The Heroic Legend of Arslan has a storied history, first published as a series of fantasy novels written by Yoshiki Tanaka in 1986. The latest serialization is actually the second time that it has been adapted into a manga, this time in the hands of the legendary Hiromu Arakawa, of Full Metal Alchemist fame. Loosely based on the Persian epic of historical figure Amir Arsalan, the story is also heavily inspired by the life of Cyrus the Great, and other events of the 6th century BCE Persia, as well as the Byzantine – Persian Wars of 6th century CE.
The story centers around the land of Pars, a wealthy kingdom that profits as a crossroads between its neighbors, and engages in institutionalized slavery. The leader of Pars, King Andragoras, holds a legendary reputation of being undefeated in battle and hopes to harden his soft-hearted son, Arslan, through rigorous military training. At war with the neighboring kingdom of Lusitania, Andragoras is betrayed in battle by one of his most trusted advisors, and Arslan is forced to flee for his life. With the help of his trusted retainer, Daryun, and a mismatched band of misfits, Arslan seeks to reclaim his place as crowned prince, and take back his country.
The Heroic Legend of Arslan is a rich story based on a fairly obscure but essential part of history. It is brought to life by its expert illustrations, and the complex themes of morality explored in the early stages of the story. Battle sequences are white-knuckled, and as the series continues, fantastical elements are added, making an already intriguing story even more interesting. If readers have somehow missed out on this gem, now is the perfect time to start catching up.