Arata: The Legend Vol. #01 - Mania.com



Manga Review

Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Art Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translation Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 13 and Up
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 208
  • ISBN: 978-1421534206
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Arata

Arata: The Legend Vol. #01

Arata: The Legend Vol. #01 Manga Review

By Christopher Nadolski     April 15, 2010
Release Date: March 09, 2010


Arata: The Legend Vol. #01
© Viz Media

Two look-alike boys from parallel worlds trade places and struggle to adjust to their new lives.

Creative Staff
Writer/Artist: Yuu Watase
Translation: JN Productions
Adaptation: Lance Caselman

What They Say
An action-packed shonen fantasy from the acclaimed author of Fushigi Yûgi! In a mythical world where humans and gods co-exist, Arata has the unfortunate honor of being the successor to the matriarchal Hime Clan. This means he has to pretend to be a girl or face death if his true gender is discovered! On the day of his inauguration, an assassination plot forces him to flee... and he somehow winds up in modern-day Japan! Meanwhile, a boy named Arata Hinohara gets sucked into the first Arata's world and finds himself dealing with people after his life!

The Review!

Technical:
The landscape oriented (horizontal) cover makes for an interesting first impression, it's a refreshing departure from the standard portrait style (vertical) layout. The foreground shows blond Arata Hinohara in his school uniform, wielding a decorative looking sword, and a pretty bust of Kotoha against a spacey blue field featuring a glowing talisman forms the background. Dark haired Arata in colorful clan garb appears on back, also brandishing a sword as he poses next to the summary.
 
Inside, Watase's fantasy world emerges, painstakingly designed and conceived. From the well planned aerial-view renderings of the capital city, to the elaborate ceremonial apparel, ornate Hayagami blades, and lavishly rendered environments—a host of details decorate the volume throughout. Grand palace interiors, rocky landscape enmeshed with myriad deep pools of clear water and many other pages worth of visual descriptions help inform the readers concept of this fantastical world. Characters are also beautifully done, with plenty of flourish and variation. The two Arata boys do have the same faces, but it's not hard to tell them apart, owing to their different clothing  and opposite colored hair. Elderly grandma Makari, child princes Kikuri and everyone else in-between provide an appealing contrast of age and character design. Screen tone is expertly handled, bringing textural detail to cloths and realistic presence to environments. Frame design is also top notch with several beautiful full-page panels and dynamic layout throughout. Paper and ink are excellent, as is the translation, and at the end, five pages of extras include some wacky candid camera and bloopers moments as well as an author bio.
 
Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers): 
Dark haired, fantasy world Arata and blond, normal world Arata (Hinohara) take the spot light as the setting alternates between both worlds for several chapters as the two characters are established and developed. Arata of the Hime clan faces dire circumstances with admirable good-humor, as he impersonates a girl in a desperate attempt to save his grandmother and himself from ritual execution, while Hinohara looks to be crumbling under the pressures of some nasty high school bullying and ostracizing. Arata's flimsy female disguise is blown in a flurry of events that result in him being framed for princess murdering and forced to seek concealment in a dangerous forest, known for its ability to devour intruders—a fate which then befalls him as well. Apparently though, this forest is not actually a man-eating monster so much as it is a sort of wormhole between worlds. This we discover, as Hinohara—after having wandered into a dark alleyway on the way home from a particularly harrowing day of bullying—finds himse
lf at Arata's world in that same forest, while Arata is delivered fresh from the magical forest onto the streets of Hinohara's hometown.
 
In the fantasy world, Hinohara—accompanied by adorable side-kick Kotoha—fumbles at picking up life in the midst of the turmoil left by Arata before the two boys switched places. Those dastardly villains (the twelve "Shinsho") responsible for framing Arata in the murder of the princess are actually the ones who killed her, and they focus their ill intent on Hinohara—thinking him to be Arata—who is rightfully confused by everything, being the ordinary high school student that he is. Wait... ordinary? No! He is in fact the chosen one to wield the god-like powers of the Hayagami, a mystical blade which responds to only one person. Hinohara clumsily unleashes its power against Kannagi, the lead villain, to protect Kotoha and granny Makari. Elders in the Hime clan witness this event  and recognize Hinohara as the bearer (or "Sho") of the Hayagami, but Hinohara unable to activate it at will and unwilling to embrace this new responsibility, discards the Hayagami and storms off. Confronted and consoled by the ever-dedicated Kotoha, Hinohara feels the ice around his heart begin to crack as the bullying and betrayal of his past life pales in the light of her devotion. She gives him a charm just before he is again challenged by the Shinsho. This time unarmed, he is unable to resist capture and winds up in a dungeon under the capital city.
 
From within the confines of his cell, Hinohara triggers Kotoha's charm which is actually one of a pair of twin talismans, the other belonging to Arata back in Hinohara's world. Essentially a kind of mystical video-chat device, the charm affords the two boys a chance to finally come face to face with each other, and Arata communicates to Hinohara the truth about who killed the princess— Kannagi! Armed with this knowledge, Hinohara—now on trial— finally grows a pair, gets a spine and indicts the Shinsho in front of everyone. This results in his exile via airship to the savage land of Gatoya. Mid-flight, Kotoha is found stowing away on the prison ship and gets stuffed into the cage where Hinohara is being held. She returns to him the Hayagami which she has cleverly snuck aboard, and the charm is once more triggered, this time opening up a chat with the princess who is not quite dead yet after all, but is barely clinging to life. She chooses Hinohara to be her successor and charges him with the quest of returning 
to her before she dies.
 
In Summary: 
With a detailed curriculum of high-concept magical swords, mystical talismans and sacred bloodlines, combined with political intrigue and two worlds worth of plot movement, there's certainly a lot going on in Arata the Legend—but it all retains a fairly sharp focus on the journey of Arata and Hinohara, offering an entertaining and eye-pleasing escapist fantasy read.

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