’s initial episodes. Hitting off the season with a new enemy invading the Parsian border, Andragoras’ audacious escape from the dungeons, and talk of a legendary sword signifying the rightful king of Pars all sounded pretty exciting and grabbed my attention. The first episode is definitely the strongest of the season and though it’s first half is pretty slow and spent rifling through the characters for the sake of reintroducing them to the viewer, it also features the show’s flashiest action scene. Beyond the first 3 or so episodes however it takes a turn for the more typical and relaxes into the same kind of story the entire first season spent telling.
The fabled blade of kingship quickly fades from the story after it’s appearance in the first episode. Andragoras’ escape creates an interesting plot development however after it fully transpires, hardly anything comes of it. The narrative returns to Arslan’s adventures in an unfamiliar city where he encounters new allies to rally to his cause and foes of less importance. The proceedings become utterly predictable and unfold in such a straightforward and simple manner that the show’s attempts at unveiling certain plot elements come off as over-obvious and moronic. Without a compelling cast to speak of and an all too quintessential story playing out in the narrative, Arslan lacks the features it needs to become engaging and instead drones on after it’s early developments.
The music is much the same as it was in the previous season and the soundtrack features a number of returning tracks that at this point should feel not only familiar but kind of tiring. There isn’t much variance to what music plays out in the backdrop of the show but it is none the less fitting of Arslan’s subject matter and tone.
[Final Thoughts and Rating]:
Anyone who watched the first season of Arslan can essentially expect more of the same here with slightly more polish on it’s presentation. It’s visuals show small improvements over it’s predecessor and it doesn’t make nearly as many narrative missteps though there are a handful of rather odd moments that don’t quite make sense. It certainly delivers on being more of what it already was but that isn’t necessarily a good thing given how troubled its previous installment was in certain regards.
I gave Arslan a 5 because while it was a step up in various regards from its first season, it followed such a standard and predictable plot line after it’s introduction that it didn’t manage to improve upon itself in any grand fashion. The visuals still felt lacking at times and the characters were tedious and one-dimensional. The story itself remained interesting at points and the variety of factions and alliances at play provided the show with enough narrative intrigue to keep me watching.
I would recommend Arslan’s second season to anybody who has finished the first as it follows through in the same style and presentation in very close form and practically only improves upon what the first season did. The action scenes aren’t all that engaging or flashy but there are plenty of them to go around and one might find it worthwhile for that reason if they found themselves intrigued by its other elements and subject matter.