Arata: The Legend vol. 1-4 – Yuu Watase

Arata: The Legend, translated from Arata Kangatari, is Yuu Watase’s first attempt at a shonen audience comic. Published in Weekly Shonen Sunday since 2008, Arata: The Legend provides a comical action adventure story with flirty romance, that’s sure to please prior fans while inciting new followers as well.

The Gist: Arata of Amawakuni is the grandson of Makari, ancestor of the famous Hime Clan. When summoned to perform a 60 year ritual for the princess, Arata must pose as a girl. He doesn’t realize his presence makes him the perfect scapegoat to become the murderer of the princess when she is attacked by her guardians known as the Twelve Shinso. Arata barely escapes with is life and jumps into a magical tree. Meanwhile Arata Hinohara is starting high school in modern day Japan after recovering from bullying at his previous school. After making a friend the first day, he discovers that the boy is actually helping others to bully him. In despair he runs away from the situation and finds himself in an alley. There he enters a portal that sends him to Amawakari, while Arata of the Hime Clan arrives in modern day Japan. Arata Hinohara soon discovers he is being hunted and has the power to wield the Hayagami, a god-like sword. His journeys take him on a quest to make all of the Shinso’s Hayagamis submit their power to his in order to bring peace to the land and save the princess. But making the Shinso submit rather than taking their powers by force is not an easy task.

R to L: Arata of Amawakuni, Arata Hinhara, Kotoha, and the Princess

R to L: Arata of Amawakuni, Arata Hinohara, Kotoha, and the Princess

The Characters/Romance: Arata Hinohara and Arata of Amawakuni  are like polar opposites. Arata of Amawakuni is outgoing, brash and a straightforward personality. Hinohara, however, has been oppressed by bullies, so he starts out withdrawn and insecure, and has a history of being reclusive. When Hinohara is thrown into Arata of Amawakuni’s role, he has to step things up in order to survive. He gains some confidence through the Hayagami, which Arata of Amawakuni was not able to wield. Meanwhile, Arata of Amawakuni turns the tide in Hinohara’s life by fighting back against the bullies. It’s an interesting contrast of protagonists. Watase took the hesitant character and decided to transform him into a confident hero, while taking the swash-buckling type character and making him fit into a modern day social role. Not an entirely original idea, but it makes for an interesting story.

Although filled with plenty of action and adventure, Arata also has some “doki-doki” moments thrown in for good measure. Kotoha is Arata of Amawakuni’s childhood friend. She is sent to support Arata while he escapes the Shinso. Kotoha has developed feelings for Arata of Amawakuni since puberty. Straightforward Arata completely misses any hints to such affections and still thinks of Kotoha as a friend. When Hinohara arrives, he picks up on Kotoha’s feelings and begins to fall for the girl. It’s humorous to watch Hinohara deal with the guilt he feels for taking Arata’s girl, yet he is unable to deny the desire he feels towards Kotoha.

One of the main story-line themes of Arata: The Legend stands out dramatically. Watase’s message of not taking things by force but having them respectfully given over to you follows her anti-war political stance. She has designed Arata Hinohara to dislike conflict.  Although he has to fight the Shinso in order to survive, he often overcomes his situation through conversation or dialogue. In sidebars of previous manga Watase has admitted that she feels very strongly about this topic. Therefore, it’s no surprise that it shows up so prominently in her latest piece aimed at a shonen audience.

The Art: The artwork for Arata: The Legend is well developed and thought out. Settings are fleshed out as well as character designs and costumes. The character designs are more unique for this series with Watase’s bishie style staying highly consistent to her other works. That is to say, Arata Hinohara still looks reminisce of other male protagonists from previous series. Paneling is great, and the action sequences pop.  I think Watase’s artistic sense has really improved in this area from her previous series. Her style has also evolved to include less toning and more dramatic line art, and this improves the look of her work overall. The colored pieces for this series are beautiful. One of the nifty gimmicks that Watase came up with for this series is the panel that runs across the front of every volume. She states in one of the first volumes that if you lay the books side by side, then the panels create an ongoing picture. It’s a cool idea, so I put the released copies together so you can see. As well as the book art, Watase has released some wallpapers on her site for Arata that are gorgeous.

The Audience: Although not too violent I would still recommend this series for middle teens and up. Of course the romance rating would be cuddly since Arata is mostly an action story.

The Media: Arata: The Legend is available in North America from Viz Media up to volume 7. It is currently ongoing so there are more to come.

Heart of Manga Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Watase has been writing shoujo for decades. I think it’s about time that her work gets aimed at a broader audience, and Arata: The Legend is just that. Don’t miss out on one of her best series yet.

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Super mom and teacher until the kids go to bed, then romance manga addict and writer until the caffeine wears out! Specializes in the shoujo and josei genre of manga and anime.
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  • I’m not sure…I brought Vol 1, liked it, then didn’t buy another one. I need to get back into the series…

    • I was hesitant to pick it up for quite a while, but I checked it out of the library and really enjoyed it. I’m going to have to save up to purchase them now. 🙂

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