The great Arata mash-up of 2013 is underway, and scheduled to run for the next two weeks. Something, as they say, had to give – there was no way the adaptation was simply going to present about 20% of the manga and stop. The approach we’re seeing is along the lines of what I suggested last week appeared to be happening – bits and pieces of character arcs which superficially seem to have no chance of being adapted are being grafted together, as a sort of sampler platter of the breadth of the manga.
In the end I suppose this isn’t a wholly surprising development, for the simple reason that a studio can go two ways in adapting a long manga into a short series: they can go huge, or they can go small (or, the third way I suppose is to pull a Deadman Wonderland and effectively stop mid-sentence). The small option means stripping the story down to its bare essentials and focusing on only the bones of the story – Satelight’s choice here appears to be more of the ten miles wide, one inch deep approach. Either way, manga fans won’t be pleased – and the truth is, there are no good answers in a situation like this. A series like Arata Kangatari should never be adapted in one cour, and all a director can do is try to make something that captures at least the flavor of the source material.
And there, I think, Yasuda-sensei has managed to do pretty well. Things are quite different in the gleaming city of Suzukura in the anime version, though we still have Zokusho Hiroko guiding Hinohara’s party into the city as they don’t have the money to pay the exorbitant entrance tax. Though Hiroko is posing as a mid-level bureaucrat named Suehiro it’s clear he has an unnatural interest in Hinohara and his party, something they’re nowhere near as suspicious of as they should be. Kannagi, though, knows something is amiss – and Hiroko certainly knows who he is. As Suehiro does his spying/research for Yorunami, the others go straight to work – there’s always work in Suzukura – the boys in a quarry and Kotoha in a textile factory.
It’s inside that quarry that Hinohara and Kanate make the acquaintance of Ruka (an anime-original character) an orphan boy who shows them the ugly underside of the shining city on the hill. There’s quite a bit changed in the dynamic here, which finds Hiroko anxious to find someone who can return his boss to the kind soul he was before his quest for perfection turned him into a cruel tyrant. The notion of Suzukura as a kind of capitalist paradise with a nightmarish underbelly does carry over, as does the changing dynamic between Kotoha and Hinohara. She’s not calling him “-sama” anymore, an acknowledgement that he’s not the Arata she grew up with, but the interesting thing is that this has brought the two of them closer together. A layer of formality between them has been removed (much to Kanate’s horror) and she’s seeing the good side of this other world’s Arata.
The other major occurrence of the episode is the fated meeting between Akachi and Kadowaki, though again much-changed from the manga (apart from the ultimate result). Kadowaki’s patrons among the Six Sho see Akachi as the template for Kadowaki – someone who betrayed a former friend he felt betrayed him, and used his hatred to fuel his power. Problem is Akachi isn’t much of a team player, and certainly not when it comes to a peach-fuzz kid with big notions of personal revenge. The lesson Akachi chooses to teach Kadowaki ia s pretty harsh one, and there’s some context to this moment that we really didn’t get in this episode – I won’t say more, as I still hope we do next week. It appears the major focus there, though, will be the meeting of Hinohara and Yorunami, which could theoretically take us to the end of the anime. Of Arata in Tokyo there’s no sign, and I fear we’re going to see very little on that front in the two episodes we have remaining.