Monday, November 18, 2013
Arata: The Legend (manga, vol. 1) by Yuu Watase
Those who dislike spoilers may want to skip the synopsis portion of this post and go straight to my review.
Fantasy world Arata is horrified to learn that he has to pretend to be a girl or he and his grandmother will be put to death. During the ceremony to name him as the new ruling princess, the current (previous?) princess is nearly assassinated. Arata runs off and somehow accidentally switches places with an Arata from our world, a boy who's been bullied and betrayed. Our world's Arata learns that he's the sho (sheath) of a hayagami (a god in the form of a blade).
When I was a teen, I practically inhaled Watase's Fushigi Yuugi: The Mysterious Play series. Her character designs were so pretty it almost hurt to look at them, and I loved the mix of melodrama, fantasy, and complicated love stories. I've read several of her works since then, and Watase will probably always hold a place in my manga-loving heart.
So of course I had to at least try Arata: The Legend. I knew nothing about it, other than that it was created by Watase. I had several volumes come in near the end of my vacation and decided to at least read the first one.
Unfortunately, the first volume turned out to be a “meh” kind of read. There was some over-the-top instant bullying (seriously, Arata started off as a hugely popular transfer student and plummeted fast). The little bit of cross-dressing was over much more quickly than I expected – I thought for sure that Fantasy World Arata was going to have to pretend to be a girl for at least a few volumes. The divided storylines, between the Arata of our world dealing with bullying, and the Arata of the fantasy world dealing with being framed for an attempted assassination, led to an overall unfocused feel.
It's possible that this series will get better. I have the next few volumes somewhere in my personal collection and will be giving this series another shot. Who knows, the hayagami aspect could turn out to be really interesting. At this point, though, the best thing I can say about it is that it has Watase's usual clean, eye-pleasing artwork. Although even that seemed a little bit spare to me, compared to what I remembered her artwork being like. I don't know if it's just been too long since I last read one of her works, or if I've officially grown out of her stuff. I may need to give one of my past favorites of hers a reread...