I don’t dislike this first episode. It doesn’t blow me away, but it’s not bad… yet. I actually don’t have much to quibble with when it comes to the animation department, and lord knows I’ve complained plenty about anime’s less than inspiring war scenes. The ones here are, well, not as bad as what I’m used to seeing. More importantly, however, the narrative’s initial set-up reminds me a lot of No.6. I’m sure the similarities will end there, but I couldn’t shake that familiar feeling as I watched the meaner boy drag and boss the kinder, more passive Arslan around. Although his very own life was threatened numerous times throughout the first episode, our crown prince regards his new “friend” with a dangerously naive curiosity. It’s like when an isolated species on some small island finally comes into contact with humans, and as a result, they have no fear. They have no clue what humans are, so they have no instinctual fear of what humans are capable of. Arslan is kind of sheltered in that way. He is nothing but kind to the other boy (even saving him a couple times) when the latter has yet to treat the prince with anything resembling friendship.
When the two of them went soaring through the air near the end of the episode, however, that was when I felt as though I was truly taken back to No.6. It’s feels so close to that early moment in No.6 when Shion dreamt himself falling through the sky. The heart yearns for freedom. Our prince has lived in a bubble all his life, but it’s not exactly rainbows and sunshine in this so-called paradise. His father is very cold to him, which is almost expected, but even his own mother is very cold to him as well. And although the boy doth (weakly) protest, he receives combat training on the regular when it’s clear it’s not exactly his favorite past-time. It’s plainly obvious that he’s expected to follow his father’s footsteps and become a victorious warrior king who strikes fear into the hearts of his enemies. But it’s also plainly obvious that this isn’t Arslan. He seems resigned to the fact that his father will always be around to rule, but that only speaks even more to his naivete. After all, a warrior king like his father is not exactly the type to rule for a long time. They tend to achieve great victories, then flame out just as quickly.
Like most wide-eyed, young protagonists, Arslan is idealistic to a fault. After all, he supposedly lives in one of the most prosperous and well-cultured nations in the world. It quickly becomes apparent, however, that his nation’s strength and prosperity is fueled by the blood of men. The engine that powers Pars is built around slavery. Arslan knows this, too. He’s not ignorant to the fact that his kingdom depends on slaves. But the thing is, he’s so naive that he sees slavery as a good thing. After all, the slaves are well-fed! And in a crucial narrative sense, this is a reflection of his own situation. Arslan, too, is a prisoner. He probably feels as though he has little to complain about, but from an outsider’s perspective, we can’t help but feel sorry for him. And thanks to the blood that flows through his veins, people expect him to fill his father’s shoes. People expect him to some great warrior king, or else no one will respect him. People are so enamored by the aura surrounding the king that it almost seems as though one cannot choose to rule in any other way. Victory in battle… or there is no victory at all.
Of course, in one sense, it’s almost insulting to compare the life of a prince to that of a slave and the back-breaking labor that they have to do. It would be rather insensitive to insinuate that Arslan has it anywhere near as hard as any of the slaves we see here. But I suspect that if Arslan wants to be this story’s hero, he will have to first free himself from his own figurative prison. He has to prove that he can not only rule, but rule in his own way as the idealistic and sensitive king who hasn’t lost hope in humanity’s innate goodness or some bullshit like that. Then maybe after that, he can free that slaves. That is, if he’s to become that sort of hero. After all, the synopsis says that he will soon lose everything, and as a result, he will go on a journey… to reclaim his kingdom. That doesn’t sound very inspiring. Maybe he’ll reclaim his kingdom and free the slaves. Maybe his new kingdom will treat everyone equally, because he has taken the other boy’s words to heart. But even if this is so, we come back to that narrative that some great man must rise up and free the people.
Anyway, I’ll do Punchline tomorrow. And of course, I would love to update more, but nothing is concrete, especially when times are tough. Hopefully, I can scrape time together to update on a timely basis, but first things first, I should probably renew some crucial WordPress services… once my next paycheck comes in. Anyway, again, Punchline is tomorrow… and uh, maybe that Ore Monogatari show. I don’t know for sure yet. Please look forward to it.