First Reactions: Arata Kangatari Episode 2

Arata Kangatari didn’t really fix its terminology problems this week, but the dull monologues this episode explaining what in the whoozits a Hayagami is were plentifully offset by the key scene establishing the Shinshou as – so far – the best villains of the Spring 2013 season.

We’ll be talking about this in more detail in an upcoming podcast, but the essence of a good dramatic villain is that you’re really rooting for him to take a sword to the face. While other shows this season have doers of evil deeds (Septentrions from Devil Survivor 2, the freakish thugs from Karneval) and perpetrators of wholesale slaughter (Titans from Attack on Titan, Bugs from Mushibugyou, Hideous from Suisei no Gargantia), none of them do a really bang-up job of making me angry in acting so. To wit, not a one of them has approached the level of holding a Chrono Trigger-style show trial complete with straight-faced blatant lies and threatening violence in a courtroom. I was mentally cheering for Arata in that courtroom scene when he went into his tirade because of his sympathetic background, sure, but the Shinshou’s dickery was just as big of a factor in that reaction. Said trial scene also did a good job keeping the focus on Arata’s face during his outburst, both showing off his pained, frustrated facial expressions and keeping eyes off the Shinshou so their reaction to said outburst would come as more of a surprise.

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And as always, a little facetime goes a long way

Arata’s assistant Kotoha stood out this week as well. Watching her cope with someone she’s known her entire life now being a different person stirred up some complicated feelings, all the more so because she’s still stuck in the denial phase. Her making a plate of other-Arata’s favorite dishes was one reflection of her confused loyalty, as was her getting thrown into his prison cell. She’s definitely going to be one to watch, and I’ll be doing so, as those guards surely were not. Seriously, how does someone who would let a bag full of unknown goods and a 3-foot blade get smuggled into the cell of a convicted murderer get a job guarding the country’s highest level prisoners?

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‘Twang on the heartstrings

The villains are what really jazzed up the show this episode, and that gave it elbow room to develop potential in other areas, dropping short scenes of other-Arata in Japan and giving us 5 very intriguing seconds of his bully on the track at night. I rather suspect old hand Yasuda Kenji is pacing deliberately, spreading out the high-immersion scenes and letting them keep the audience fully invested in the buildup phase. That thought makes it a ton of fun to anticipate what he’ll pull once the series is on a real roll.

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