Don’t Stand So Close to Me

Hiromu Arakawa & Yoshiki Tanaka
The Heroic Legend of Arslan, book 4

Arslan V4

The Heroic Legend of Arslan, book 4 is the fourth collection of Hiromu Arakawa’s adaptation of Yoshiki Tanaka’s light novel series of the same name1. It contains issues 20 to 29.

Hundreds of thousands of Lusitanian soldiers are occupying Pars. Prince Arslan’s handful of companions will not be enough to free his land from foreign religious fanatics. Arslan needs an ally who commands an army.

Hodir commands Kashan Fortress’ troops and Hodir is eager to support Arslan. There are, however, two impediments.

Hodir wants fourteen-year-old Arslan to marry Hodir’s thirteen-year-old daughter. Although she is not present (and is never, as far as I can tell, even named), Hodir assures Arslan that she is a beauty. While Hodir talks about how happy the couple would be, a cynic might say Hodir’s true motivation is the power the connection to the future Shah will give him.

Moreover, Hodir doesn’t trust Arslan’s current advisors. Narsus is in particular a dangerous radical who wants to free Pars’ slaves. Hodir has a brilliant scheme to deal with this. Arslan can simply dismiss or even better kill his superfluous retainers, allowing faithful Hodir to take their place.

The conversation that follows does not go entirely to Hodir’s benefit. At the end of it, the ambitious commander is sans head and has been freed of all political concerns. Arslan’s attempt to capitalize on Hodir’s sudden exit by freeing Hodir’s slaves encounters an unexpected road-bump: for all his faults, Hodir was kind to his slaves and they didn’t want to be freed.

Back in the capital, the alliance between Lord Silvermask (rightful king of Pars whose father was deposed by Arslan’s father) and the Lusitanians is beginning to crack. He cannot rule Pars if there are no Parsians left to rule. Although not every Lusitanian is a bloodthirsty religious fanatic, enough of their commanders are fanatics to ensure brutal massacres. Worse yet, another Lusitanian army of crusaders fresh from a massive genocide is on its way to Pars to deal with the unbelievers.

Dependent (at least for the moment) on Lusitanian support, Silvermask may not be able to save his people. Arslan might be the nation’s only hope. It is a shame therefore that his outreach to Hodir gained Arslan no new troops. Rather, the Lusitanians searching for Arslan have been joined by a legion of Hodir’s troops, eager for revenge.


The good news is that not all of the Lusitanians are Always Chaotic Evil. Young Etoile (a Lusitanian whose ability to randomly encounter Arslan is only matched by their2 inability to realize the young Parsian is the Prince everyone is looking for) is sincerely devout, wanting to convert unbelievers rather than kill them. King Innocentius II of Lusitania is naive and isolated; he is more focused on his infatuation with Tahamine of Pars than on ruling his domains. Even many of the Lusitanian officers are revolted by the violence inflicted on the Parsians.

Of course, it doesn’t matter how nice any of the individual Lusitanians are. The church militant is in firm control and it is run entirely by mad bastards, most of whom appear to crave power only because it allows them to slaughter unbelievers. Judging from how terrified Lusitanians are of the crusaders, “insufficiently vocal devoutness or qualms about horrific brutality” counts as being an unbeliever.

While Tanaka is trying to go for a bit of nuance (plot-lines such as “freeing slaves is not a full solution if they’ve been denied the skills needed to prosper,” the occasional not-a-mad-bastard Lusitanian, not to mention Silvermask’s legitimate claim to the throne), on the whole the story is pretty black and white or at worse black and light gray3. The reason I’m continuing to read this series is Arakawa’s art, which is effective at conveying the story while also being pleasant eye candy. Well, whenever what she is drawing isn’t someone’s head being bisected…

The Heroic Legend of Arslan, book 4 is available here (Amazon) and here (Chapters-Indigo).

1: My review of volume 1 is here.

My review of volume 2 is here.

My review of volume 3 is here.

2: I think Etoile is a girl cross-dressing as a boy so she can be a soldier. Sometimes Etoile disguises herself as a boy dressing as a girl, when being a girl would be more useful. She’s not taking off the boy layer; she just adds another layer of girl on top. If someone snatches off the top layer of disguise, they see a boy disguised at a girl, not a girl disguised as a different girl. Tricky.

3: There’s also an ongoing comic element, mostly focused around chronic womanizer Gieve; what turns him against the Lusitanian faith is the discovery that it demands chastity from true believers.


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