Manga Review: Arata: The Legend Volume One

Arata: The Legend Volume One tells the story of two boys named Arata who end up switching places and find themselves in completely different worlds.

Arata: The Legend Volume One
Written by: Yuu Watase
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: March 9, 2010

Volume One begins in a world where humans and gods coexist, and it is the first time in 60 years that a new governing princess will become the ruler. Only a girl from the Hime clan may take the position, but since there has been a lack of females born into the clan, a boy named Arata must pose as a girl and take on the role. Arata doesn’t like this, of course, but he has no choice since a female cannot be found.

Arata is presented to the Twelve Shinsho, a group who wield special swords called Hayagami. The Shinsho betray the current princess and kill her during a special ceremony, and they frame Arata for the crime after they figure out that he’s really a boy. Arata tries to escape into the Kando Forest.

Meanwhile in modern day Japan, a boy named Arata Hinohara starts high school. Unfortunately, a boy who bullied Arata at his middle school comes to his high school and continues to bully him. Arata also learns that a boy who claimed to be his friend was only pretending. A disappointed Arata wishes he could disappear into another world.

Suddenly, both of the Aratas find themselves trading places. The people in modern day Japan see their Arata even though it’s the other one, and it’s the same situation in the other world. While the two boys do have similar facial structures, their hair is radically different colors. Personally, I have a hard time buying the Aratas being mistaken for each other since no explanation is truly given for why this is happening. The only thing we ever hear is that they look like the other Arata.

But something interesting happens to modern day Arata while he’s in the other world. Somehow, he is able to successfully wield an old Hayagami in Arata’s home, but that the real Arata of that world is unable to. There’s been no explanation for why this happened at this point in the manga, so I really can’t comment too much on this aspect yet. However, I find this to be an interesting development, so I’m hoping there ends up being a good explanation as to why the real world Arata is able to control something that is not from his world in this manner.

In Volume One, there’s a lot more focus on the Arata from modern day Japan, especially after the two Aratas switch places. Because of this, modern day Arata is able to go through some incredible character growth by the end of the volume. Hopefully the other Arata can be focused on in modern day Japan in future volumes so he can go through some character growth as well.

I have to say that there’s an interesting premise going into Arata: The Legend, even if I’m not entirely convinced of the Aratas being mistaken for each other when they appear in a different world. Perhaps a future volume of the series will give a plausible explanation for this phenomenon. I also have to say that I thought that the storyline for the real world Arata did a great job of touching on the issue of bullying.

When it comes to the art, it appears that Watase goes to a lot more effort to include detailed backgrounds when the story is taking place in the other world, while the scenes in modern day Japan don’t appear to have as much detail put into them. Perhaps this was an intentional choice on Watase’s part in order to differentiate between the two worlds.

When it comes to the character designs, I have to give Watase credit for giving each of her characters a distinctive look. While the two Aratas are supposed to have some similarity, there’s still enough different about them that they don’t feel like “cookie cutter” designs. Overall, I think the look of the art works for the story that Watase is trying to tell.

I believe that Arata: The Legend Volume One will appeal to manga readers who enjoy fantasy stories where the characters are able to go to completely different worlds and have to learn to adjust in their new environment.

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