OP: “GENESIS ARIA” by Sphere
As much as I want to focus on the anime independent of anything else, I can’t help but be a bit preoccupied with the fascination question of just what Satelight has planned for this series. In point of fact it’s not as if the first two episodes have been preposterously rushed – they’ve covered about seven chapters, which isn’t all that unusual a pace for a manga adaptation (though some extraneous tidbits from later in the story have been discreetly moved up). Just what do you do with a 17 volume (and counting) manga in 12 anime episodes?
As was the case with the premiere, I find that Yasuda-sensei has done a fine job keeping the story coherent despite packing a lot of information into the episode. It should be pretty clear to anyone watching exactly what’s happening here, which is an important element because one of the charms of Watase Yuu’s manga is that it’s a relatively straightforward story despite it’s complex mythology. We certainly don’t know all the “why” yet – but in what fantasy series would you after two episodes? With the characters in the dark about their situation as much as they are, it wouldn’t work if the audience was clued in on all the secrets.
We see a fair bit of both Arata and Hinohara (I’ll stick with Arata’s strategy and refer to them that way for simplicity’s sake) in this episode, but most of out time is spent in Amawakuni dealing with Hinohara’s problems there. I worry that Arata’s adventures in Tokyo are likely to be a major casualty of any schedule constraints, which would be a shame because though they’re always the B-plot in the story, they’re fascinating in their own right – and I really like Arata as a character. We’ve seen enough of both boys to see just how different they are – which is an important plot point in many ways – and how they respond to inheriting the problems of the other is one of the most compelling parts of the series.
The depths of Hinohara’s dilemma in Amawakuni really come into focus in this second episode. Despite the surprising revelation that he’s a Sho – one of the chosen ones able to wield a Hayagami, the sword manifestation of a Kamui, one of the mythic land’s Kami – he’s been framed for the murder of the land’s Princess Kikuri (Yamamura Hibiku) by the ones who control the entire apparatus of power. They were the only witnesses, and have an obvious vested interest in seeing that the truth never gets out. In addition to Kannagi, the other members of the Twelve Shinsho we meet are equally complicit if not equally involved physically – among them Yataka (Miyano Mamoru, who’s becoming almost as ubiquitous as Sawashiro Miyuki and Kaji Yuuki).
Fortunately for Hinohara, he has help from unexpected sources. Though he’s captured by Kannagi, Arata’s grandmother Makari (Mayama Ako) manages to send Kotoha after him with his sword, Goshintai – and when she realizes that the boy she still sees as Arata doesn’t have the stone she gave him (a gift from Princess Kikuri) she gives him hers. The stone allows the two Aratas to communicate – briefly, but long enough to share some vital information, the most vital of which being that Arata didn’t kill the Princess and Kannagi did. Though of course, in point of fact, no one killed her as she’s not dead – and from her magically preserved state, she makes it clear that she intends to help Hinohara in any way she can to overcome the injustice that’s been done to both of them and the threat it poses to Amawakuni. With Arata sentenced to exile on the “living hell” of Gatoya Island (because Kannagi doesn’t want to kill him until he understands his power) he’s going to need all the help he can get.
That’s a very solid epic fantasy setup – though of course, it doesn’t seem as if we’re going to have an epic fantasy series length. if there’s anything missing from the first two eps that really bothers me it’s the richness and detail of Hinohara’s bullying history in our world, because it’s chilling and brilliantly written, and because it adds power to the scenes in which he’s being tried and held in judgment. Apart from that I really have no complaint because this is basically the Arata Kangatari I liked when I picked up the manga. I wish the animation and backgrounds were a bit more lush in the mold of Mouretsu Pirates or Ikoku Meiro, but they’re perfectly fine if unspectacular – and I’m very much enjoying the BGM by the superb veteran Shou Otani, which really suits the mood and the setting. So far so good, I would say – though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little worried about where we go from here.