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Arata Kangatari – 12 (END)

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「創世ノ光」 (Sousei no Hikari)
“Light of Genesis”

Well, that was a shame, really.

It’s hard to find too much to say about Arata Kangatari, really, because the whole enterprise speaks more to the potential it left untapped than to anything that appeared on screen. The finale, like the rest of the series, was perfectly fine for what it was. It was competently executed and in context more faithful to the manga than it could have been, but the overriding question my mind is, why was the decision made to adapt this series at all, if it was only going to be 12 episodes?

If I have any hopes for this series, they would be that it gives new viewers at least some sense of what a good manga this is. It’s impossible for me to address that as a manga reader, but for what it’s worth I think the anime did capture at least a little of the flavor of the manga. But that’s also why the one element of the adaptation that was really subpar – the art and animation – is so surprising and disappointing. Watase-sensei’s art is really superb, and it seems criminal to try and sell people on her work without doing justice to that. Satelight is capable of so much more – they gave us the lovely watercolor painting that was Ikoku Meiro no Croisee, and while it bored me to tears there’s no denying Mouretsu Pirates was a great-looking show. Yeah, it made a lot more money – but if Arata was going to have a minuscule budget on top of its minuscule schedule, again what I really want to ask is why they bothered.

In terms of story, I actually think it’s somewhat remarkable that Yoshida Kenji managed to pull this off as well as he did. It wasn’t Deadman Wonderland, which stopped right in the middle, or Zetman, which tried to super-condense a huge manga into one cour. Arata was somewhere roughly in the middle, doing a bit of a mashup of later plot arcs but mostly adapting the first 20% or so of the manga roughly in good faith. That too is certainly unsatisfying – in order to come up with even a semblance of an ending Yoshida moved Hinohara’s showdown with Kadowaki up so far it lost most of it’s contextual punch. But it was at least coherent this way, and the larger lesson is that there’s simply no good way to adapt 200-chapter manga into 12 anime episodes. As Simon & Garfunkel said, any way you look at it you lose.

I can’t really talk in specifics about the finale without dishing out a whole lot of manga spoilers, but I’ll say this much: the most interesting elements of the manga (for my money the arcs centering on Kannagi and Akechi, the the Kadowaki stuff after it gets pretty intense) were just barely teased in the anime. That’s true too of Arata’s Tokyo story, which is always a secondary part of the manga but consistently delivered every time Watase called on it. What the anime chose to focus on was mostly stuff in the first quarter or so of the manga, and it’s not the manga’s best face – so if you see elements of the larger story here that interest you, by all means please go read the manga. There’s some really good plot in there, and the characters we barely got to know in the anime are a lot deeper and their stories much more nuanced.

For the finale, we were pretty much limited to the Kadowaki battle and Yorunami’s submission to Hinohara, the latter of which is quite an important moment in the larger mythology. This process of submission (we also see Yorunami’s Zokusho submit after their master does so) is really the central conceit of the entire plot, though the anime doesn’t give that impression – and the parellel between that and the karmic struggle between Hinohara and Kadowaki is no coincidence. There was also a sampler platter of things to come in the final moments – a look-in on some characters we know, and some faces we haven’t met as of yet, as well as a brief check-in on Arata and a look at Harunawa (one of my biggest disappointments is not seeing him in all his wicked glory unleashed on Tokyo). It was the requisite commercial for the manga, and the least the anime could do.

I’m generally of the view that any adaptation is better than no adaptation if you’re a fan of a work, but the reality is often bittersweet at best. I don’t know if I’d say I would be happier if this anime hadn’t been made, but it’s hard to see what purpose it truly serves – is such a truncated and visually unimpressive story really going to win over many converts for the manga? Try to imagine if Inuyasha had been adapted into a one-cour anime – what would that have been like? Arata Kangatari could have been really special if it had been given the full treatment, and I think a quite serviceable story could have been presented even in two cours. As it is I think the best I can say as a manga reader is that it was a lot better than it could have been under the circumstances, but if I’m honest that’s small consolation.

 

Epilogue

Arata Kangatari   12   Preview 01 Arata Kangatari   12   Preview 02 Arata Kangatari   12   Preview 03
Arata Kangatari   12   Preview 04 Arata Kangatari   12   Preview 05 Arata Kangatari   12   Preview 06
July 2, 2013 at 6:19 am
11 comments »
  • July 2, 2013 at 7:29 amgawrshness

    So many fine series coming to end around the same time…it saddens me…

  • July 2, 2013 at 8:04 amPasserby

    I can understand your complicated feelings, Enzo, about this adaptation. I also usually feel that an adaptation is better than no adaptation, but at the same time I feel that if the only exposure some people will have of a series is a subpar adaptation then that really is some sort of injustice. This is perhaps worse when an adaptation is not awful, merely mediocre; if it was truly bad then viewers would recognise that and perhaps deduce that the adaptation was simply a trainwreck. But if the anime is mediocre, then it may imply that the source material also shares that mediocrity and the adaptation never rose above its source.

    Take, for example, the Tsukihime anime, which some consider so bad that they would prefer it didn’t exist, and in fact actively deny its existence. For the record: there is no Tsukihime anime (though hypothetically if there was one it’d be both bad and unfaithful, but with surprisingly good music). There is just something about a bad adaptation that crushes the soul of a devoted fan. I mourn deeply for wasted potential myself–the thought is always that if they didn’t make the bad adaptation then someone may have come around and maybe, just maybe, have made a better one. Sure, they sometimes remake anime, but that’s usually for good but old series that need updating rather than mediocre series which could have used better treatment. Kanon 2006s are great, but that’s more the exception. As a rule, there’s only one chance to get it right, like your passport photo. Sometimes you’re just stuck with something ugly and unflattering, and that’s tragic.

  • July 2, 2013 at 10:57 amMagoiichi

    I feel the same way Enzo and it really bothers me that there are very few manga that get a full anime adaptation.

    I took it hard when Soul Eater didn’t get a full adaptation :/

    • July 2, 2013 at 4:23 pmGuardian Enzo

      Soul Eater was treated like royalty compared to Arata though.

      • July 5, 2013 at 5:11 pmKaZuHiRo

        My reaction in the beginning of the series: FUCKING GREAT! Finally – a Yuu Watase anime adapation. I was waiting for either this or Zettai Kareshi to get animated. So elated that this well animated. Of course it’s not going to be a one cour series. At least 2 cours like Ayashi no Ceres or multiple cour Fushigi Yuugi. YEY!!! And then I realized it’s the final episode on its twelfth. FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU… That was what I really said. My sister thought I’m going crazy. Oh well… This saddens me.

  • July 2, 2013 at 1:33 pmMegas

    There were just too many random dart board cuts from the manga between episodes 8-12, especially episodes 10 & 11. Skipping nearly all of a chapter several times never helps any adaptation. Just like Enzo said, it’s hard to talk about what they skipped w/o spoiling it, but episode 11 hardly made any sense because of it.

    It was working very well until then because they were just cutting fluff & scenes that dragged on to no end in the manga. Everything can’t have the utter excellence in presentation like a certain Maou but seeing the opposite of that so often is just plain depressing. Re-writing the book seems to be the norm with these adaptations which is just mystifying.

    I can count the number of compete source adaptations I’ve seen on a few fingers & they were all 100% awesome. Maou shown us that we don’t need some huge budget, superstar cast, & hundreds of episodes to properly anime 2 volumes form a LN (of all things). You just need to anime what’s on paper, PERIOD! Show what you can with your budget & hope you get more later, but destroying what you show from the start is the worst thing you can do. Although, this probably happens so often because they know that they have no chance for a 2nd season. So they show as MUCH as they can (Clockwork Orange style), whether it ends up making sense or not.

  • July 2, 2013 at 4:08 pmbakame

    And the winner of the Biggest Disappointment goes to ….

  • July 2, 2013 at 9:14 pmAnnami

    I really liked this story so manga reading I go. Good adapation but I guess its too old school for young people these days

  • July 2, 2013 at 9:39 pminfinite

    I really enjoyed watching this anime especially when I knew nothing about the series. I just wish they would of adapted the whole manga.

  • July 4, 2013 at 9:26 pmMatroid

    I think it is a good idea to pause rather than to create filler arcs. The production probably should have been more faithful to the original story line. However, I don’t think it is unreasonable for them to push for a climax at the end of the season. And choosing to end at the confrontation between Hinohara and Kadowaki seems reasonable. This anime still has a lot of potential. I am looking forward to the second season.

  • July 5, 2013 at 6:38 pmrandom viewer

    That’s a “wrap-up” for an anime that can’t be wrapped up. I just don’t like the characters I come to like to be “absorbed in a sword” or submitted to the Hayagami. But I did like that Arata can use Yorunami’s hayagami’s powers. It’s true that there’s that unsatisfactory feeling of wanting more and of those “teasers”.