Kamisama Kiss Series Collection (Cert 12)
3 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 311 minutes approx.
To say 17 year-old high school student Nanami Momozono is having a run of bad luck is an understatement. Her gambling addict father has disappeared and the bailiffs have repossessed their home leaving Nanami homeless, depressed and hungry. Only divine intervention could save her now and, as luck would have it, that is exactly what is on the horizon.
That night Nanami saves a man hiding up a tree from a dog of which he is deathly afraid. The man named Mikage rewards Nanami with his home, kisses her on the forehead then disappears. Needing a roof over her head Nanami discover her new abode is not a house but an old shrine – and waiting impatiently inside are two shrine spirits Onikiri and Kotetsu and a grumpy fox yokai named Tomoe. As it transpires, Mikage was a Land God and the kiss on the forehead was the official transferring of the God Mark making Nanami the new Land God of the Mikage Shrine.
This supernatural romantic comedy came from the mind of Julietta Suzuki, the original title of her 2008 manga being Kamisama Hajimemashita (lit. trans. Begin Life As God). The frothy artwork, sharp featured but effete and pretty males and saucer eyed females are the first major indicator that this is series aimed at females but the strokes are broad enough that we XY chromosome holders can enjoy it too beyond the spooky trappings of the various ghastly yokai that inhabit this series.
Since the Japanese have a different approach to religion and deities, there is little chance of anything blasphemous being found here as the Gods in this context are powerful beings that can control the elements or are divine incarnations of animal spirits, quite often from the zodiac. As a Land God Nanami is expected to be able to deal with the various elemental issues with her spiritual powers, which currently stand at zero and is just one of many adjustments Nanami has to make as part of her newfound responsibilities.
Tomoe is a familiar, a yokai beholden to a master with whom they have as contract, which again is sealed with a kiss. Tomoe’s brusque manner doesn’t immediately ingratiate himself to Nanami but during a life threatening spot of bother, his abilities and complete subservience are crucial so Nanami forces the contract and now the truculent fox has a new master. Romance between humans and yokai is strictly forbidden and while both play tsundere towards each other at the beginning, such feelings do gradually and predictably grow between Nanami and Tomoe over the course of the series.
On first inspection, and especially with the artwork, one might dismiss this as a clone of the classic Fruits Basket, with which Kamisama Kiss shares many traits. However, as much as Suzuki’s creation owes a clear debt to the older show it carves a firm enough path of its own to avoid any accusations of being wholly derivative.
For one thing Nanami doesn’t have quite the harem surrounding her as Fruits Basket heroine Tohru did – the two sprites don’t count and it is mostly Tomoe who is resident at the shrine with her. Later on a snake yokai named Mizuki sneakily makes a contract with Nanami and a famous rock star Shinjirō Kurama, who is revealed to be a tengu (crow) yokai often hangs around, this is a modest group willing to be of assistance to the reluctant deity.
The thirteen episodes in this set are made up of largely standalone affairs with only two storylines running over two episodes – one which delves into Tomoe’s past with the Demon King, whose right eye Tomoe stole and now he wants it back; and the finale where Nanami suffers a crisis of confidence at being a Land God when disapproving androgynous Wind God Otohiko decides to sabotage her big plans for a shrine festival. Otherwise it is the usual issues that trouble the daily life of a teenage schoolgirl living with a stroppy fox demon that are the focus – with hilarious consequences of course.
If anything is likely to win over non-shoujo fans aside from the supernatural elements it will be the humour which is practically non stop. The first episode in particular is a frantic affair with a joke every few seconds, be it visual or verbal. The interaction between the principles is the glue that holds this show together, with the two masked spirits adding plenty of slapstick fun and sarcastic commentary while Tomoe tries to reassert his dominance over the other yokai who try to muscle in on Nanami.
As for the lady in question she is a game girl who is willing to give anything a go no mater how out of the ordinary it may be but still wants a normal life all the same. While not totally dependant on her mystical servant she will call for his help at a time of extreme crisis. Thankfully while she is the subject of much desire for the yokai Nanami isn’t objectified in anyway nor is she used as fan service bait either which is a refreshing change!
The biggest compliment I can give to Kamisama Kiss is that while its doesn’t break any new ground, what it does do it does very well and offers the audience a lot to feast on. Aside from a few niggles – an explanation as to why Mikage would abandon his post as Land God would have been nice – we find ourselves in the company of an amusing and well fleshed out group of unusual characters. The series strives earnestly to entertain and while someone crams too much into its run it is never dull or lacking in some kind of activity.
Perhaps not a classic series in the grand scheme of things but a perfectly acceptable dose of supernatural comic frivolity with a playful romantic bent to satisfy fans of all ages, gender and tastes.
English Language 5.1 Surround
Japanese Language Stereo
Episode 1 Commentary
Episode 12 Commentary
Episode 6 Video Commentary
Rating – ***
Man In Black