「鬼化」 (ONIKA)

It’s a tough time to be a big story in anime.

We’ve just had the conclusion of one anime that really suffered from its one-cour length, Red Data Girl – though it managed to be one of the better shows of the season anyway – and we’re staring right down the barrel of another in Arata Kangatari. When I was really getting into anime just after the turn of the Century, two-cour or longer series were pretty much the norm. I don’t know exactly when that changed – I didn’t really start to notice it until it was already fact, which leads me to think it was pretty gradual. I actually think things got a bit better after a nadir for longer series, with a small recovery peaking last Spring and Fall – but the landscape today still sees far fewer multi-cour shows by percentage than we saw ten or even five years ago.

It’s easy to guess why – it’s really all about risk. Less episodes means less committed money, but of course, when a show is a hit it means less Blu-rays too. The problem is, successful shows can always get sequels (which don’t always commercially succeed to the same degree) but unlike in American TV, anime effectively never get cancelled mid-stream because the production is so far advanced that the money is already spent. It is what it is, but that doesn’t make me any less sad in watching shows like RDG and Arata and thinking about what might have been.

We’re at a curious point in Arata Kangatari now, in fact, because while some of what’s being skipped is clear, there’s actually stuff being added – and hints of various events that superficially would seem to have no chance whatever to be animated in the next three episodes. I’m left with the impression that we’re going to be looking at a strange melange of events over the next three weeks, with Akachi, Hiruko and Yorunami all having a piece of the pie – when in fact, they’re focus characters at different points in the manga. And the overall main narrative is surprisingly still very close to where it would be at this point in the manga (somewhere around 15-20% of the way in) and we still have the Arata in Tokyo scenario playing out, now with one of the Six Sho running around (though not on the track team) in Kadowaki’s body.

What’s interesting – and welcome – is that this episode actually did more to elaborate on the backstory between Hinohara and Kadowaki than the manga did, believe it or not. I was a bit surprised at the reaction to Kadowaki last week – apparently a lot of readers/viewers don’t care for him, and I suppose for those folks this ep won’t change much. I always thought he was quite an appealing baddie, because of his menacing character design and the fact that he’s driven almost completely by pure, helpless anger. I liked the way this episode captured the essence of the relationship in Watase’s writing but gave it a more approachable form. Effectively, Kadowaki was fine as long as he could be the alpha-male in the friendship (rank is a hugely important part of adolescent relationships for guys). As soon as Hinohara felt sorry for him, he unwittingly flipped the entire relationship on its head. By doing so he placed himself above Kadowaki and made himself the lead dog, and – already feeling neutered and impotent because of his humiliating home life – that was the one thing Kadowaki couldn’t tolerate. It might seem like thin gruel to fuel this much rage, but frustrated teenage boys are pretty angry creatures to begin with.

The other nice side of this is that we got to see Hinohara really let his rage out for the first time. If Kadowaki is driven by anger, Hinohara has been driven by fear. He’s suffered from the high-school equivalent of combat fatigue, basically becoming a hikikomori because of what Kadowaki and his henchmen did to him. If he unwittingly made Kadowaki feel powerless, Kadowaki quite intentionally did it to him – and finally, with a powerful weapon in his hand, he has a way to stand up to him if only he can believe in himself long enough. Alas, this leads to the "demonizing" of Tsukuyo (and at last the arrival of Okamoto Nobuhiko in his more traditional voice) – a process that’s already happened with Orochi, making Kadowaki the perfect wielder – and only Kotoha’s intervention keeps Hinohara from losing himself to the darkness altogether.

The other interesting element of the episode is Kannagi’s role. When Hinohara is shocked and withdrawn after the confrontation, Kannagi sees his chance and steals Tsukuyo, only to realize that once the Sho has chosen its master, it isn’t simply a matter of taking the Hayagmi and fleeing with it. Kannagi seems to have accepted that Hinohara is the only one who can fulfill a needed role that he himself cannot, and appoints himself to try and drive the boy out of his funk. This is the crux of Hinohara’s character, really – he’s always his own worst enemy, and too nice for his own good. With the truth of his identity now no longer a secret from Kotoha, she too faces a choice about what’s important to her, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice for a person she now realizes she’s only known for a few weeks.




  1. The only thing I had to say about Hinohara and Kadowaki is “Blame it on the raging hormones”

    I’m more concerned about Kotoha now that she finally knew the truth about Hinohara, what will happen to her now and will she develop feelings to Hinohara rather than his childhood friend Arata. Plus she removed the honorifics(-sama) now.

  2. I dislike Kadowaki because he’s just so petty. He drops one of his closest friends because he didn’t give it his all in ONE f’ing race? I mean really… how stupid is that… If what you say is true about the expanded back story, I wish they didn’t give it. It just makes Kadowaki look like an immature little snot instead of a badass baddy.

    1. Yeah, agree with Kushieda. Hate to sound bad but believe me, a lot worse can happen in Kadowaki’s life to make anything he did in the past somewhat believable but all because his mom walked out on him doesn’t give him the right to just make Arata’s life a living hell…because thinking he gave you the win in a race is a stupid/childish reason to treat someone like garbage. i agree with Gonzo saying that they did go over the race more than they did in the manga…but that just makes the entire situation over dramatic on Kado’s part. Because for those who’ve read the manga, you all know what that little snot did to Arata after that including in High School, therapy isn’t going to help Kadowaki….only solution i can think of is Arata slapping his junk in Kado’s face to assert his male dominance….*ignore that* i get that there’s a whole lot more to Kado going to the “magical land” than he lets on, but lets face it, when he showed up, he gave the impression that he went to that place just to stalk Arata and make sure nothing good is happening in his life. its sad that Kado has to make sure that Arata is always below him, like WTH…issues man…issues 0_0 well that was long. But seriously, Kadowaki actually beat Sagami (Yahari Ore Seishun) on current anime character i want to punch in the face list i have.

  3. To me, it looks like Kadowaki uses his relationship with Hinohara as a scapegoat. He is incapable of accepting that his mother has abandoned him and his father. And his father acts like nothing’s happened. That thing about feeling betrayed by Hinohara is only inside his head and he’s taken it all on poor Arata. Where they could have been friends, he has only been torturing Hinohara to blow steam.

    Sympathy? I was enjoying seeing him go crazy when he had to deal with the other Arata. He should just get over it and face his problems like Arata does in this episode.

    1. I think Kadowaki using Hinohara as a scapegoat is exactly the point. I don’t believe Watase-senseni is asking you to agree with him or feel sorry for him – he’s acting unreasonably and he’s made Hinohara’s life a living hell. But that doesn’t make him a bad antagonist, at least for me.

      1. I never felt sorry for Kadowaki either, I could understand where he came from, but feel sorry for him? Not really. Besides there are quite a few other characters in this series that have wayyy worse backstories then him. I’d save my sympathy for them (if this show had gotten to a majority of them, that is…).

  4. The episode length really is a darn shame. I started watching anime at about the same time you did (at least, my heavy fansubbed anime downloading days began around then), so I can relate to feeling somewhat offput by this gradual decrease in longer running shows.

    To me, it’s marked a transition away from epic stories to lighter fluff, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but too much short, sugary fluff makes one diabetic, and requires a few doses of grittiness to cure it.

  5. I never really understood Kadowaki though I know his entire backstory (which is pretty mild in comparison with a lot of other characters’ backstories in this saga) and I always thought of his and Arata’s relationship as a large teenage angst misunderstanding that could have been easily fixed but has now gotten out of control. It gets even more complicated as the story goes on, but I think that the entire Arata Legend story has both Hinohara and Kadowaki grow up from teens into men. Despite being on two different sides of a conflict, both characters mature and change as the story goes on. Unfortunately, that change is more realistic and pretty gradual so I can see why people continually get tired of both characters. The manga has time on it’s side, the anime doesn’t.

  6. Bit late, but want to agree with the early part of what was said. Anime really has changed into something you’d be shocked to hear about years ago. You can remember the really long running shows or how much more common it was for series to get multiple cours to tell their tale. Arata especially just feels like a advertisement. Give a taste of what is in the series and then see how the sales fall.

    There are plenty of comparables, but it does remind me of Deadman Wonderland. You have a stopping point planned and you do whatever you possibly can to reach that stopping point in as few episodes as you can. We’ve seen it throughout Arata, but you can just see them cutting and merging chapters together to get to the goal.

    Just a shame.

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