Sing, My Tongue, The Glorious Battle

Yoshiki Tanaka & Hiromu Arakawa
Heroic Legend of Arslan, book 1

Arslan V1

Heroic Legend of Arslan, Volume 1 collects the first four issues of Yoshiki Tanaka and Hiromu Arakawa’s 2013 manga adaptation of Yoshi Tanaka’s light-novel series, The Heroic Legend of Arslan.

When we first meet young Arslan, he seems unlikely to figure in any legend, much less a heroic legend. Though he is the crown prince of Pars, he is timid and unsure of himself. He’s certainly not a self-assured, bold figure like his father, Andragoras III. As confident off the battlefield as he is on it, Andragoras III is the embodiment of Parsian virtue.


Andragoras III crushed the fanatical Lusitanians the first time the absolute monarch met them on the field of battle. No surprise, given Parsian martial prowess and the unfamiliarity of the fanatical Lusitanians with Parsian tactics. The only setback, post-victory, was the Lusitanians’ odd reluctance to be enslaved; rather than bend their knee to their new owners, almost all of the prisoners killed themselves. The lone exception was one young man, who managed to escape by (briefly) taking Arslan hostage.

The second war should be, the king believes, as one-sided as was the first one. It will be a fine opportunity for fourteen-year-old Arslan to get a taste of battle. Andragoras is entirely correct. The conflict to come will be entirely one-sided. Andragoras’ arrogance and lack of imagination prevent him from ever entertaining the idea that the Lusitanians might have learned something from their first war, They might have taken steps to circumvent Parsian strength and tactics. Might even have some Parsians on their side.

Fifty thousand Parsian soldiers pay for Andragoras’ lack of vision. Arslan is left alone on the battlefield, surrounded by thousands of Lusitanian soldiers.

 ~oOo~

If there’s one thing that this series teaches us, it is that if one is part of an army being led into an obvious trap by someone convinced of victory, try very hard to be the title character. A number of characters that have been fleshed out enough that the reader may care about them do not make it past the encounter with the Lusitanians. And … if you cannot be the title character, do your best to be his loyal bodyguard. Just not the sort of bodyguard who is bisected by the Big Bad, thereby establishing that the Big Bad is a legitimate threat.

Although Arslan and his people draw on Persia for inspiration, the Lusitanians appear to be based on Frankish Christians from a much later era. Cruel fanatics for the most part, the Lusitanians are convinced their one true god Yaldabaoth1 gives them license to murder their way across the world in search of treasure. There’s one nuanced Lusitanian character (the boy Arslan inadvertently helps escape); he sees Parsian society as intolerably hierarchical and thus a legitimate enemy. Other than that, there’s not much evidence that the Lusitanians are anything but Lawful Evil.

Of course, Pars may seem like a pretty sweet place from Arslan’ point of view, but he’s seeing it from the perspective of a crown prince. The Parsian economy is based on slave labour. Andragoras’ bad temper (combined with absolute power) have reaped a bountiful crop of exiles, at least two of whom have deserted to Lusitania.

Having read four volumes of Legend of Galactic Heroes and nine 3-in-1 volumes of Fullmetal Alchemist, which were penned by the creators of this series, I can see elements of the earlier series in this one2. Or perhaps it’s that Arslan’s dash of humanism and moral ambiguity appealed to Arakawa — at least appealed enough for her to take on the project.

While I would guess that this series will not appeal to me quite as much as FMA did, I will certainly seek out more volumes.

Heroic Legend of Arslan, Volume 1 is available here (Amazon) and here (Chapters-Indigo).

1: Which my spellchecker wants to correct to “blood bath”. Given the Yaldabaothian custom of slaughtering pagans down the youngest infant, that’s apt.

2: Elements that include Tanaka’s almost David Weberesque love of body counts. High body counts.


Comments

  • Robert Carnegie

    It may be not actually relevant that Lusitania was the ancient Roman Empire province that included, says Wikipedia, "approximately all of modern Portugal south of the Douro River and part of modern Spain". Presumably, before it was in the Roman Empire, it was embattled. RMS Lusitania was a British civilian ocean liner - but carrying ammunition as cargo - that was sunk by a German submarine's torpedo attack in the First World War in 1915.

    As for Yaldabaoth, that name's also used in Gnosticism, but that probably isn't where I know it from. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demiurge#Yaldabaoth doesn't make sense to me, actually.

    • Ross Presser

      Perhaps one of these?

      https://books.google.com/books?id=VZO8N2Q908MC
      https://books.google.com/books?id=hTNSvgAACAAJ
      https://books.google.com/books?id=G_S5BAAAQBAJ (pg 139)


    • Robert Sneddon

      "Jaldabaoth" is the nom-de-guerre of one of the NPCs named Demiurge from an isekai (parallel worlds) story, "Overlord". He's basically a Big Bad punching bag for the Dark Hero Momonga (actually his Elder Lich boss Ainz Aool Gown in disguise) to kick around and thus raise Momonga's status among the humans and other races.

      "Overlord" is kinda fun in a "Oh God, did they REALLY do that?" sort of a way, as in killing 70,000 soldiers on a battlefield with an Instant Death spell is just the necromantic sacrifice needed to fire up a super-tier spell of Lovecraftian proportions before the real slaughter starts.

Support me with a Patreon monthly subscription!

Review Categories

By Author/Editor

Reviews by Date