Things are definitely heating up, and on several fronts.
After a one-week hiatus (table tennis taking over the timeslot) Arata Kangatari is back. And it’s still determinedly sticking to its roughly four chapter-per-episode adaptation pace, despite the fact that we only have five eps left in the series. The interesting element now, though, is that we’re starting to see signs of multiple threads being woven into the current one – most of what we see in this episode happened at roughly the same time in the manga, but a few bits are warped in from much later (and a few characters seem to have been edited out altogether, victims of the time crunch).
That said, I’m hard-pressed to see any way an actual conclusion can be reached in the anime – we would have had to have seen much larger wholesale edits than we have – so it seems as if Yasuda-sensei has elected to try and preserve the essence of the story at the expense of trying to offer a definitive ending. I don’t disagree with that decision – the schedule is what it is, and as a fan of the manga I’m relatively pleased with the anime in terms of showing why it’s such a worthwhile story. And the characters are behaving like themselves, too, albeit some of that behavior might be less understandable with some of the context behind it having been cut. I can’t really judge that, but I think the damage has been relatively minor so far.
Happily we are seeing some development on the modern Tokyo side of the story – and it looks like we’ll be seeing quite a bit more of it next week. What we’re not seeing is a lot of the comedy that Arata’s thread offers, mostly of the fish-out-of-water variety – he’s such a happy-go-lucky kid (rather the opposite of Hinohara) that his generally unfazed reactions to the trouble he gets into are good for quite a few laughs that don’t feel mean-spirited. What we are seeing is the way he’s becoming involved with Kadowaki, who’s finding this Arata quite a change from the one he’s used to dealing with. While Arata’s approach to dealing with bullying (after initially believing Kadowaki and Hinohara were friends based on the photo) is quite effective, he reminds himself frequently that Hinohara is going to have to deal with whatever he leaves behind assuming they ever switch back. There’s also the matter of Hinohara’s mother, who in fact is an extremely neurotic and anxious woman (we can see where he got it from) who spends much of her time worrying over her son – who, in turn, feels guilty about her worrying over him. I don’t know how well this has come across as her character has had minimal screen time, but it’s an important character element nonetheless.
Meanwhile, back in Amawakuni, most of the focus this week is on Kannagi. That there are parallels between the story of broken childhood friendships in the two worlds is not coincidental, and we get a little taste of it from both perspectives this week. Seeing so much of Kannagi’s flashback feels strange at this point in the story but in context I think it works, as the anime does a pretty good job of of fleshing out his backstory in digest form. In the present, Kannagi is basically a broken man – in the absence of Homura (we see that it means more to him than simply its power as a Hayagami) his old wounds are reopening, both literally and metaphorically. Initially he sees Hinohara and his Hayagami as a possible way to regain what he’s lost, but in point of fact he ends up saving Hinohara and Kotoha from the flames with which he’s all too familiar. This leads to a partial reveal of his past, and an offer to join forces (yes, that did happen just about this quickly in the manga).
Meanwhile, there’s the matter of Hinohara and Kotoha – one which comes to Arata’s attention when Hinohara asks what he thinks of her during one of their brief inter-dimensional Skype sessions. "A little sister" Arata answers, and one senses more or less truthfully – but after their connection has been cut he starts to consider the implications of the fact that Hinohara asked the question in the first place. I don’t know that you can call this a love triangle given the highly unusual circumstances (and poor hapless Kanate is obviously not a factor) but the dynamic is an interesting one, for all concerned. Kotoha certainly makes no bones about her feelings – but Hinohara quite rightly wonders just who it is she’s expressing those feelings for. And Arata now how reason to consider his own feelings on the matter more carefully than he has in the past…