Blu-ray Review: The Heroic Legend of Arslan – Season 1 Part 1
20/07/2016 1 Comment
The first season of The Heroic Legend of Arslan has been available to stream online for quite some time, with Viewster and FUNimation Now both offering the series on their streaming platforms, but now that it has hit UK Shores in a Collectors Edition DVD and Blu-ray release what exactly can we expect from it? Well read on to find out!
Swords clash, warriors fall and the battle for the future of the Kingdom of Pars begins in the epic first twelve episodes of The Heroic Legend of Arslan Season One! Pitched into the middle of a war between the nations of Pars and Lusitania, young Prince Arslan barely escapes with his life when his father King Andragoras III is targeted by traitors in his own camp.
With nothing but the help of the steadfast and loyal warrior Daryun and a ragtag group of followers, Arslan must face impossible odds to liberate his fallen nation from the amassed forces of Lusitania, led by the mysterious Silvermask!
Universal Pictures once again returns to the anime distribution scene with The Heroic Legend of Arslan – Season 1 Part 1 and after having set the bar quite high with Seraph of the End should one expect the same standards in this release? The answer is undoubtedly Yes; as while the episodic content may differ the presentation, detail and amount of content included is consistent with their previous anime debut. This aside; is The Heroic Legend of Arslan a series that’s actually worth watching? Once again the answer is Yes; but the impact it delivers all depends on your past experiences with the franchise and whether or not you like long-winded stories with a far off goal.
Before Universal Pictures were able to release The Heroic Legend of Arslan onto DVD and Blu-ray Japanese videogame publishing giant Koei Tecmo Europe released Arslan: The Warriors of Legend, a videogame adaptation of the anime series which was previously simulcast a year before, onto the Xbox One and PS4. If you’ve watched the simulcast of the anime then you’ll already know what to expect from the game, this home video release and it’s story; but if you’ve played the game before watching the anime series then some (if not all) of the story will be spoiled for you. It’s on a rare occasion that a game based upon an anime comes out before the anime has had a western distribution; but in this case it does.
For me; I was foolish enough to play the game first – which if you haven’t played the game it features scenes from the anime to bridge the story gap between each gameplay segment– and in turn spoiled some of the enjoyment the anime series had to offer as it felt like I had already watched the show; when technically I had not. Basically my suggestion would be to watch the anime first and then play the game. You may be wondering “why am i explaining this?” Well unlike Dragon Ball, One Piece, Sword Art Online or Gundam the Arslan game manages to deliver the ‘full story experience’ within the game; something which is not usually carried over very well into game format as bits tend to be missed out.
Warning aside this Season 1 Part 1 release of The Heroic Legend of Arslan features the first thirteen episodes of the series spread across two discs with the story itself following the events of the Crown Prince of Pars, who of course is known as Arslan, as he attempts to reclaim the homeland that he has so mercilessly lost in battle with Lusitania. It’s an exceedingly interesting story and it’s one that isn’t progressed in a rushed manor; instead each episode provides a clear focus and attention to detail on what is happening and what will happen next. It’s obvious that a clear goal is in mind; and by using the original source material from the light novel and manga franchises a well thought out storyline is presented to us; even if at times it seems like the story isn’t actually going anywhere. The anime starts in the mist of battle but before seeing our protagonist Prince Arslan thrown into the chaos viewers are whisked away into the past which sees Arslan being trained on how to fight. It’s an approach we’ve seen all too often in anime shows but fortunately enough it works quite well in this particular anime.
The idea is that elements from this first episode, the slave trade within the capital of pars, the powerful nature of Arslan’s father King Andragoras III and the scenario which sees Arslan taken hostage by an escaped Lusitanian Slave, all set the foundations of whats to come and when the second episode rolls around – to which several years have passed – we see the Lusitanian army invade pars in order to capture the kingdom and Arslan thrown into the heat of battle with his trusty companions. It’s a bloody battle which sees Arslan, as well as his personal guard Daryun, barely able to escape the battle unscathed and as such the two regroup with Daryun’s old friend Narsus in order to provoke him in joining their course of restoring order to the capital of pars which is quickly becoming overrun by the Lusitanian army.
In short the episodes contained with this first half of the series is one-long-constant battle which sees the Lusitanian invade the pars kingdom in an attempt to kill all members of the royal family; but with Arslan on the run the battle extends with numerous raid parities being sent out to find him. It’s a cat and mouse tale but with an alternate spin on things and as the episodes progress viewers will learn of traitorious actions, deceit of lies behind a wall of despair.
It’s safe to say that, just like with Seraph of the End, The Heroic Legend of Arslan is easily a show that can be binge-watched from start to finish as each of the episodes easily interlock and connect with each other to present a more continuous story – more so than some long running franchises – and while the story of Arslan trying to reclaim his kingdom, while Daryun and Narsus try to keep him safe, may become repetitive quickly into the story the added surprises, character introduces and sword fights all bring out the best of what Arslan has to offer; which is a realistic story that offers both complex but enjoyable narrative with intense but beautifully animated battles to boot.
Just like with Universal Pictures previous release of Seraph of the End a variety of bonus materials can be found spread across the two Blu-ray discs and while a notable selection of bonus content is included the issues we had with the previous anime release still remain; namely the ‘Universal’ standard of disc layout and the way textless opening and closings songs are called music clips.
As illustrated in this screenshot the first disc features a combination of Trailers and TV Spots; all of which promote the Japanese TV debut of The Heroic Legend of Arslan and all are presented in Japanese with your preferred subtitle format (as numerous subtitle options are included).
The music clips, which are actually the textless opening and closing segments, on the other hand are questionable as while it features the opening and closing songs used within this first half of the series it also includes the textless variations of those from the second half of the series as well as the textless variation of the final episode of the season. It’s puzzling to why these ‘Seaosn 1 Part 2’ extras would be included on this ‘Season 1 Part 1’ release as it really does spoil some elements of what to expect from the future of the show. It’s also worth noting that each of the textless songs include subtitles which oddly enough these ‘song tranlations’ are not included on the openings/endings of the episodes themselves. Once again another bizarre choice by Universal Pictures UK.
The bonus content on disc two however is simply the animated shorts, which are titled as Short Comedy, and all shorts related to the first half of Season 1 are included in this ‘Play All’ option. Once again no option to chose an ‘individual’ short episode is included so you would either have to watch them all or skip to your desired short of choice. These shorts however are all presented in Japanese with your chosen subtitle option (i.e. English) and while they may only be 30 seconds in length they do provide a few laughs – my personal favourite being the first short which sees Arslan’s father demanding him to go to war when Arslan is trying to do schoolwork.
Media: BD 50 x2
Running Time: 2:26:51 (Disc 1), 2:56:20 (Disc 2)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (English), DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 (Japanese, French, German)
Subtitles: English, French, German, Netherlands (White)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps
Universal Pictures release of The Heroic Legend of Arslan – Season 1 Part 1 continues the trend laid out by their previous release of Seraph of the End – Season 1 Part 1 as other than the episodic content of the discs the presentation, menu design and setup options are exactly the same. Concerning it may be but this is ‘Universals’ standard of presentation so we will just have to abide by it; something which we mentioned previously in our in depth look at Seraph of the End. When it comes to that ‘episodic content’ then The Heroic Legend of Arslan – Season 1 Part 1 features thirteen episodes of the series which follows Prince Arslan and his loyal warrior servant Daryun as they attempt to avoid the enemy and form their own army in retaliation of the Lusitanian invasion that took place several days prior.
This quest, which takes up the entirety of the episodes included in this set, will see the group of two people become a group of six when brilliant strategist Narsus and his servant Elam join them alongside a tanacious Muscian (Gieve) and loyal priestess of the Parsian church Farangis. Of course Arslan offers a more ‘interesting’ storyline than this simple approach of trying to escape in order to redbuild a kingdrom; as the person who began the invasion on Pars, a man known simply as Silvermask, brings that much needed mystery aspect to the show. As the episodes go this ‘masked man’ – which offers a sense of déjà vu to Mobile Suit Gundam fans – becomes more prominent in each episode and from my perspective I enjoyed watching the show more because of this characters actions rather than the events which see Arslan constantly under threat. A war themed anime series is what Arslan offers and while the narrative storyline may be a single approach of escape a more interesting storyline of deceit and rightful ownership to the throne can be found.
When it comes to this Blu-ray discs then everything is pretty much as we expected; with both presentable subtitles and audio no matter the audio format you choose. The FUNimation produced dub is also quite entertaining and thanks to it’s 5.1 Surround Sound audio track the battles sound more engaging and brutal than one may expect to receive in stereo; although it’s safe to say some emotional scenes and deaths of characters feel better presented in Japanese; but each to their own. Speaking of subtitles the layout found within Seraph of the End remains and as such the subtitle option on the menu is strictly for dialogue and subtitles for signs/translations can only be accessed using the subtitle button on your remote. Additionally subtitles for the opening and closing songs do not appear during episodes but they do in the bonus features; which I find slightly bizarre. I guess it’s a trend that we will see in all future Universal releases but its disappointing that separate ‘Audio and Signs’ subtitle tracks cannot be added to the main menu; just like Sentai Filmworks do with some of their releases.
Once again Universal Pictures have brought us an exceptional anime release and despite a few ‘consistent’ niggles, such as the menu layout and subtitle choosing, the quality of the release and the amount of bonus content is on offer is exceedingly high. The Heroic Legend of Arslan was a show I wasn’t expecting to enjoy and while I did not enjoy it as much as Seraph of the End it is a highly entertaining series that should be watched by all; and at the time being this Blu-ray release by Universal Pictures is the best way to do it.
The Heroic Legend of Arslan – Season 1 Part 1 will be available as a Collectors Edition Blu-ray and Collectors Edition DVD release from the 25th July 2016 within the UK.