Nanami’s father runs off to escape his debts, leaving her behind alone and without a home to return to. While sitting in a park contemplating her situation, she comes across a man stuck in a tree trying desperately to shoo a dog away. When Nanami saves him, he places a kiss on her forehead in thanks, offering her a place at his shrine and – unknown to her – giving her his mark of godhood. Having no other options, Nanami makes her way to Mikage Shrine where she finds the ornery fox yokai, Tomoe, who just so happens to be her new familiar. Now she must take on the mantel of land god and all the responsibilities that come with it. But will Nanami and Tomoe’s relationship become something more than master and familiar?
Stories involving yokai and Japanese mythology have always held my interest, so it’s no surprise that I chose to try and watch this anime. Combining the taboo that is commonly associated with human x supernatural romances with the mythology surrounding yokai and the Otherworld can make for some interesting series. Unfortunately I don’t think this one would sit high on my list in that regard. It has its good points, but I think far too much of the series is devoted to her everyday human life, making the addition of yokai more of an after-thought. It’s not until the end of the series that we really get a feel for the true nature of Nanami’s godhood. There’s a smattering of other run-ins with yokai throughout the 13-episode season, but they somehow get lost in the anime’s focus on her and Tomoe’s building feelings and relationship.
Kamisama Kiss is written by Julietta Suzuki and brought to you by TMS Entertainment who went on to create shows like ReLife and partner with other studios to bring us animes like All Out! and Orange. Overall, this anime has a very shoujo feel to it and I can’t say I was surprised by anything animation wise. I would call it pretty standard for the genre. However, with the addition of yokai, the anime’s tone does tend to change at times to incorporate a darker feel, and you can sometimes see that expressed in the style as well. As for the opening and endings, I wasn’t super thrilled with them. The songs are good and both are performed by the same artist, Hanae. She brings with her a unique and breathy style that seems almost reminiscent of softer jazz mixed with J-Pop. But, when you combine this with animation that is severely lacking in substance, it becomes kind of “meh” to me. Both the opening and ending utilize far too many still shots and walk cycles that don’t really amount to much else other than “look at Nanami in some cute clothes” and, “Look! Some yokai, maybe?” The ending is worse in this regard, having only still shots of character art with clips of the episode in one corner. They could have definitely done better.
The story itself follows Nanami’s new life as the resident god of Mikage Shrine and the adjustments she has to make as she gets used to having spiritual abilities and dealing with yokai and gods alike. While I think this season could be improved a bit, I do generally like the plot of this series. On a deeper level, Kamisama Kiss brings to us a look at abandonment, the meaning of home, and what it means to be a god. The story starts with Nanami’s house being seized by debt collectors after her father has ran off and abandoned her. Without a place to call home, she sits in a park until she meets Mikage. With nowhere else to turn, she winds up at the shrine and begins to make that her home. It’s only natural that when Tomoe tries to get her to leave, refusing to accept her as his god, she would become angry. Nanami is a person filled with stubborn optimism, and, while she comes at her new position with a sense of enthusiasm most of the time, she is really just trying to make the best of the situation she’s now stuck in. She no longer has a home or a family, so the shrine and Tomoe have to fill that void for her. However, in a way, we can flip this on its head and say a home is nothing without people to live in it, which is evident by the state of disrepair the shrine is in with Mikage absent for so long. It is only through Nanami’s presence that its state begins to improve and it returns to the beautiful shrine it once was.
But with Mikage’s absence comes Tomoe’s sense of abandonment. To him, Mikage was the only person worthy of being his master and the reason he stayed in that shrine. Mikage saved him from death and gave him a place to call home. It is only natural that Tomoe would feel abandoned after he disappeared for twenty years without a reason, leaving the shrine to decay in his absence. That fear of abandonment now gets transferred onto Nanami as Tomoe fears she will up and leave him just like Mikage. In a way though, this seems to be all a part of Mikage’s plan when he handed over the reigns. Maybe he was searching for twenty years for a successor and never found one until he met Nanami. No one knows yet, but it’s evident that he sees something in her that could bring a new and fresh perspective to the world of the gods. She is an outsider, a pair of fresh eyes, and a human in a precarious position to be a sort of bridge between the worlds. Throughout the season we see just how much compassion and understanding she is able to give those coming to her for help, a compassion that is contrasted with the true nature of the gods and spirits she meets. I think we see a better expression of this in the second season though, which I’ll be getting to in the future.
These themes are spread throughout Kamisama Kiss, but, for the most part, the story follows Nanami and other character’s love exploits and the way her daily life has changed since she moved to the shrine. And in this area, I think the show is lacking. It is revealed that one of Nanami’s responsibilities as a resident god is to help with matchmaking. This is touched on once in all 13 episodes. I think it was mainly used to introduce a character who would be appearing now and again, but to have this plot point fall off completely afterwords is kind of disappointing. It would have given us a nice respite from some of the more cliché shoujo tropes like the always-included beach days and aquarium trip. In a way, I don’t know if this anime knew what it wanted to be before it began. It becomes this weird mish-mash of school life, romance, and yokai all thrown in, and then we watch the school life part slowly fade away as yokai and romance take over. I don’t think it really comes together for me until the last two episodes, which I’ll say are probably the best, but I do find the comedy to be amusing and I did find myself laughing at a lot of points.
In the romance department, the show is pretty strong. It focuses a lot on how Nanami develops feeling for Tomoe and how it is taboo for a human and a yokai to be together. This taboo is brought up many times over the course of the anime and becomes a central theme in Nanami and Tomoe’s relationship. There’s a pretty big mystery surrounding Tomoe’s past, but I think one of Mikage’s reasons for choosing Nanami was because she is human and Tomoe isn’t a big fan of humans in general. Their relationship becomes a way to compare and contrast the nature of human and yokai, looking at strengths and weaknesses on both sides. Yet, the romantic events still follow some basic shoujo tropes that left me wondering how a scene would be different if Tomoe was human.
Overall, I think this is a pretty good supernatural romance if you’re looking for something with a little comedy and characters that are generally enjoyable. It does have its faults, but I don’t think they make the series unenjoyable as a whole. I think the last episode is definitely worth the wait and the series seems to come together into a more coherent show as it goes on, especially in the second season. So if you’re looking for something fun to watch this Halloween, you can check out this series on Funimation!
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