Manga-ka: Yuu Watase
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Older Teen (13+)
Release Date: March 2011
Synopsis: “Hinohara is surprised to learn that Kotoha no longer believes he’s Arata of the Hime clan. Meanwhile, a group within the Twelve Shinsho sets in motion a diabolical plan to eliminate Hinohara!”
After the previous two volumes, I was beginning to lose faith in this series. It hasn’t struck me as Yuu Watase’s strongest work since the get-go but despite that its fine line balance between shonen and shoujo elements and some slick artwork kept me coming back for more. I almost didn’t after the last volume however where it really felt like we were getting nowhere. Despite that it still felt like there was a flurry of activity assaulting us with every page. The result? Pointlessness, or at least what feels like it. Thankfully this fifth volume shifts its gears, and while it trends old ground, it does so in a way that sets in motion some intriguing and suspenseful scenes.
What interested me the most about this fifth volume was the introduction of the girl on the cover. Her name is Oribe and she’s a first-year student in Hinohara’s school. The moment Arata sees her, he mistakes her for Kotoha. Circumstances surrounding the two Arata’s as it is, it’s highly doubtful this is a coincidence. There isn’t a lot about her known yet but even so her confident personality gives promise she’ll be a strong key player in the story to come, especially when it becomes apparent she’s very in-tune to events between the two worlds.
Unfortunately as much as I liked Oribe’s brief inclusion here, I equally despised the growing relevance Kadowaki has. The guy’s a bully and a jerk, we get that and no amount of sympathy-attempts makes me like him anymore. His hatred for Hinohara has officially spiraled out of control as he blames him for all the hardships in his life – from him quitting the track team to his Mother ignoring him at home. A scene where the present-day Arata – Hinohara, currently trapped in the fantasy world – sees Kadowaki looking back at him through the magic vision (presumed only visible to the Aratas before now), the look of terror on his face earned more sympathy from me then a couple pages of poor- Kadowaki ever could.
On the upside, Kadowaki earning such disdain from me and fear from the target of his bullying means Yuu Watase has set herself up a great bad guy, and she knows it. The climatic events of this volume, which leave on a cliffhanger more worth our white knuckles than any volume before, may bother me simply by making the story more about Kadowaki but I can’t deny the effectiveness. In fact nearly all the events of this book could send the story in very different directions which is exciting to see.
I really like the overlap that’s happening between the two worlds, which has been minimal since Arata 1 and Arata 2 got swapped in volume one. It risks setting in motion some events that could get too messy – the potential of having people swapped left, right and centre – but for now it works. Even the romance between Kotoha and Hinohara works for me in this volume as the two have a much needed talk about Arata’s ‘amnesia’. The buddy-like banter of former villains in their travel party certainly doesn’t hurt anything either and I love seeing Kannagi in particular fold to the camaraderie.
Arata keeps proving itself one of the inconsistent series volume to volume that I’ve read in recent memory. I’ll be completely enraptured with one volume than entirely bored with the next. Fortunately this fifth volume is the first of the two extremes with some really poignant emotional scenes. I’ll be quick to jump on the next installment to see the results of this book’s climatic finish with high hopes Hinohara can finally confront his bully on an equal playing field (fiery as it may be ).
Book purchased from The Beguiling