Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Arata: The Legend
Arata heads out to make the shinsho who controls water, Yorunami, submit to him, but Yorunami turns the tables by kidnapping Kotoha. With the girl he likes in danger, what will Arata do? Also preying on his mind is Kotoha's question about where he will go when the battles are all over. Should he stay in Amawakuni, or must he go home to his family? Then the other Arata contacts him with some disturbing information – the shinsho who has traded places with Kadowaki has committed a terrible act. How will Arata cope will all of these disasters?
As you can see from the synopsis, this volume of Arata: The Legend throws a lot of plot at the reader in a short amount of pages. Where previous volumes have focused on one issue in the lives of the two Aratas – often issues that are linked across the worlds – this time around Yuu Watase starts throwing events in Arata Hinohara's face with little to no pauses in between. While this makes for an action packed volume, it does not allow for much development of any of the storylines introduced, and thus takes away from the exciting world Watase has been developing.
The first major plot point occurs when Kotoha asks Arata which world he will be staying in forever. Arata is conflicted – he likes Kotoha, but he is a sixteen-year-old kid and wants to be with his family. While he ponders this issue, Kotoha is stolen away by the shinsho Arata has been looking for – Yorunami, an effeminate man who controls water and has a major mother complex. Yorunami threatens to drown Kotoha if Arata will not submit to him, and then proceeds to trap our hero in a time regression spell to trick him into doing just that. This whole section is an artistically interesting one, with Watase going to great lengths to show how Yorunami can use water as a weapon. His hayagami, for one, turns into a fan with water for blades, which is not only creative but very nice to look at. Yorunami's palace is full of liquid sculptures and spinning aquatic globes, making a fanciful and beautiful background to the fight. Watase also shows off her ability to regress Arata believably – at each age he returns to the character is recognizably a younger version of himself, which is nothing to sneeze at.
Unfortunately the resolution of the Yorunami chapters is less captivating. Yorunami's motivation, while somewhat touching, is still, at its heart, a bit corny. Watase does a much better job with the Kadowaki/Arata conflict than with Yorunami's abandonment issues, and much of his backstory is simply melodramatic. The lesson Arata learns from it feels hackneyed and somewhat out of line with the rest of the series, particularly since Arata's mother has little-to-nothing to do with the overall plot.
Soon after Arata finishes up with Yorunami, he receives a message from the Arata born in Amawakuni. Arata tells his Japanese counterpart that he has been unable to prevent something tragic from befalling Suguru, the boy who was convinced by Kadowaki to betray Arata way back in volume one. This comes a bit hard on the heels of the Yorunami section to really sink in, and the section is told in flashback as the two Aratas communicate. While it is genuinely tragic, and readers do feel sympathy for the unfortunate Suguru, the section is rushed and loses some of its impact. Had Watase spent more time on it, Suguru's tragedy could have been emotional and heart-wrenching. As it stands, it is sad, but not enough to make any but the most sensitive readers tear up. As longtime Watase fans know, she is capable of more than this.
But don't worry! No sooner has Arata learned of Suguru's fate than we are quickly swept up into another plot point! Another member of the Hime clan thinks Arata killed the princess and wants vengeance! And naturally we need to find out what Kadowaki's been up to, so Watase throws that in too. Like with the Suguru section, there are some important and touching moments in here, particularly regarding Arata and Kadowaki in middle school, but things just come flying at the reader so quickly that it is difficult to absorb them. This volume should have been two, the better to handle the information Watase clearly wants to impart.
While Arata: The Legend is more than a shonen Fushigi Yugi, this by no means its best volume. Watase tries to do too much too quickly, resulting in a rushed, over-packed book that leaves readers feeling like they've just read through a hurricane. The art remains gorgeous, but the writing is definitely lacking this time around. With supporting characters like Kotoha, Kanate, and Kannagi backsliding into the roles of fight commentators and victims, not even the character development is at its usual level. One can only hope that Watase was rushing to get to volume eight, because this book is nowhere near her usual skill level. Come on, Yuu Watase. You can do better than this.
Overall : C
Story : C
Art : B+
+ Great background art, fluid movement, promising new characters.
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