Arata: The Legend is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Yuu Watase. It began serialization in Weekly Shōnen Sunday in October 2008. Its individual chapters has been compiled into twenty-four tankōbon volumes as of September 2015.
An anime television series adaptation produced by Satelight and Korean studio JM Animation aired from April to July 2013.
Rebecca Bundy of Anime News Network gave the first volume an overall B+ for “Great art and character designs; plus, Watase’s ability to create interesting lore is as sharp as ever.” She also noted, however, that the “Pathetic, cowardly main character makes everything involving him painful to read.” Deb Aoki of About.com notes that the plot is “fairly formulaic fantasy fare that’s just a bit too predictable to offer fans something truly fresh and new” but that the series has her “hooked.” Todd Douglass of Blogcritics.org says that the first volume is “strongly recommended,” despite some reservations. Christopher Nadolsk of Mania.com says that the first volume offers “an entertaining and eye-pleasing escapist fantasy read.”
In a mystical world called Amawakuni, a ceremony marking the new governing princess is about to occur for the first time in 60 years. Only a maiden from the Hime Clan may take this position, but a boy called Arata must pose for the role, due to the lack of females born to this family. During the ceremony, the Twelve Shinshō, wielders of special swords called Hayagami, led by Kannagi, betrayed Princess Kikuri and attempted to assassinate her and Arata (an eyewitness) in a competition to become emperor. Kannagi frames Arata for the princess’ murder, yet Arata manages to escape and into the Kando Forest.
Meanwhile, in modern-day Japan, an athletic boy named Arata Hinohara is starting his new life in high school. He wants to put memories of his difficult past behind him, but things aren’t going to be simple when Masato Kadowaki, the bully from his old school, emerges. Feeling the world is untrustworthy, Hinohara walks into an alley, and soon finds himself in Amawakuni, where the world mistakes him for “Arata.” Having to run to Arata’s house, Hinohara learns from Arata’s grandmother that he and the other Arata have “switched lives” according to legend about Kando Forest. When Kannagi searches the house, Hinohara comes across a rusted sword, activates its power, and becomes a Shō. The sword is a Hayagami named Tsukuyo.
Kotoha, Arata’s childhood friend, offers Hinohara the princess’ charm before he is arrested. In a jail cell, Hinohara contacts Arata via the other charm Kotoha had given him, where he discovers the truth from Arata, and are forced to take each other’s roles. At the Imperial Court, Hinohara is found guilty, and exiled to Gatoya Island. On the trip to the island, Kotoha tags along and gives him his Hayagami. Also because of the charm’s power he is able to talk to Kikuri (who is just barely alive). She then asks him to govern the world as otherwise there will only be war. After escaping Gatoya Island, Hinohara and Kotoha with their new friend Kanate, a former bandit, they head to the mainland on a quest to restore order and save the princess.
Meanwhile, Arata emerges from the forest and finds himself in Japan. He has a run-in with the police because he is shirtless but is saved by Nao, Hinohara’s sister, and is taken into Hinohara’s family mistaking him for their “Arata”. He adjusts to high school where he befriends a strange girl named Imina Oribe. Imina is later revealed a maiden from the Hime Clan who winded up lost on Earth 15 years ago. Harunawa, an agent of the mysterious Six Shinshō, is ordered to eliminate Imina to prevent her from becoming Kikuri’s successor. Together Arata and Imina search for information (prophecies) on how to stop the Six Shinshō’s ambition to rule both Amawakuni and Earth.
Traveling across the mainland, Kannagi reluctantly joins Hinohara’s group when a vengeful Akachi stole his Hayagami. Kotoha eventually learns Hinohara’s true identity as the duo becomes closer. Upon realizing the situation, Kadowaki is also summoned in Amawakuni and becomes a Shō as he activates a Hayagami, a spear named Orochi. Determined to fight Hinohara, Kadowaki repeatedly encounters him on his journey. Having two Shinshō members, Yorunami and Kugura submitted, Hinohara soon discovers his destiny as Emperor Of Hinowa – the origin of all Hayagami – he embarks with Mikusa and Rami, relatives from the Hime and Uneme Clan. Hinohara later confronts Yataka, a Shinshō who loved Kikuri. Yataka receives a change of heart, and accompanies Hinohara’s quest to redeem himself. Hinohara comes to know Mikusa is a fake maiden hiding from the Shinshō. After Kannagi retrieves his Hayagami from Akachi, Hinohara is lured into a conspiracy on Muroya Island by a fellow traveler Hiruha who has been manipulated by the Six Shinshō. Following Rami and Hiruha’s deaths, the gang resolves in defeating the Six Shinshō, those who are actually humans from Earth’s past.
The Six Shinshō and Kadowaki apparently become Hinohara’s most formidable opponents on his quest. As Hinohara tries to suppress his personal conflicts after Kotoha was seriously injured by his demon transformation when Kadowaki subjugated Kanate, Kadowaki also faces his own predicament. Nasuke, a rogue Shō helps Hinohara before submitting to him. Back on Earth, Harunawa soon goes on full out assault at school and infecting the city, in order to enlarge his demon powers. Imina harnesses her Amatsuriki abilities to counter the outbreak to protect Arata and the Hinohara family.