Arslan Senki (The Heroic Legend of Arslan) – Ignorance is Bliss
April 7, 2015 Leave a comment
Arslan Senki got off to an interesting start – introducing us to a country resembling medieval Persia. The story deals with some interesting themes revolving around the consequences of slavery on a society, the issues that having an absolute monarch who views ordinary citizens as little more than cattle, and the problems with religious fanaticism and obsession. Through all of this we follow Arslan, the prince of Pars (the country roughly based on medieval Persia) as he tries to understand the world he lives in, and how he, as someone who is supposed to rule must deal with the intricacies of medieval politics and religious beliefs.
As a character Arslan is particularly fascinating, not least because of his utter ignorance of the world outside of his walled enclosure. Like many monarchs and other royalty, his is a world without any real problems, he doesn’t need to worry about his food, clothing, or safety, and he is also ignorant of the world. Much of the first episode follows Arslan as he tries to learn more about the country he is supposed to rule one day, including looking at the darker sides of his society. And as with other medieval societies, Pars is based on a complex social hierarchy that uses slaves captured on military campaigns to do the dirtiest, and most dangerous jobs. Watching the prince walk through the market and try to talk to newly captured slaves, treating them as humans when they would sooner kill him than listen to a simple conversation is fascinating. Arslan’s indifference, and ignorance of the slave system might appear to be shocking, even horrible to people now, but in the context of the series world it makes sense. To him the presence of slaves is merely a fact of life; something he has grown up with in the background, that he doesn’t question the act of slavery (at least at first) also demonstrates how little he understands of the world.
When talking to the slave who kidnaps him, Arlsan extols the virtues of Pars, and how wonderful a life a Pars slave has, suggesting that somehow they live a better life than if they were free. The conviction in his voice is a direct consequence of his upbringing, and the belief that to be a slave is honourable, alongside his lack of knowledge to do with the wider world around him. That he wishes to learn about his world and has a curious and inquisitive mind is to be commended, especially given the distinct possibility that others in his position may have simply upheld the status quo without any thought of change. Of course he is not the only one ignorant of the world around him, and his capture is as guilty of that as he is. He talks about every bodies right to be free, which is certainly correct, and yet follows up such a comment by extolling the virtues of the Lustinian god as the one true god. Anyone who has even the most minor knowledge of history should know the dangerous of religious fundamentalism (well, we have the effects of that in plain view at the moment), it can justify any cause, and cause great harm.
Christian kings rallied to the cause of Pope Urban II during the first crusade, and subsequent crusades to drive out the infidels and unbelievers and reclaim territory that they considered rightfully theirs. This may be a somewhat brief description of a far more complex set of political and military aims with religion used as a justification for their outcomes, but it serves to illustrate the importance of religion as a means of driving conquest. That the kidnapper truly believes in the power of his god, along with the notion that everyone is free, but only those who believe in the one true god can remain free further emphasises his ignorance of the wider world. Ultimately they are both ignorant, and perhaps oblivious of the world outside of their own walled enclosure (one physical, the other religious), but, whereas the slave eventually escapes to rejoin his army, still firmly believing in his ideals, Arslan is left with many questions about his country, the slave system, and what his place is in such a vast world.
What this first episode did was introduce an interesting and vast world that mirrors medieval Persia, with elements of the crusades. Arlsan is an interesting character because despite his ignorance, he wishes to learn more about the world, and perhaps even change it. His father and mother are rather curious though as they appear to be entirely indifferent to his existence, something that isn’t entirely expected given his position as heir to the throne and their only son. That does not mean I expected a loving family, such things rarely exist within these sorts of stories, but the cold indifference of his mother, and the way his father entirely ignores his existence intrigues me.