I love Hiromu Arakawa’s work. She’s one of my biggest inspirations in my comics-making career.
But I haven’t read much of her work outside of Fullmetal Alchemist and bits and pieces of a volume of A Hero’s Tale. I know. I bring shame upon my nerd head.
My friend Chloe, who is also a big fan of Arakawa’s, gifted me The Heroic Legend of Arslan (volumes 1 and 2) for Christmas. I heard Arakawa was working on this with a writer by the name of Yoshiki Tanaka, so I was super excited to read this.
I was thoroughly entertained.
Is it perfect? No. There are times where it feels like the characters are just throwing up exposition, but the action, the art, and the sincere characters really pull you through.
The story is about a prince named Arslan. He is the son of the war-hardened King Andragoras, who has never lost a battle. When Arslan reaches the age of 14, he rides into battle with his father against the Lusitanians, and I will stop there or else I would spoil it.
The first chapter of this manga was actually written by Arakawa, and takes place four years prior to the main events, to help give some context for the rest of the story. Don’t skip that chapter. It actually helps to give some wonderful insights into the character of Arslan, and is entertaining as hell.
One thing I noticed though, is the character designs.
In Arakawa’s work, she tends to use character designs that are similar across her work. To help clarify, take a look at Solf J. Kimblee from Fullmetal Alchemist, versus Marzban Daryun from Arslan.
Now take a look at Armstrong from Fullmetal Alchemist and Eran Vahriz from Arslan.
It’s Armstrong with a beard!
I think the reason behind this is that this references something done by one of the original manga masters, Osamu Tezuka. Tezuka took character designs across works like this because he was heavily influenced by movies. He saw the characters as actors, and he would have the actors take on new roles in various productions…or comics.
I think that’s what Arakawa does, as well. Her characters are actors taking on new roles. Is this an intentional homage? Or an art gag? Knowing Arakawa, it could be both.
Back to the manga, once you get into chapter 2, that’s when the warring and battles start. This is the real meat and potatoes of this first volume in the manga series. And it’s written and illustrated well. It’s not for the weak at heart, though, because it does feature a lot of impaling and catching people on fire.
You know, war.
Because of that, the characters (Arslan is a sweetie and Daryun is my all-time favorite), and the art, The Heroic Legend of Arslan is the rare story that has gotten me interested in manga again! I could not set this book down because I was so excited and eager to see what would happen next.
So if you’re tired of seeing the same old romantic-comedy manga on book shelves, give this series a try. It’s a breath of fresh air.
Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you tomorrow.