Arata the Legend: Coming of Age

Arata the Legend’s first season has recently finished airing. It is an anime about a world governed by a Princess and her 12 Guardians/Advisers called ‘Shinsho’ – warriors chosen by magical weapons called ‘Hayagami’. The story starts with the Shinsho betraying the princess and attempting to kill her, and using the main character as a scapegoat for their ambitions. And thus begins the first season of Arata the Legend.

Arata: The Legend’s character roster is strong, featuring a few characters with some real potential. There are only two problems… the first, and most damning, is that the main character is not one of these. Arata Hinohara is an incredibly unlikable character who is  clearly designed to be that way for the sake of plot-based character development. If that development had been smooth and gradual and logical, this might have been forgiven – unfortunately that is not the case. The other notable exception is the main villain, Arata’s rival. He is psychotic for the most unbelievable and truly pathetic reason. Having these two characters be so critical to the story makes the show so much harder to truly relate to. The other critical flaw is that as the story progresses more and more of the potentially interesting characters “submit” to either Arata or one of his rivals.

The concept of submission is a mostly sound one, save the fact that it is a completely illogical succession process. You see, ‘submitting’ refers to surrendering your power, knowledge and your weapon to someone you feel worthy of it. Where it falls through is that you also have to give up your life. If the people wielding these weapons were legendary warriors, guards, forbidden from holding office and so on… then we’d have a really interesting prospect albeit not entirely unique. But that’s not the case here, everyone in any position of power, nearly, is a wielder of one of these weapons… and the people seeking to rule the country must apparently ‘collect them all’. So basically after this process is completed you’re left with nobody who knows how to govern except the ‘winner’. That said, if you can look past the strange submission concept the show uses, the story is actually pretty good and very relatable.

The ‘Megaman’ like aspect his weapon gets is kind of intriguing, although sadly as of the end of the first season it hasn’t really been made use of. Essentially these Hayagami – the swords/weapons – are spirits of power that bond with a person and allow them to have insight and control into various things. But they aren’t just the standards like ‘I can control fire!’ although those are present. They also make use of concepts like commerce, with one of the swords allowing for an understanding and manipulation of money, or justice, with a sword that allows it’s user to see into the hearts of others and judge them. And when the owner of this Hayagami uses it, his main weapon transforms into the appearance of the other one he wants to use and gains it’s powers. I’m really interested to see where they take this if they do a second season.

Arata The Legend has a crossover between the real world and this fantasy world, but doesn’t make good use of that fact. It isn’t like Inuyasha where the ‘real world’ is just used as a relating point… there are moments where they are very clearly trying to build the real world into part of the story. They just fail at it badly, which is a pity. Not that the fantasy world is bad – it truly isn’t. It’s a very interesting place, but when you have this duality present I think you have to either use it, or dismiss it entirely, and the halfway mark just isn’t engaging.

I’m not really sure why I am interested in seeing more of this show, as there isn’t a whole lot that’s good to say. The action was a little bland, character development was awkwardly handled, the main character is pathetic, and they aren’t reaching the potential that many of the aspects of the show present. And yet, I am. I hope a second season is made. I guess it is more about hope than reality, because there is a lot of potential… and perhaps after the ‘growing pains’ of the first season, things will improve. I wouldn’t say I disliked the first season, but it certainly didn’t live up to my hopes.

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