Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Arata: The Legend
After meeting up with Mikusa and Rami, Arata Hinohara and his companions head to the territory of the Sho Kugura, a man who controls the wind. They find his land in disrepair and learn that he has been taking all of the young women as “tribute.” Disturbed by this information, Hinohara is determined to breach the tornado that cloaks Kugura's palace. Unfortunately the only people allowed to do so are women...
Quick, what was the funniest part of Fushigi Yugi? Chances are you said “the cross dressing scene/episode.” That gift for cross-dressing male hilarity carries over to this volume of Arata: The Legend as Yuu Watase makes up for last volume with a funny, emotional book that pulls on all our heartstrings, from the ticklish to the weepy.
Last volume Watase set the scene for this book with the introduction of Mikusa, a female member of the Hime clan who masquerades as a boy. You may remember that the original Arata was being forced into women's clothes because the throne is entailed away from the male line, so the discovery of Mikusa's gender would cause quite a stir. At this point only her attendant Rami and Kotoha know her secret, but it seems likely that its reveal could have far-reaching impact on the outcome of the story. Until that happens, Mikusa goes to great lengths to keep her true gender concealed, a plan that Hinohara very nearly inadvertently foils several times. Watase mostly plays this for laughs, with Hinohara evincing confusion when Mikusa embarks on a full-out freak out. “I'll cut it off!!” she shrieks when Hinohara accidentally flashes her. “Cut what off?” he responds.
While Mikusa's dilemma certainly leads up to the later hijinks, it by no means makes up the majority of the book, something you would never know from the back's copy. The greater part of this book actually belongs to Kanate, the red-headed thief Hinohara met on the prison island. Attentive series readers have known about Kanate's inferiority complex since his introduction, and in this volume Watase brings it to the fore. When the group splits up to look for Kugura's zokusho (or lieutenants), Kanate and Kannagi pair off. They are attacked by a man who thinks that Kanate is one of a group of red-haired bandits. The boy immediately knows that these must be his brothers, who abandoned he and Ginchi before the story began. Kanate breaks from the group to confront them. What follows is a sometimes heart-wrenching section about how Kanate relates to his family and why he has been eager to find them. Readers are given the opportunity to more fully understand the character and his inferiority complex, to say nothing of his interpersonal relationships. Kanate is offered a chance at revenge and the means to never find himself in such a demeaning position as he was in with his family again. His decision, and the way he feels he must carry it out, has overtones of Watase's darker series, most particularly the thoughtless selfishness of many of the characters in Ceres: Celestial Legend. It also leads to a parallel with Hinohara's past as a victim of bullying. Bullying victims often, though not always, respond by either withdrawing or becoming attackers themselves. Hinohara, we know, chose to withdraw. Kanate just may take the other route.
On the subject of Hinohara's past, it is almost entirely absent in this volume. Kadowaki gets a brief appearance in the end and at this point it remains unclear if being in Amawakuni will have a positive effect on him. His handmaiden Miyabi remains devoted to him, and there is a suspicion that she may be the beauty to his beast. Arata and the “real” world are nowhere to be seen in the book, which may be a disappointment to some readers but does allow Watase to focus more on Kanate's turmoil.
The art remains consistently attractive throughout the volume. Although backgrounds may feel like a come down after the intricacies of the water palace, Watase still gives a firm sense of place with all of her backgrounds and costumes remaining consistently interesting and imaginative. She hasn't run out of differing character designs yet, although some of them are getting bizarre. (Kugura's armor looks like he escaped from an old sentai show.) The ongoing picture scroll built by laying the volumes next to each other is also a treat for those of us who enjoy revealing how all of the images work together, although by this point you need a good stretch of floor to get the full effect.
Arata: The Legend's eighth volume is a return to what consistently makes Yuu Watase's works so enjoyable. With pathos, humor, and ongoing character development and parallels, her foray into the world of shounen continues to be worth picking up.
Overall : B+
Story : B
Art : B+
+ Both funny and sad at once, interesting character parallels between Kanate, Kadowaki, and Hinohara.
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