I hit 50 followers and it didn’t become real to me until I checked my notifications again. I also kinda forgot about my one year anniversary on WordPress, which I achieved on the day after the latest Ode to Anime Studios (Sunrise) came out. To celebrate, let’s get this Manga March started with a post I’ve been holding back on, one I specifically wrote with the intention of using as a centrepiece or a starting point for this month-long event.
As for how this post began…in order to figure out whether I was capable of writing an OWLS post, I picked a prompt and started to write…
The prompt in question is the January 2018 one (“revival”), but I’m going to use it very loosely:
A new year implies “new beginnings.” Yet, rather than discussing the “new,” we will be discussing the “revival.” “Revival” has multiple definitions, but the meaning we will be focusing on is the improvement, development, or refinement of something. Our posts will be about characters that undergo a positive or negative transformation and what we can learn from them.
Arata Kangatari (Arata: the Legend in the English world) is what renowned shoujo mangaka Yuu Watase’s been doing with her life since 2008. It’s a shonen story about two Aratas (the one from modern Japan has the surname “Hinohara” and is referred to as such, while the Arata from the fantasy world Amawakuni is referred to as “Arata”) who switch places due to a magical forest. It currently has 24 volumes (it’s on hiatus right now, though) and got an anime adaption in spring 2013. In a way, Arata Kangatari brings Watase’s story full circle just as much as it does Hinohara’s.
The prompt asks for it, so let’s focus on the characters first – Hinohara, through going to Amawakuni, not only learns to stand up for himself against his bullies but revives the unifying sword Tsukuyo. It should mean bad things for his opponents, but considering one of them is his former friend Masato Kadowaki, it’s not going to end well for one of them. Now “Arata” means “revolution” (as in “changing the world”), so don’t go around placing bets on the winner. However, later on it is revealed even Tsukuyo, the embodiment of “good” in a sword form, can turn its user into a demon which just makes the ties of “revival” all the more prevalent. Therefore, on a quest for betterment, it’s not entirely a straight path – sometimes one must sink before they swim in the way they desire.
If you know your shonen, you know discovering the weapon instantly sends a wave of enemies after you. Hinohara’s experience with Amawakuni is no different, but his opponents are pretty boys who have to battle and control subordinates, with losing opponents submitting to the winner. If that sounds familiar, it’s basically the first episode or two of Grancrest Senki. However, because of Watase’s background in shoujo, the backstory holds the key to subduing the opponent in many different (and often heartrending) ways. Therefore it’s not just the revival of a better future for Amawakuni, but it’s the revival of hope as it stands for Arata’s opponents.
For Watase, the definition of “revival” provided in the prompt was pretty much what she experienced with Arata Kangatari – even after Fushigi Yuugi, Alice 19th and many other series, she finally wandered into the realm of shonen with this series. Even though it contains a bit of romance and pretty much every darned hallmark of a Watase story you can think of, it’s in a different demographic so obviously people are going to look at it differently. Watase has also refined her artstyle and brought back to the fore some story techniques that haven’t been cool since Fushigi Yuugi, allowing for a very complex revival that encapsulates pretty much her entire career. What do we learn from it? Persistence pays off, but it doesn’t hurt to shake things up a little every now and then as well.
The reason I wanted to tackle this prompt in particular was because the 24th volume came out in 2016 in the US, so it’s getting harder to remember this series as the calendar continues its march through 2018. However, as I mentioned earlier, Grancrest Senki kept reminding me of Arata Kangatari and what the latter could have been. Therefore, in order to revive the feelings I have of following Arata Kangatari from its first volume to its 24th, I had to get these words out somewhere…
I’m still holding off applying for OWLS for the moment due to the fact this is a test run, but hopefully you enjoyed this. If you have any suggestions for future milestone celebrations, I’d like to hear them too.