This is review number two hundred and twenty three. This anime is part of the Spring 2013 lineup. I actually have one more anime to watch to close the lineup in the meantime. The long ones will have to wait and the Summer 2013 lineup is halfway through so that’s exciting. Today, I’ll be reviewing the ghost of the Spring 2013 lineup. It’s Arata Kangatari. It’s a twelve episode anime about a guy, some swords and another guy with a bitter bug up his ass. Sounds like a fun time. Let’s read on.
The anime is about a guy named Arata Hinohara. Ever since middle school, he has been bullied and laughed at by people that he has developed an inferiority complex he cannot shake off. After hearing his only trusted friend make fun of him behind his back, he suddenly wished he could just disappear. The next thing he knew, he was floating in the air with a man with silver hair on the opposite site. A flash of light and suddenly he finds himself in a new world full of different people. It turns out that there is an Arata in this world and he switched places with him. This Arata is accused of killing the princess of this world and people are now out to kill him. Arata is innocent though and he must find a way to prove it. With this world in disarray, it was the dead princess that ordered him to unite the country with him as the king. Can this troubled boy find enough courage to carry such a big responsibility or will he run away just like what he always do?
Taking the Pants Off
How special is this? We have an anime that was adapted from a work by the author of Fushigi Yuugi and Ayashi no Ceres. Anyone who grew up watching AXN Asia back when it was cool definitely fell in love with these anime. I even had some repressed feelings over Tamahome and him being shirtless. That’s another story for another time though. Just the idea of a Yuu Watase (the author) story in an anime is honestly enough to make me watch it. In fact, majority of the usual tropes she uses in her story are very much alive in Arata Kangatari. Two people crossing over worlds, a heated rivalry over something petty (like a shirtless guy) and some super powered bishies that has that distinct flashy style only this mangaka can present. It’s an easy win for viewers but sadly this anime was the most overlooked anime of the Spring 2013 lineup. There are a lot of factors contributing to the anime’s near invisible presence but I personally think it was the production values. For a 2013 anime, this show felt like it was made in 2002 with absolutely no touch of CG or anything that trends now in anime. Satelight (the studio) just seemingly made a wonderful story so helplessly mediocre. I do believe the overarching story was also a challenge to adapt but, in 2013, a stupid anime like Date A Live can get much fanfare just for having high quality animation so Satelight should’ve made more effort in making this particular show more intriguing.
This anime had a pretty complex story. In fact, the first few episodes were nothing more than a bunch of tropes that laid the groundwork for the rest of the episodes. It was honestly a huge mess with an uneven pacing but the premise of the story seems to be solid enough to enjoy all the way through. The first few episodes were concerned with the status quo and it’s pretty big to actually establish. It starts in a mythical world where gods and humans co-exist. A silver haired Arata is trying to fulfill his clan’s mission of attending a ceremony to crown the new princess. Arata is a boy though and he will pretend to be a girl for just enough time to find a more worthy person to accept the role. He met the princess and, as the ceremony was about to begin, one of the princess’ trusted guards slashed her chest and she collapsed. Arata is shocked and ran away thinking he’ll be killed next. This seemed too perfect though as the trusted guard has now announced to the world that silver haired Arata killed the princess using the guise of a woman to sneak into the palace. They are now out for Arata’s head while the trusted guards have quietly got away with their dastardly ploy.
Meanwhile on Earth, an orange haired Arata is going a bit emo after his life has turned into the crapper. He is bullied by jerks and he has no friends. The one he considers his friend even mocked him behind his back and the poor dude has had enough. These two Arata will have a chance encounter though. When silver haired Arata ran into the Kando Forest, a place known to devour poor unexpected prey, he magically got transported into Earth and orange haired Arata replaced him. Now everyone on Earth thinks and sees silver haired Arata as the emo Arata that has no friends while orange haired Arata is considered as the princess killer. After a flurry of running for his life, orange haired Arata eventually picked up an heirloom from silver haired Arata’s tribe. It’s a weapon that only worthy people can wield and it has so much tremendous power that it is believed that its wielder can rule the world. Yes, oranged haired emo Arata is now given the unfortunate task of ruling this world. He now journey to the capital where the dead princess is so he can unscrew the situation that he is currently in. It will be a pretty long journey for our poor hero though.
The two paragraphs above are the status quo of the anime starting out. This was important to be established because it commenced the story of the show. It’s pretty big and it honestly covered five episodes of the anime. Introducing the characters, the eventual premise and the actual story was such a hurdle that the first five episodes were nothing more than uninteresting and very much forced events that sets up the anime. I don’t blame the story for being a bit poor starting out because condensing a long running manga to fit twelve episodes is going to be a huge task. The thing that honestly kept me watching was the idea that the story was soon to ripen. It really just needed more time and I do not mind watching a show that was destined to be good. Of course, this old school style fantasy story of a guy going on a journey trying to become strong and having some entertaining companions along the way also appealed to me. The pacing was just a problem but it eventually fixes itself once it reached the second half. This is also where the plot points were introduced.
The first plot point is about the state of discourse in the other world. The princess had twelve guards. These guards are known as “Sho” because they possess the power of a god. They are able to use this power fully thanks to weapons known as “Hayagami” that basically enshrines a god. The twelve Sho of the princess started a revolution because they no longer wanted to serve the girl and they want to rule this world. Only one person can rule the world though. This would result in war among the twelve Sho. Any Sho can make another submit and those that submits gives their body and soul to the person they surrendered to. It’s a process much like one Sho eating another Sho with his Hayagami. It’s a pretty cool war where, eventually, only the strongest Sho can survive because he would’ve made other Sho submit to him. The twelve Sho has basically started a revolution so they can take the world for themselves and a war is inevitable. Here’s the kicker though. The one rumored to eventually unite the world is this powerful Hayagami that apparently chose orange haired Arata as its owner. All eyes are on the boy that is destined to rule the world now and the Twelve Sho has taken it upon themselves to dispose of him before he gets any stronger.
This is an interesting plot point because we get to see the expansive scope of the world Arata is in now. Along his journey, he often comes across other Sho and he gets a glimpse of the situation they are in. The stories of his travels are actually pretty decent and they have some nice fantasy ring to them. From scary jail islands to traveling nomads, it’s a fun ride through and through. As he journey, we see the situation of the political state of the world as well. We also get to have some insight on the twelve Sho that wants to rule it. Occasionally, he gets in a fight or two but the action was pretty piss poor since the anime was still busy laying the groundwork for the rest of the episodes. It was interesting to meet the Twelve Sho though and their various demeanors. Some of them easily stand out and their backstory had some intriguing qualities as well. How far most Sho would go to is also part of the fun because it really set the tone for the rest of the show.
The second plot point is about the silver haired Arata on Earth. It wasn’t focused much at first but eventually got a chance to develop at the later parts of the show. Arata is different than the orange haired weakling that is now trying to save his world. It’s a bit of a change but not only for him, but for his family as well. This plot point is mostly about silver haired Arata trying to fit in his new world. After all, people still see him as the orange haired Arata and they just believe that he has amnesia. The problem is mostly about his ties with his new family. He seemed to have issues with her mom and it was slightly brought up in this plot point. The true focus of this plot point though is Arata’s situation is school. He has bullies and a friend that abandoned him. Silver haired Arata is now out to fix those problems. It turns out though that this bully problem of his is not as simple as one would expect.
I don’t want to spoil much here. The second plot point basically introduced us to an important character in the story. There is a certain bully that pretty much has a huge grudge for Arata that it’s a bit ridiculous. The anime also explored his background and explored his entire character. A bully that has so much angst would eventually turn this story upside down. Let’s just say that plot point one and two eventually merged into one. Arata’s bully problem soon poured over to the battle of the Sho. It’s a nice decent turn of events that certainly made the anime more interesting.
The third plot point is simply about orange haired Arata’s journey to finding his courage and his missing pair of balls. Throughout the anime, our hero is really nothing more than a pathetic weakling that crawls into a corner every chance he gets. He knows he is weak and he know that a powerful Hayagami weapon isn’t something a weakling like him should wield. There were a lot of self-pitying from this guy that you often want to smack the dude for no reason. As he journeys and sees the ugliness of the world he is in, Arata eventually gets his resolve. The idea of ruling the world is still a long way off his grasp but seeing so many people suffer eventually gives him enough strength to try and change himself. He would train, develop a heroic attitude and soon become a dependable hero a story like this one deserves. Trust me when I say this though, it is a really long journey. Arata’s journey unfortunately has more downs than ups so his resolve is definitely going to be challenged a lot and, for a weakling like Arata, it’s not going to be easy.
The characters in the anime are all pretty weak. Some of them are just massive plot devices at first because the story doesn’t have time to develop characters. It just needs pieces to help move the story along. As you keep watching though, some characters will slowly start to appeal to you. However, the characters are all still cliché bound and trope reliant till the very end. With such a poor paced work, it’s not really that surprising. I have a huge problem with orange haired Arata though. For a main character, he basically sucks. He doesn’t have any redeeming quality and it’s hard to sympathize with him. When majority of the time he does nothing but wallow in self-pity then it’s really not surprising. He has his moments of heroism but he does a lot more crying than needed. At some point, you even want to see him dead just to see other better characters get some deserved screen time. It’s obviously wasted on this dude. His personal problems are somewhat relatable though. An ostracized kid with no friends and a bitter bully hounding him is something I’m sure has some merit to it. Feeling weak and helpless is also something most people would understand but Arata over exaggerates a bit. His problem started in middle school and last until he is high school. It must’ve been a pretty traumatic situation to disable him this far, right? For Arata, it truly is. For me though, I find it hard to level with the guy with a problem so simple. I don’t want to spoil it but even my open minded ideals can’t quite grasp how much of a wimp Arata is. It makes for some good story telling, I guess. The idea of a super mega weakling transforming into a cool hero is certainly something I think anyone can enjoy. I’m sure the transformation is what the story is slowly aiming for and I personally can’t wait for it to happen.
The twelve Sho are all pretty decent as well. Aside from being bishies, they do have some intriguing personalities as well. Not all of them are introduced though but the ones that appeared certainly left their mark. The anime focused some of the episodes on a member of the Twelve Sho. Their view on the impending war and their background was nicely explored by the anime. It’s not as deep as I personally want it but it’s enough to make sense of the story. Since there are some growing subplots among the Twelve Sho, it’s pretty interesting just how awesome these characters are. Two of them nicely stand out in this show. The first one is Kannagi. He was the one that triggered the coup d’état of the Twelve Sho and has since been tasked to capture Arata. He wields the Hayagami that controls fire and he has a pretty wicked attitude. The anime nicely introduced him as a super strong menace but also one with a good heart. He eventually sees the opportunity to rule the world by stealing Arata’s Hayagami but it would seem that he also sees potential in Arata as well. Throughout the later parts of the anime, he eventually becomes a key player on the story and becomes this cool detached supporter of Arata. He believes the weakling can grow and he wants to see this happen.
Another standout from the Twelve Sho is this man named Akachi. He is the evil man in red that really sent his message of ruling the world pretty aggressively. He has a dark demeanor that really set the tone for the rest of the anime. I love how evil he can be but the anime also nicely dive into his past. The subplot between him and Kannagi is certainly intriguing. The presentation was a bit messed up like the rest of the anime but the idea is still there. It’s a strong sub plot that I’m sure have all the bearing to outshine the actual story.
I would also like to point out the big bully of Arata. I’ll try not to spoil things but the hate and angst he has is truly incredible. It’s also a bit ridiculous. If it’s all for narrative’s sake then I’ll give it a pass since he had enough motivation to ruin our main character’s life. I do see his problems as something relatable. He is a bitter person that finds Arata as his outlet and I think most people also think the same way. They sum up everything wrong about their life and then blame it on someone else. It’s a wonderful idea that had all the chances to grow into something darker. There was this refreshing teenage angst kind of approach to this guy that I really find interesting. I rarely see this kind of thing done in anime and I was hoping the anime itself saw the potential in the bully’s anger. The anime wasn’t able to make it past beyond petty bitter issues though and it’s really a shame. This bully does take center stage at the later parts of the anime and his involvement certainly spiced things up a bit. The confrontation between him and Arata has all the chances to be amazing as well.
The rest of the characters are pretty one dimensional. Silver haired Arata is the typical energetic kind of guy that is capable to defending himself. He is the typical outgoing guy that I think looks great as this story’s hero but the switch was also interesting. Orange haired Arata’s companions are also pretty weak character wise. They don’t really have much of a role at first and I blame the story for that. There were chances though where they could’ve developed their personality and they were wasted moments. There was a transformation since the story called for it but it’s not enough to make the characters interesting. The one shot characters are interesting though. They move along the story and they were able to improve it one way or another. It’s not a big improvement but they stand out more than the recurring side characters of the anime which is an odd thing.
For such a weak story though, I did enjoy how it handled one single theme. I’m talking about trust. Throughout the anime, trust is one of the most common subjects of the show. It displays stories about betraying trust and people valuing trust above all. It’s something our main character always wanted to have and he seems to have found it in this world he is now in. The idea of trust was nicely explored in the anime in a nice thought provoking manner. Of course, since it was paired with a weak story, the theme was only as deep as you can hope. It was still a fun addition to the story though that I particularly enjoyed.
Here’s the interesting part about this anime: it’ll have another season. It wasn’t announced yet but this show basically sets up a more exciting second season. Everything was weak and a bit uninteresting in this anime. The only reason I can think of is because the second season is there to make up for it. I’ve seen it done before in anime. The first season sets the scenario and the intrigue then the second season hits the high notes. I don’t mind waiting for another season. While this show certainly isn’t anything remarkable, I honestly feel that it was slowly becoming more interesting. The overarching story is honestly too big to cover in this show but it intensifies as it progresses. I can tell the second season will be awesome. As for now though, with another season still in the works, it’s hard to recommend this show to viewers. Once we see the work done on the second season, I still see people overlooking this anime and I won’t be surprised if that happens.
Sight and Sound
Satelight did a huge disservice to this anime though. The production value is very atrocious that it often turns you off when you watch it. For a 2013 anime, Satelight was stupid enough to make an anime that have the animation quality of a 2002 anime. It’s no wonder people overlooked this anime. For godsakes, it’s a shounen anime with cool bishies as its cast. They clearly do not understand the beauty of the show and basically just adapted something for the sake of it. This was the biggest flaw of this anime. There is no way people can appreciate this show with such pathetic quality. My biggest gripe is the lack of CG in the anime. There were a lot of chances where some added effects could’ve enhanced the anime yet it was all bland. It’s infuriating to watch this show because of how unimaginative the studio was in adapting the source. When I see fight scenes, I often see the denied potential the studio should’ve given in those moments. I’m not asking much. Even a show as shallow as Karneval had the common sense to understand that the characters are all hot guys. Manglobe (a studio as underwhelming as Satelight, in my opinion) took effort to make sure the hotness was accentuated. The flashiness was retained and the show was able to make some decent waves. Arata Kangatari had the same potential but with an even better story so there is no reason for such pathetic production values.
I won’t be hard on Satelight though. I realized that this was a joint work with a Korean animating company. This company called JM Animation did most of the animation work so I think I have an idea of what happened to this poor anime. They worked on some western anime like The Boondocks and The Legend of Avatar but I think this was their debut animation work anime wise. You can tell they botched this one pretty bad. Anime has a certainly discipline that JM clearly cannot follow. Satelight drove the ship though so they should’ve at least handled the load. For godsakes, even AKB0048 had CG in it and it was decent enough to watch. Arata Kangatari got no favors and it was the result of an outsourcing gone f*cking bad.
If you’ve seen the manga, Yuu Watase was actually pretty flashy with how she handled the story. Her panels are full of stylish camera angles and wonderful fight scenes that truly screamed Shounen. I’m a bit perplexed that the anime wasn’t able to translate those awesome camera work and special effect magic that Yuu envisioned. I honestly think that they didn’t even try. They just low budget the whole thing. It’s a damn shame. You’d have more fun reading the manga. The source actually looks like it had more effort given to it than the anime. I’m just truly disgusted. The one thing that I wasn’t really affected with but I also think is an obvious flaw is the color palette. There was no digital rendition work in this anime. I think it is all hand painted and it looks pathetic. It has dull colors, generic background and pathetic fight scenes. Anyone with a decent taste for anime wouldn’t touch this crap. It really breaks my heart.
Character design is decent. It’s the same as the manga but the anime somehow managed to suck all the awesomeness out of the characters. Yuu Watase’s design is all nicely captured, actually. The cool clothes and the wonderful faces of the characters were nicely translated in the anime. The problem is the dull colors and the anime absolutely giving no chance for the characters to display their flashiness. It was screaming for something more and the anime couldn’t provide it. While the outfit and the faces are decently captured, it was lacking that certain sophistication only moving animation can provide. Majority of the characters often come off as generic and the anime had a great chance to establish the character’s personality through their design yet they somehow didn’t feel the need to do that.
The anime’s OP is “GENESIS ARIA” by Sphere. The last time I heard Sphere, they were voicing the characters of Natsuiro Kiseki so it was certainly a nice surprise to hear them do the OP of this anime. The song is fairly decent. It’s a nice OP song but it isn’t really grand enough to catch your attention. I do love the chorus because it has that familiar idol-esque style that my ears can easily pick up. The OP sequence is a short summary of the show. If you have doubts about the anime, watch the OP because it basically captured the spirit of the show. It also captured the inconsistent animation production of the show.
The anime’s has two ED. The first one is “The Misfit Go” by OLDCODEX. I love this song. It has a catchy beat and the singer’s voice nicely stands out. The instrumental works were also a nice touch. The chorus was really catchy though and it really made the song pretty cool. The ED sequence features the four main characters in terms of the story. It has a bit of a spoiler but it’s nothing too big to ruin the anime. The second ED is “Utsukushii Sebone” by OLDCODEX. It’s basically the same style as the first OP. This one had a slower and mellow pace though. Again, the chorus nicely stands out. The ED sequence is the same as the first ED but it ends with a nice portrait of Arata and his rival. It’s pretty cool.
3/10 “It has a story slowly blossoming into something amazing. It’s a shame the animation was absolutely atrocious.”
This show is a bit hard to watch. If you’re like me that love a good story and can easily spot the potential hidden in this show then I say go and enjoy this one. If you can’t get pass the 2002 quality style of animation then I don’t blame you. If you’re a fan of Yuu Watase and want to see a Fushigi Yuugi or Ayase no Ceres nostalgia trip then I suggest you try this one out. The anime certainly had more to offer and only time will tell if another season is enough to save the show. I’ve seen it done before so I am hopeful.