I’m a great fan of Arslan Senki and read the novels in Japanese twice. Sorry it’s been almost 3 years since you posted your question, but I will answer all your doubts. I’ll start, however, by quoting the answer from Astral Sea as the choice of words might be confusing sometimes, but it gets clarified in his/her comment to the OP as I will explain.
“The anime was based of Arakawa Hiromu's manga adaptation of the original light novels”
It was properly clarified when he/she says in the comment: “The adaptation by Arakawa Hiromu is a manga, and the manga is also incomplete. The anime just used his manga art-style and characters to tell the story of the novels”
Basically, the anime took the art style from the manga when telling the story of the novels. The anime character designs belong to Shingo Ogiso as well.
The story itself was quickly taken directly from the novels as the only source as the anime caught up with the manga.
There were 19 chapters published when the anime started running (5th April) and also when it ended (27th September).
The first link corresponds to volume 3, which includes chapters 11-19 and was published in Japan on February 9, 2015.
The second link corresponds to volume 4, which includes chapters 20-27 and was released in Japan on October 9, 2015. It is important to note that the anime had already ended before this date though.
Just so that you know, episode 9 from the anime covers up to chapter 19 from the manga, and episode 10 covers up to chapter 23. So it would be something like that more or less.
After that point, episodes 10-25 from season 1 as well as all episodes from season 2 could not take the manga’s adaptation into account while adapting the novels as there was no manga to begin with.
The manga’s pace is incredibly slow. Even now, 2018, it still hasn’t started dealing with what season 2 covered (the latest manga Chapter 57 is adapting the last part from novel 3, whereas the anime’s season 1 covers novels 1- 4).
I’ll explain this later in more detail, but the manga’s adaptation is faithful and respectful to the novel source material. The anime’s adaptation not so much.
“So it does differ quite a bit from the original novels”
It gets clarified in his/her comment as well:
“The difference exists in both the anime and the manga compared to the novel. However, the difference is minimal so it’s fine for you to disregard it and go ahead to read the novels.”
The difference between the manga and the novels is minimal. The manga adapts the novels in a consistent and faithful way. The anime, however, is less faithful. Yet again, I’ll explain this later.
Now, these are the 3 issues that the OP has. I’ll explain all of them:
After watching the anime, I feel the need to finish the story through
the novel. However, I do not know where in the novel did the anime end
off or if it even followed the novel's plotline at all.
Where should I start?
Would I miss anything if I start where the anime ended?
Before that, I’m gonna add 1 extra question:
1. What should I read?
This is the only question I’ve added to your already existing 3 issues as I imagine that you, as an anime-only watcher, also have this doubt. I’m also going to take this chance to explain some basic information needed to answer your questions:
Arslan Senki is a Japanese novel series written by Yoshiki Tanaka. There are sixteen novels written between 1986 and 2017. A manga adaptation by Chisato Nakamura started running in 1990 and finished running in 1996. It had an original ending as it caught up with the novels. Because of its popularity, a second manga adaptation illustrated by Hiromu Arakawa debuted in 2013. An anime adaptation was made in 2015.
The novels are praised as a masterpiece in Japan, which is the reason they received adaptations in the first place and people kept up with them for 31 years. I would very strongly advise you to read the novels over every Arslan Senki adaptation.
However, there is no official translation as of now, and not much content has been fan-translated for the past 31 years. So… if you don’t know Japanese, I recommend you read the second manga. It is the most faithful adaptation you’ll find, and it’s in English.
2. Where should I start?
Depends on what you want to do and your situation.
-If you’ve just watched the anime and you want to read the novels (as I said, they’re regarded as a masterpiece) I would advise you to start from the very beginning. The novels are very long and complicated, so starting from the very first volume is the best option.
-If you can’t read the novels for language reasons and want to read the manga instead, I would advise you to start from chapter 19. The differences between manga and anime increase after chapter 19-20 (end of episode 9) and keep increasing ever since (for example, chapter 29 doesn’t exist in the anime).
-If you’ve read the manga and want to delve into the novels, you can start where you left off on the manga. Unlike the anime, the manga follows the original material quite faithfully.
To further help you understand the overall situation, I’m also going to tell you what the current situation is.
2.2 Current situation
The very first season of the anime covers novels 1-4. The anime caught up with the manga when only 3 manga volumes had been published. Those 3 manga volumes cover the first novel.
The second anime season covers the last part of novel 4 (as in the novel, Andragoras's escape from the dungeon is written before the funeral in St. Emmanuel) as well as novels 5 and 6.
The manga currently has 57 chapters and is now in the middle of novel 3’s last chapter where Sam reunited with Kubard and convinced him to fight for Hilmes and it is just before Arslan circulated the manifesto all around Pars.
As you can see, the manga has already covered (as of March 2018) half the novels seasons 1 and 2 from anime did. It took almost 5 years though.
3. Would I miss anything if I start where the anime ended?
You would most certainly do. The anime starts making more changes from the original novel source material after episode 10 from season 1, so I would suggest you start reading from chapter 19 or 20 (start of episode 10). This is obvious, but when the anime makes changes while adapting the novels, it also deviates from the manga’s faithful adaptation.
4. Are the manga and anime adaptations faithful to the original source material?
I’m rephrasing your doubt “I don’t know … if it even followed the novel's plotline at all.”
Anime: It has added quite a few scenes. Some of them seem to be very important, but don’t exist in the novels. For example:
- The fact that Arslan saves Daryun from Arzang, the sorcerer, just before reaching Peshawar Fortress
- The fact that Bahman gets killed by Hilmes
- *The fight between Daryun and Hilmes at the end of season 1
- *The fact that Bodin's men take the sacred sword Ruknabad
- *The fact that Hilmes gets Ruknabad. In the novels, no one can take the sword except the chosen one who will take over the will of Kay Khosrow, the ancient great King.
And lack, among others, the following events from the novels:
- The fact that Narsus defeats and kills Arzang. They even skipped Narsus saving Alfarid for the 2nd time, which made Alfarid fall in love with Narsus.
- The fact that Daryun apologizes to Gieve for considering him an untrustworthy person. This event takes place after knowing that Gieve had saved Arslan.
- The fact that Hilmes murders Kishward's very loyal subordinate and Azrael's brother.
- Hilmes valuing Zandeh’s skill of gathering information by using his men.
- The fact that Bahman accompanies Arslan to Sindhura and fighting bravery as a marzban.
- The fact that Bahman dies in Sindhura
- The fact that Salima, daughter of Mahendra, lets Rajendra arrest Gadhevi, who is Salima's husband.
- The fact that a sorcerer tries to steal the secret letter of Bahman and Narsus cuts off his arm.
- The fact that Andragoras tells the secret of Hilmes's birth to Sam.
- *The fact that Daryun captures Etoile before the battle in St. Emmanuel.
- *The fact that Merlain and Kubard defeat a Lusitanian troop together.
- *The fact that Jimsa and Zaravant escape from Andragoras's forces and they start searching Arslan together.
- *The fact that Zandeh throws Ruknabad into a crack in the ground, and pursuades Hilmes to once forget about it at the time when Ruknabad refused Hilmes and made a large earthquake hit.
("*" refers to scenes from parts of the story that have yet to be reached in the manga as it’s still behind the anime)
Whereas in the manga, all the events I remember that were added are just (Note: this list should be quite decent. Unlike the previous 2 ones, here I made a big effort to gather all the differences I remember having noticed when I read the manga):
- The first chapter (which was also in the anime)
- One short fight between Arslan and Kharlan (which was also in the anime). I wouldn’t really call it a fight, but in the novels Arslan and Kharlan don’t have that short crossing of blades before Kharlan fights Daryun.
- The fact that Etoile hands a small religious book to Arslan close to a river and the conversation with his companions about it (the anime added the act of giving the Bible, though under different conditions and there was no chat about it between Arslan’s companions when they go to Hodir’s castle)
- The sentence “one in one hundred million” used by Daryun (I think the anime used it once during the first half of season 1) as well as Arslan’s famous word “delicious” when referring to delicious food (the novels also use that word, but it’s more frequent in the manga. The anime used the word as well).
- Farangis usually dresses like a man in the novels, whereas in the manga there’s fan service. The anime took the manga’s character designs, so obviously it includes such fan service.
- The fact that Elam has a memory of Narsus praising his cooking skill
- The fact that Kishward already has a wife and a son, whereas in the novels his wife and son appear much later.
- When Daryun reveals Arslan identity to him, Daryun holds his hand. The revelation part is the same, but them holding hands at sunset is new.
- The fact that Montferrart's brother is among Bodin's soldiers who were killed by Hilmes when Lusitanian soldiers were fighting over the sacred flag. In the novels, he wasn’t present there.
- Jaswant (this character debuts in chapter 43 of the manga) sees Narsus painting, whereas in the novel it’s not described that she takes a glance at his painting.
- The fact that the story of how Daryun got hold of his polearm is more detailed in the manga.
- In one of the latest chapters of the manga (+55), Hilme’s secret is more explained than in the novels.
And not much content from the novels has been cut down. Obviously, the novels will have more details, but the important events are told faithfully, and the stuff that gets removed is the kind that is unnecessary and overdetailed for a manga (the manga format is quite different from that of a novel). To name a few examples of the events that the manga didn’t include while adapting the novels:
- Once Vahriz asks Daryun what his impression of Arslan's features is at Atropatene, there is a line that Daryun says ("He has a handsome features. I guess young ladies all over the capital city will talk about him in two or three years, but uncle...") right before Vahriz tells him that he was actually asking which one of the prince’s parents looks more similar to him. That line I quoted is not included in the manga.
- The reason why Narsu’s father died is because he fell down the stairs right before he was about to leave his land and help Andragoras. This led Narsus to go to the capital city and made him famous for the first time as a tactician.
- Amidst the sorcerers who have served the master sorcerer, Gundhi frequently appears in the underground room to receive instructions. In case you don’t remember it, he is the one with an incomplete mask that doesn’t cover the right side).
- The fact that Narsus has been rumored to have love affairs while working at court. Furthermore, Daryun has fallen in love with the princess of Serica. (Just 2 months ago, the author mentioned they are no longer a couple**)
- When Daryun fights with Bahadul in Sindhura, Daryun gets bitten by a jackal and he chops the jackal's head and even makes its eyes come out.
- About Pars legends, there exists a deep tradition of not eating sheep brain. Nevertheless, right when Arslan and his friends are in Sindhura, they inadvertently eat it in the food they’re given. It is stated that Daryun loses his appetite after that, yet Farangis is fine.
** Refers to an event that Tanaka has stated to have happened, but it doesn’t appear in his novels. He tends to do this sometimes, and his words/messages add new canon material not mentioned in the novels themselves (sometimes these new details/facts said by Tanaka are actually included in the second manga’s adaptation). This time it was mentioned on 18th January 2018, where we get to know that situation I explained before and exactly how it happens. If you google 31年目のヤシャスィーン you can see it on nico video website, but you need to have an official account and it’s raw Japanese as no English subtitles exist. In that conference he also mentions unimportant stuff like the fact that he had already decided the ending even before the second half of the novels had started, that while writing dialogues he says them out loud to make sure it doesn’t sound weird, that Daryun is dressed in black because he was reading the historical and psychological novel The red and the Black…
Also, the manga has more violent scenes that are in the novels but the anime skipped, like:
- The fact that faKishward makes one of Sindhuran’s soldier swing his boss's head from his neck.
Conclusions: The anime changes and skips events a lot, whereas the
manga sometimes adds an element/detail to the story rather than change it.
The manga adds very little, and when it does it is unimportant stuff,
it doesn’t remove much content and it doesn’t change things,
making the manga a good adaptation of the novels. The scenes and even
dialogues have been following Tanaka’s original work.
This is slightly off-topic, but I wanted to mention a couple of important things:
- First and foremost, the fact that I wouldn’t consider fillers the few things that the second manga added. This is because according to Tanaka’s secretary, while working, Arakawa inquires what might be necessary. Obviously, some minor details are necessary to fit the manga format and make the illustrations and the like, but Arakawa is very respectful and consults Tanaka/his secretary, who’s always very eager to see the end result of the work. Based on twits and the like, I’m not sure who’s more in charge of the supervision though, his secretary (the guy that tends to speak for him in the media) or Tanaka, but that depends on how much involvement the original author wants to have (Unfortunately, he’s already 70 years old and has already hinted he would like to stop working altogether) Also, as I said before, because the adaptation is very good and faithful to the original work.
- Second, the fact that the first manga was done by Chisato Nakamura, a girl that turned Arslan Senki into a shoujo manga (for girls). I started reading it, but I didn’t enjoy it very much and dropped it.
Third, the fact I would consider fillers what the anime changed or skipped. It was stated that the anime production consulted Tanaka before changing stuff, but personally, I would say it was just a technicality. There were some important changes, and I don’t think they should be given much thought even though Tanaka approved them and said that he is happy with them.
And last, the fact that Arslan Senki has had 3 illustrators so far. It’s extremely difficult for a novel series to get this kind of attention, and his novels even got an audiobook.
Amano, Yoshitaka (Art)
Tanaka, Yoshiki (Story)
Tanaka, Yoshiki (Story)
Nakamura, Chisato (Art)
Arakawa, Hiromu (Art)
Tanaka, Yoshiki (Story)
I personally hope a third season for the anime is made. I said that the anime’s adaptation is less faithful, but that is compared to the manga, by itself the anime’s adaptation is not so bad.
What I’m gonna quote comes from an interview to Arslan Senki’s anime protagonist actor, Kobayashi. This is my own translation, the interviews aren’t translated.
He starts complaining about how short second season was, not even 12 episodes.
I felt kind of a missing feeling like “I wanted to do a little more”,
but overall I think it turned out an enjoyable product.
But then he starts saying all the good things:
And if there is to be a 3rd season, grown up Arslan and me could
absolutely bring synergetic effects to it. Just like that, my role and me
both started from the same page and we’re able to grow up
together. This is such wonderful work of art.
-So there is an overlap to you and Arslan’s growth.
Kobayashi: I got my role at a very good timing. Arslan’s growth reflects how much I have grown up. He’s like my role model. I’d like to cherish this role forever.
And then, he repeats how much he treasures the experience and how much he wants the anime to continue until it reaches the end of the series.
This is my treasure. I’d like to continue playing this role till
the end … No matter how old I become, I’d like to play a role as the
prince and walk on our paths together. The Heroic Legend of Arslan is
an art that makes me feel that way.
-First of all, I am looking forward to the day of the return of the kingdom! Thank you very much!
Now, will there be a season 3? According to the anime's series composer and script writer, it will depend on the support fans give Arslan Senki. If it were up to him, season 3 would be being made as we speak, but unfortunately he also mentioned a few months after season 2 had ended that sales were a bit short of what he had expected.
“If all of you get very excited, I’m sure season 3 will come
immediately!” (Makoto Uezu)