Arata Kangatari

Title:Arata Kangatari
Arata The Legend
アラタカンガタリ ~革神語~ (Japanese)
Keywords: , , , , , , ,
Notables: MATSUOKA Yoshitsugu
OKAMOTO Nobuhiko
Two boys, one a bullied schoolboy in present-day Japan, another a warrior in an alternate world, switch places.

12 episodes, based on an ongoing manga serialized in Weekly Shounen Sunday with 18+ volumes since 2009.
"革" = "Arata" (a given name; the kanji means "skin", "fur" or "leather"); "神" = "kan" = "god, mind, soul"; "語" = "gata" = "language, word", as suffix "-gatari" meaning "tale of".
OverallArtAnimationCharacter Design MusicSeries StoryEpisode StoryReviewer
Unevaluated Stretch [series:2715#628]
(Ten episodes watched):

At first I almost believed that two different shows had accidentally been meshed together, but things made sense after awhile. Two guys, both named Arata, somehow switch places; that could be fun. Will the warrior guy kick the asses of the punks who had been harassing his counterpart? We don't know, because this episode focuses on the Japanese schoolboy who has wound up in a sword and sorcery world. Like a number of other new shows this season, Arata has an interesting premise which might go somewhere, but we're not told enough in the opening episode to get much of an idea if it will. The question will be if a clever plot exists and if skillful storytelling comes into play. I couldn't help mentally comparing the skill behind this show with that which was evident in ShinKyo, which I watched recently, and found Arata to be somewhat lacking. I hope the mystical swords don't wind up having more personality than the characters themselves. I am pretty much ambivalent about this show so far, since it has neither impressed me nor turned me off.

You know, somehow the plot of this show makes enough sense, is revealed with enough skill, and the characters have enough personality to keep me fairly interested. I had had low expectations of Arata compared to a number of other shows, but while they have largely lost my interest Arata holds on to a bit of it. I'm not saying that this is a brilliant show, but it could have been much worse. Maybe one thing I like is the fairly weird and unpredictable things that have happened. After the premise-establishing first episode, the entire story up to at least the end of episode three has been about Japanese teenager Arata in the sword and sorcery world with little word about what became of the counterpart he switched places with. But if this story has managed to remain fairly interesting, that one ought to too.

Episode four left me with the feeling that AK is a show with a clever plot which unfortunately isn't played for all it's worth; the little things are kept unnecessarily simplistic and predictable even though the plot as a whole is intriguing. For instance, two condemned friends are obliged to fight to the death so that the winner will be spared. This could have been a riveting and moving scene, but it didn't seem that enough effort was made to attain the full potential. The two boys are still basically strangers to us, so a lot of the potential power of the scene is carelessly forfeited. And when not a drop of blood is shed, was anybody fooled into thinking that one of them was really dead? It's a shame that the details of AK don't do the longterm plot justice.

Based on the OP sequence, it seems that the modern-day Japan boy who hates Arata and harassed him will play a major role--maybe even wind up as a friend and ally. But as of yet, there's little sign of it. In episode five we spend a little time with the guy who has taken Arata's place in Japan, largely for comedy's sake. Still, it was amusing and I am intensely curious about how things will work out for him. Most of the episode concerned Arata in fantasyland, as usual. I can't say this show is very 'deep', and I wish the pace would pick up--either that or switch to the other guy's story. Come to think of it, Arata and what's-her-name don't seem to be developing much personality, since they don't say anything they don't have to.

But whenever I start feeling that this show is cheesy and maybe I ought to drop it, something clever happens. There's an interesting theme unfolding: Arata may be the only one who can prevent the bloody power struggle from getting completely out of control. Even if he was brought to this world by accident, the lives of countless people might depend on him, and thus it's hard to do nothing. It's nice when the protagonist's motivations are made clear to us, and we understand why he's doing what he does (and we would do the same), even if the storytelling could have been done better.

Yet another intriguing twist happens in episode eight: Kadowaki, Arata's enemy in present-day Japan, travels to fantasyland, just like Arata did in episode one. I had assumed that he would remain where he is and fight the fantasy-Arata guy. The problem is that his conflict with Arata seems pretty shallow--he just has an unhealthy ego, apparently. As a result, this show continues to walk the tightrope between average and above average; it may not be until the final episode that it becomes clear which category it belongs in. If it had been 24-odd episodes long I would have abandoned it, but since it is only twelve I decided to stick with it.

Arata K feels like a good framework of a story which didn't get enough fleshing out. The characters didn't get enough development, not enough effort was put into making it exciting, the logic is hard to follow, and in general it feels like it didn't live up to it's potential.

Last updated Thursday, July 04 2013. Created Saturday, April 20 2013.

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