I’m probably biased, but I really think this series is continuing to get better as it progresses. That’s something of a small miracle considering the schedule, but that it’s not only coherent but manages to convey the essence of the plot and characters as well as it does is a fine achievement. There are certainly times where it feels as if its a sort of Cliffs Notes version, but that’s probably inevitable. And we saw a bit of that this week with the full-scale introduction of Kadowaki into the plot.
Kadowaki is a very interesting manga character. As it was with Arata’s bullying trauma and his mother’s neuroses we lose some of the richness of the character by not fully exploring his backstory in the anime, but the gist of it was well presented this week. There’s just something about Kadowaki that instantly projects… something. Rage, frustration, danger – he imposes his uneasy presence on every panel, even when he’s not speaking or acting directly. It’s one of Yuu-sensei’s most effective character designs I think, in that it so fully captures everything in the character’s soul. And Kimura Ryouhei is a fine choice for the part – he’s developed into a seiyuu who projects stature very well, a big presence.
There was a lot presented in this week’s episode, both on the plot and character fronts, though not all of it revealed its importance just yet. We get a sense for just how messed up Kadowaki’s home life is – abandoned by his mother, abusive and distant father. This is a young man absolutely consumed with rage – at Hinohara, who who irrationally blames for the start of his downward spiral, against his family, against fate for failing to recognize just how deserving he is of being revered and respected. This rage is the critical element of his character, as we’re to learn later in the episode.
There are other characters who, like Kadowaki, we’ve seen before, but not really been introduced to – until this week. The Six Sho are mysterious, masked members of the Twelve Shinshou – not even Kannagi has seen their faces – and they’re the ones who decide to use Kadowaki’s hatred as their path to gaining control of Amawakuni (which they realize cannot happen until they’ve defeated Arata). One of their members, Harunawa (Akira Ishida, still one of the busiest guys in anime) enters the Kando Forest and switches places with Kadowaki, where the other five await him. There they give him a brief primer on what’s happening, but all Kadowaki really wants to know is that his task is to destroy Hinohara – nothing else really matters. That involves taming the evil Hayagami Orochi, a task which many before Kadowaki have attempted, only to be consumed.
As for our heroes, they’re in a sort of uneasy truce with Kannagi as they enter the lands of Yorunami (Hoshi Souchiro) who wields the Hayagami of water. As they progress through the woods they’re observed by Hiruko (Namikawa Daisuke). Meanwhile back in Japan, there’s time for one last encounter between Arata and Kadowaki before the latter makes the big leap. We got some good, substantial scenes in Tokyo this time – Arata struggling with the notion of having a Mom, Nishijima struggling with his guilt over stabbing Hinohara in the back, and Hinohara’s mother struggling with pretty much everything. While Amawakuni gets the flashy set pieces there’s a lot of psychological drama in Japan, and we see some of it play out here – most powerfully in the moment when Hinohara-san slaps the boy she thinks is her son for thoughtlessly worrying her yet again. Both Arata and Hinohara have inherited complex and difficult situations – and each ill-prepared to deal with their circumstances. In a way that’s the core of Arata Kangatari’s story, and against all odds it’s playing out very nicely in the anime. I only wish we had about 40 more episodes to watch it develop.