Arata: The Legend (manga)--First Impressions

Arata The Legend (Manga) First Impressions

Writer and Illustrator: Yuu Watase
Translator: JN Productions
Publisher. Shogakukan, Inc. 2009
Rating: Teen, and found in the middle school section of my local library...SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL LIBRARIES!

Get ready for an time-travelling, inter-planatary,
body-switching, demon sword wielding,
gender -ending, high-school dramady!

I’m about to ruin this book for you. Fair warning. 

Arata is the last descendant of the Hime clan, and every 30 years a female of the Hime clan must be enthroned as princess of the realm through a “sacred ritual." These princesses are possessed by something called Amatsuriki Power, which controls the Haygami (gods of their world who embody demonic swords).  Arata’s grandmother claimed Arata as a girl because all male Hime children are put to death by royal decree, and I guess no one notices that he's a boy (because clearly he IS a boy, and everyone knows it).  Due to this intentional switcharoo, Arata is forced to act as a girl, and is called to become princess. Arata attends the ritual and his disguise is paying off until the former princess is assassinated by a group bent on revolution. They blame the murder on Arata, whose gender is exposed during the melee (his shirt is cut away to reveal a lack of girl parts).

Meanwhile in futuretimes (like now here on earth times), a Japanese high school student who is also named Arata is finding it hard to cope with his new school. He switched schools because he was so relentlessly bullied at the last school (oddly, he is bullied because he is handsome, smart and good at sports), and suddenly his chief tormentor arrives out of the blue to make him miserable. Luckily (?) he gets sucked into Arata #1’s world and is mistaken for him (although they look nothing alike). And it turns out that the spirits of the Haygami choose Arata #2 as their warrior.

Do they look alike? Of course! They're identical!
Who wouldn't confuse Arata #1 with Arata #2?

Meanwhile in futuretimes again, Arata #1 winds up in Arata #2’s world. They communicate through a portal powered by some necklace thingie and Arata #1 refuses to switch back because he believes that Arata #2 can defeat the baddies and save the world.

Meanwhile in backtimes, Arata #2 fights a lot of people and the half-dead princess asks him to rule in her place and find her. Arata #1 doesn’t pop back up again for the rest of the issue, so who knows what kind of crap he's made out of Arata #2's life?

You get it, Dear Readers, this is a silly manga that does not seem to accept its own silliness. I'd like to tell this manga to just be itself, and stop with the serious scenes, because really...a time-travelling, inter-planatary, body-switching, demon sword wielding, gender -ending, high-school story should be a comedy (let's leave the drama to the dramas, okay?). 

One thing I did appreciate about this manga, is the discussion of belief in oneself and others. Neither Arata wants to let anyone down; both are powered by trying to live up to the beliefs others place in them. This is a rather noble little series, and provides some nice messages to its intended young adult audience about confidence, persistence, honor, friendship and kindness.  

Because I am not the intended audience here I might not continue the series, but do want to point out some of the good things. It is well written and well translated. The illustrations are very nice, but a little busy at times. The story itself is unique enough and compelling enough to have kept me reading to the end of the issue (which is a step in the right direction). The bad things have more to do with a lack of development of the side-characters…they seem to be less characters than standard types of characters. That isn’t always a bad thing, and it may be more symptomatic of a simplification of character based on audience, but the series is going to have to complicate them just a bit even for teens, I think. Otherwise, people may have a difficult time relating to them. I know I did.

I would classify this as a sort of beginner’s manga. If this were the first manga I had ever picked up I would be interested, but being an old salty lady who reads a ton, it seems a little flat and a little predictable (oh, when  a time-travelling, inter-planatary, body-switching, demon sword wielding, gender -bending, high-school  dramadies become predictable there is a problem).  It isn’t stellar, but it is readable, and the teen girls will think Arata #2 is super-cute. So, there’s that. 

Questions this manga inspired:
1. Why do all hot bad guys with swords lick the edges of their swords? Is that like a sexual thing? Oh, I’m dangerous and sexy, watch me seduce this hunk of metal!
2. Who knew melee was spelled like that? Not me.
3. Did I just pick up this manga because of the title? My housemate’s middle name is Arata.  
4. Why did I keep thinking that Justin Bieber should play Arata#2 in a live-action version of this?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'd highly recommend this anime. You can be both happy and sad at the same time. Although, some characters are developed well, but the lack few details that will left you hanging with questions.