Pop Culture Based on Novels Part 1: The Heroic Legend of Arslan

November is National Novel Writing Month, a 30-day challenge that many aspiring writers partake in every year. The idea of the challenge is to pump out a novel by the end of the month, or to at least to have a higher page count than your friends who gave up halfway through. I myself have tried this challenge, and it is difficult. To all of you participating in this year’s NaNo, I tip my hat to you.

In the spirit of cheering on the writers fighting to reach their daily word count goals, we’ll be touching on pop culture narratives this month that are based on novels. Every artist, writer, and developer has their own personal styles and projects. Every now and then, they’re inspired to create their own version of other people’s work as well, reproducing it with their own experiences and style and creating a new way for others to experience and enjoy the work in new mediums.

First up is the 2015 anime The Heroic Legend of Arslan (アルスラーン戦記 Arslan Senki), directed by Noriyuki Abe and written by Makoto Uezu.

An Ongoing Epic

Arslan 1

The Heroic Legend of Arslan is a historic fantasy with a focus on war tactics that tells the story of prince Arslan and his quest to reclaim his country. In the beginning, Arslan finds himself displaced and in danger when a neighboring nation invades his home and seizes control of his father’s throne. With the help of his loyal servant and friend, Daryun, as well as a handful of other allies, the prince fights to reclaim his homeland.

The narrative has several recurring themes, including betrayal, the harmful human impacts of slavery, fair treatment of individuals, and religious zealotry. The series also brings into question issues concerning the extent to which a person’s loyalty belongs to a bloodline versus how much that loyalty belongs to a specific individual.

Magic exists in the series’s world as well, though it plays a much smaller role in the beginning. Magic operates in a limited capacity throughout the series, making it less prominent than it is in many other fantasy works. Later in the novels, more magical fantasy elements begin to appear.

Dr. Yoshiki Tanaka began publishing the series in 1986, and his project found a large fanbase that has encouraged its continued run. The story is loosely based on the Persian epic Amir Arsalan. After publishing the 15th volume of the series in 2015, Dr. Tanaka announced that the next book would be the last. In August 2017, it was announced that the manuscript was complete and had moved on to the next stop on its journey to publication. After more than three decades of production, the Arslan series will come to a close. The final novel is anticipated in December of this year.

The 2015 Anime Adaptation

Like a number of Dr. Tanaka’s greatest works, Arslan has been adapted into anime form. An anime adaptation, based on a manga adaptation by Hiromu Arakawa (adaptation-ception!), aired in 2015, with a second season in 2016. Arakawa is well known as the brilliant mind behind Full Metal Alchemist, Hero Tales, and Silver Spoon. Fans of her work might enjoy reading her manga version of Dr. Tanaka’s novels.

Arslan Anime

This 33 episode anime follows Arslan and his loyal followers as he loses his home and mounts efforts to reclaim his throne. Like most movie and television versions of novels, the anime doesn’t cover everything from the books. It does, however, follow the general plot of the first half of the series fairly well. Fans of the anime might lose out on some major plot points, but they still get to enjoy the main story.

Other Adaptations

arslan gameDue to its high popularity, the 2015 anime adaptation isn’t the only one to hit the market. From 1991-1996, Chisato Nakamura created a 13 volume manga of the unfinished work. After catching up with Dr. Tanaka’s progress on the novels, Nakamura concluded the manga with an original ending. Nakamura’s work inspired an OVA adaptation as well.

In 1993, a video game adaptation was released for Sega’s Mega-CD system. The game was designed as a companion piece for the OVA. A second game came out in Japan in 2015 for the PS3 and PS4, which follows the plot of the first season of the anime adaptation of Arakawa’s manga (an adaptation of an adaptation of an adaptation).



Whether you get your hands on the original novels or any of their many adaptations (or adaptation of adaptations), Arslan Senki is an epic work that captures the imagination. Both the original author and the creative minds behind the adaptations do a fine job of painting a vivid narrative for fans to enjoy. It is impressive that Dr Tanaka’s novels have been adapted so many times. Few authors get to enjoy such diverse forms of publication.

Do you have a favorite novel that you’d love to see adapted into another medium, or know of any that have already received adaptations? Leave a shout-out in the comments! You can also connect on Twitter at @Popliterary, or send a message on the “contact me” page.

And as always, if you have a literary device you want to know more about, or a game, comic, show, or movie that you want to see make an appearance on the blog, leave a shout-out in the comments!

6 thoughts on “Pop Culture Based on Novels Part 1: The Heroic Legend of Arslan

  1. Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds could be seen as an adaptation of the film Battle Royale, which is adapted from the novel of the same title. Another Japanese novel with a wide reaching influence.

    Liked by 1 person

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