TheHeroic Legend of Arslan, Volume 2is the second collection of Hiromu Arakawa’s manga adaptation ofYoshiki Tanaka’s light novel series.
Involume one, overconfidence and arrogance led King Andragoras and hisvast Parsian army into ambush and defeat at the hands of theLusitanian invaders. The King’s fate is unknown. Prince Arslanescaped, but it is unclear how long he can remain free.
Arslanand his trusted companion Daryun flee into the mountains, whereDaryun seeks out disgraced former advisor Narsus. Daryun worries thatNarsus will not agree to help the prince, so prepares a challengethat will test his loyalty. Daryun leaves a trail that will leadLusitanian soldiers directly to Arslan … and Narsus. The formeradvisor musthelp out his prince. He can also demonstrate his cunning by foilingthe hapless soldiers.
Thenext item on the Lusitanian to-do list is capturing Pars’ capitalcity, Ecbatana. The walls of the city are high and well-defended. TheLusitanians bring several assets to bear: their own, vast army and awell-informed traitor in a mask, a man whose identity is a mysterybut whose knowledge of Pars is without equal. They can also countEcbatana’s legions of slaves as potential allies; the Lusitaniansare happy to offer the slaves their freedom if only they will openEcbatana’s gates.
Asit becomes clear that the city will fall, Queen Tahamine is forced toturn to an unlikely ally. Wandering minstrel Gieve is a self-centeredrogue. He is also trapped inside Ecbatana. He will suffer the samedismal fate as the rest of the city’s inhabitants if he does notfind some way out. The Queen can give him the information he needs toescape, provided that he escorts her out of the city.
Unfortunately,what is for Gieve and his companion a way out of the city is for themasked man and his companions a way into the city. One crack in thedefences is all the enemy needs. A once-great city is occupied. Theslaughter begins.
Themanga may need a brutal violence warning, particularly whenLusitania’s demented Grand Inquisitor is on stage. He’s not keenon pagans and heretics, but he is quite keen on beating people soviciously that their teeth fly out. He is also bullish on puttingunbelievers in pits and burning them alive. Infants included.
Themanga makes it clear: Lusitanians not nice. Bad behaviour, uglyappearance. If introduction to the demented Grand Inquisitor isn’tenough to convince us of that, meeting the Lusitanian King will doit. The king is a morbidly obese fanatic who is convinced he is atthe top of the heap because his god decreed it so. It follows thathis god must want the king to have anything or anyone who catches hisfancy. Bad news for the Queen of Pars, of whom stories are told,stories of men crazed by one sight of her peerless beauty1.
Thequestion the surviving Parsian aristocracy might want to askthemselves is “how is it the Lusitanians, who are so clearlyviolently bonkers, managed to convince a significant fraction ofEcbatana’s slaves to come over to the Lusitanian side?”
Thiswas very much an early instalment in what is clearly going to be along-running series. Although dramatic events do transpire, thisvolume is more focused on sketching the characters who will populatethe series: Lusitanian maniacs and the various stalwarts, advisors,and cunning rogues who will no doubt side with Arslan in futurevolumes.
Iam not keen on the whole “ugly = evil” treatment of the king andhis Grand Inquisitor, but the rest of the story is intriguing enough.I will try a few more volumes to see where Arakawa and Tanaka takethis.
1:Pars appears to have been settled by exceptionally pretty people butthe Queen manages to stand out nevertheless. Not that being astunning beauty has done her much good. She’s a ratherTanith-Lee-esque figure, valuable but not necessarily powerful.