Things continue to move along at a brisk but manageable pace with Arata Kangatari, which as yet stubbornly refuses to offer up any clues suggesting radical changes to the storyline to compensate for its brevity. I’m finding – more so with the anime than with the manga, perhaps because the anime has a sort of old-school look to it – that Arata is reminding me quite a bit of Inuyasha. It’s a seemingly straightforward adventure yarn split between alternate worlds, and one that offers up more complexity in its plot than it appears at first glance.
Of course, Inuyasha had nearly 200 episodes to tell its story, so that analogy might best not be taken too far. I was considerably relieved to see a few scenes featuring Arata in our world in this episode, because given the schedule I was beginning to consider the possibility that this thread might be cut completely as some have suggested. This thread is a nice change-of-pace from the heavier tone of the Amawakuni story – both because the Arata in Tokyo is much more boisterous than Hinohara and because of the rather absurd reaction of his parents to his situation. But it has more than its share of serious moments, and the OP and ED make no secret of the fact that one character in it is going to be a major player in the story.
As for Hinohara, he continues to get a broad (if not deep) education in the ways and means of his new world. Through Ginchi and Kanate’s pedalling power the four escapees manage to make landfall on what should be a deserted coast, and Kanata informs Hinohara that in order to reach the capitol he’s going to have to pass through Kannagi’s realm of Kagutsuchi. Kotoha goes on to explain that each of the Twelve Shinsho controls their own realm – not kingdoms, per se, but more fiefdoms – and the cynical Kanata adds that without a King or Princess to keep them in line, it’s inevitable that the Shinsho will struggle for supremacy – thus the war and chaos that all are predicting will unfold for the land.
There are two major turns in the story at this point, the first involving Ginchi. The four Gatoya refugees meet a group of travelers on their way to the borderlands, hoping to escape the coming war – and to do so they must pass through a cave beneath a waterfall that opens only once a month. Among their number, as it happens, is Ginchi’s mother – and this makes Ginchi considerably happier than his Ani, who’s been hiding a dark secret. Kanate does what he thinks is best for Ginchi, though Ginchi doesn’t agree and I’m not sure I do either – but this development leaves Kanate alone in the world, and Hinohara needs all the allies he can get.
Hinohara, Kotoha and Kanate are surprised by what they find in Kannagi’s realm – that the man who framed Hinohara for the murder of the Princess is well-respected and admired by his subjects, who seem to be living peacefully and prosperously. That includes Okiha, a Zokusho – one of the Sho who serve the Twelve Shinsho, who saves Kanate from a rampaging muru (mmm… Muru) and invited the trio to his estate to rest and recuperate. Okiha has already surmised the truth – both of who Hinohara really is, and the fact that he must be innocent of the crime he was charged with, else Tsutuga’s Hayagami would never have submitted to him. Meanwhile, we see Kannagi dealing with a painful (in more ways than one) memory, and with the arrival of fellow Shinsho Akachi (Suzuki Tatsuhisa) who seems to be cutting a path of devastation through Kannagi’s lands which leads straight to Okiha. When he arrives at Okiha’s home he tells him that Kannagi was the one who murdered the Princess, and framed Hinohara.
This is really the first time in Arata Kangatari that we get a sense that things might not all be as obvious as they seem. Rather than parcel out its exposition in a trickle, this is one of those series that gives you a lot of information right out of the gate, then proceeds to make you question the stability of the ground you’re standing on. I’m intrigued that so far, we’re really not seeing any shortcuts or major omissions, and in fact getting the sort of foreshadowing that was in the manga – some of it alluding to things that seem unlikely to ever see the screen, at the rate the adaptation is progressing. There’s a plan in place, surely, but one more week passes and I’m no closer to knowing what that plan is…