It’s been two years and eight seasons since I last glanced at KamiHaji, so I for one was glad for the quick refresher at the beginning. In fact, much of the rest of the episode that followed felt a bit like the show knew we needed to be eased back into things, and so revisited a common pattern from the first season.
Tomoe is overprotective; Nanami rebels, gets in over her head, and has to be rescued a couple of times; and then she finds a new wellspring of power (a baby monkey shikigami she names Mamoru) and rescues both Tomoe and the day. Sure, it’s not the most original formula, but it’s one this show has executed entertainingly, to the tune of an 8.08 average rating here and an 8.09 MAL score its first go-round. It’s a really charming, feel-good kind of show, and can be very funny when it wants to.
The question is, can that formula be sustained for an entire second season, and is KamiHaji 2 something I want to review in a Winter season that’s far lighter than Fall but features a lot of promising non-sequels? Looking back on my first season reviews, I didn’t express any particular burning desire for a second.
It’s too early to tell. This is my first taste of Winter 2015, and it was very much a re-introductory episode that part of me appreciated but at which another part simply shrugged. Perhaps the goings-on at the Divine Assembly in Izumo next week will help me form a stronger opinion one way or t’other.
Preparations for and the start of Nanami’s trip to Izumo for the Divine Assembly provide plenty of fodder for comedy and intrigue alike, kicking me back into that “Oh yeah, that’s why I liked this show so much!” gear that I wasn’t in last week.
Like Tomoe pretending it’s a chore to help Nanami with her necklace, yet jealously defending the duty when Mamoru takes human form (“grade school size” as Nanami cheerfully puts it) and offers to do it for her. Or Tomoe and Mizuki bickering to the point Nanami gets smacked in the head with some random wooden box.
She leaves the two to play a game of shogi (a game neither has ever played)to determine who will accompany her to Izumo as she runs errands with Mamoru. She’s jumped by a host of former gods who warn her not to go, but she stands her ground. When a human male in the park gets injured, she uses Mamoru to dispatch the baddies, but the dude is more annoyed at her than anything else, then tries to steal a kiss, forcing Nanami into swift retreat.
That dude turns out to be more than just a random guy, but a god in human form who is scheming to leave it so he can once again rule the world (or something). Someone to watch out for later, to be sure.
That dude turns out to be more than just a random guy, but a god in human form who is scheming to leave it so he can once again rule the world (or something). Back home, Tomoe beats Mizuki, but Nanami picks Mizuki to go with her anyway, fearful that if the other gods pick on him or her, things could turn ugly.
Tomoe must pose as Nanami while she’s gone, and while her classmates are fooled he’s her, they feel his nasty aura, one of the details I forgot from last season, but now that my memory has been jogged, I remember how much I liked that fact. Body-swaps done right, are the best.
Of course, we don’t see much of that at all, because the focus here is Nanami. Mizuki promptly drops her on the way to the Grand Shrine, and she wakes up without Mamoru or her bag in front of a huge procession of gods.
The only one who even speaks directly to her is the war god, but when she can’t impress him, he zooms off with the others, warning her not to speak to him, or anyone else. It’s hardly a warm welcome for lil’ Nanami, but to her credit she sounds super-serious when explaining her gift for white talismans.
With Mizuki stuck at the gate with a by-the-book guardsrabbit, Nanami is alone, and soon gets lost in the strange space between the world of the living and the divine. Even her guiding flame goes out, she seems on the edge of panic, but a glowing butterfly god leads her the right way.
That’s not all he does: Nanami was unable to give the war god a straight answer about her special skill, but the butterfly guy knows what it is: among all the myriad gods, she’s the only one who can see and feel with the eyes and heart of a human. That makes her just as special and valuable as all of them, and it’s something she should carry with pride.
Buoyed by those kinds words of the nameless butterfly, Nanami enters the assembly hall with her head held high and with big, pretty brown eyes unclouded. Her reception is cool, save the assembly’s host, who “chooses” her on the spot. Nanami wondered what kind of god lived in such a grand shrine; it’s looking like he’s some kind of casanova.
While last week was pleasant and charming enough, it didn’t really enchant me; this episode remedied that by stripping Nanami of her protection and plunging her deeper than ever into the surreal realm of the divine, while reinforcing her worth and right to stand among them. Intolerant gods underestimate this high school girl at their peril!
Nanami arrives at the Divine Assembly and actually stands her ground against the War God, who then threatens to kill her, until the host, bishonen Lord Okuninushi, intervenes, and sets Nanami on her next adventure immediately.
That’s right, just when we thought we were going to get into the nitty-gritty of divine politics (or at least partying), Nanami is sent off on a mission no other god has the nose for. Nanami seems to get that Okuninushi is almost looking down on her by offering this job, but she accepts it anyway, in exchange for his assistance in locating Mikage. I guess she’s learning the politics after all!
The job involves clearing out the yokai who take advantage of the mass god absence to stir up trouble around Yomotsu Hirasaka, the entrance to the Netherworld. Kirihito (the wan lad Nanami met in the park) happens to be there, strong-arming some lesser yokai small fry into doing his bidding, when he’s shoved into the entrance, which is bad, since humans start to decay as soon as they near the gate, let along pass through it.
Nanami, believing him a victim of the yokai, plunges in and saves him, reasonably confident that she’ll survive since she’s a human god…but really having no idea what will happen. But that’s Nanami: quick to risk her life for a stranger.
Meanwhile, Tomoe is utterly depresed and lonely with Nanami gone, and decides to drown his sorrows in sake at the local tanuki brothel. That’s right, I said tanuki brothel. Where else would a fox go to get into a little straaange?
Just one casual rumor by one of the girls sets a Dark Tomoe backstory into motion, as their madam once apprenticed at another brothel where Tomoe and his traveling companion Akura-oh once paid a visit.
Akura-oh arrived first…and then slaughtered everyone there. The madam, only a child, managed to escape outside, where Tomoe found her and deigned to let her go. It was an act of kindness she never forgot…even though it was six centuries ago.
To repay him for that kindness, the girl (named Mizutama) who would become the madam often kept Tomoe company, including the two decades between Mikage leaving and Nanami appearing. What Mizutama is, then, is the woman where Tomoe sought comfort and companionship in between masters.
It’s sudden trips off the main road like this that really add a vibrancy and warmth to this world, warmth Tomoe also found with Mikage, Mizutama, and now Nanami.
The fact that a Nanami recalls him to the shrine in a dream turns out to be merely Kotetsu in Nanami cosplay, and the school P.A. announcement-like (complete with chime!) letter from Nanami tug Tomoe roughly back into the here and now.
Back in the Netherworld, it takes a full sixty seconds before Nanami’s about to eat a dumpling offered by yokai that would keep her from ever leaving. Fortunately for her Kirihito knows the ways of this place…though she can’t fathom how, considering he’s a human who shouldn’t even be alive here.
The shots above show the pure variety of ways Nanami is drawn depending on the situation. I must say I’ve really missed her expressiveness and spunk.
Of course, I’ve also kinda figured out that Kirihito is really Akura-oh in a human body. I don’t think it was meant to be hard to figure out, as among other similarities, both are voiced by Suwabe Junichi. But while I know Nanami can take care of herself in a pinch, I would still feel much better when she’s out of that creepy Netherworld and no longer along with this sketchy guy!
Nanami is given a warm welcome in the Netherworld (and a tray of food she can’t eat if she wants to leave), but her host Lady Izunami makes it clear as crystal that she’s not taking the human back with her; he’s already dead. Nanami’s response: thems may be the rules, but she won’t accept them. She’s going to do everything she can to get out of here with Kirihito. To that end, she eats the food, making her an official resident with free roam.
It’s yet another selfless act by the benevolent Nanami, but the fact remains she knows not who (or what) it is she’s sticking her neck out to save. That’s what makes Nanami such a promising god: she doesn’t care who or what he is; she’s going to save him, and that’s that.
As she searches for him, Kirihito finds himself back in a darkness similar to the kind he found himself in for centuries after the gods cast him into it, after he had probably made such a nuisance of himself that he gave them no choice (what with all the murdering). We learn how he got his human body: the real Kirihito offered it to him in exchange for delivering a message to his mother.
In spite of himself (he only agrees on a whim), Akura-oh is so floored by being back in the living world of light and warmth, he holds up his end of the bargain, apologizing on Kirihito’s behalf. Not surprisingly, Kirihito’s mom, who has no reason to suspect the boy in the hospital bed is anything other than her son, doesn’t give it a second thought. All that matters to her is that he’s okay.
Unfortunately, Kirihito’s ‘goodness’ doesn’t end up rubbing off on Akura-oh, who spends his time working tirelessly at the very limits of what a human is capable of doing to get his old form back, including gaining shikigami. But now he’s back in the darkness, right on the edge of panic…when Nanami suddenly opens the door to the cell where he’s being held.
Turns out Nanami is on a confidence streak, and her talismans are proving useful not only in finding Kirihito, but the Netherworld’s exit as well, which is good, because Izunami sends her cat familiar after them. Unfortunately, the War God has sealed that exit. Fortunately, Tomoe has learned that Nanami is lost in the netherworld, and has come to rescue her.
And rescue her he does, but not before Kotetsu hits him with the shrine’s lucky mallet, turning him back into a yokai so he can overpower the war god (which he’d have never been able to do had he remained a familiar). On the one side, I’m a little bummed, Nanami couldn’t save herself here, but on the other, she did put her life on the line to save Kirihito—more than once. She did good. Along with Kirihito waking up in the hospital (a recurring scene this Winter), Nanami and Tomoe’s reunion is a heart-lifting moment.
That leaves Kirihito, whom Nanami hadn’t really thought much of beyond being a human in need of her help, but whom Tomoe immediately knows is not a human, but something else in a dead human’s body. Kirihito realizes pretty early his old fox friend Tomoe is Nanami’s familiar, and even gets to lay eyes on him before passing out. I wonder how long he’ll keep his true identity from Tomoe, who is now a yokai again.
Nanami and Tomoe weren’t actualy apart that long these last two episodes, but as Nanami remarks, the netherworld had a way of skewing time, making it seem like far more than four days of separation, for her as well as me. Now Tomoe is a yokai again, and in prison. Is it Nanami’s turn to save him?
Well…he asks for space, insisting it’s his decision whether to become her familiar again. And in his yokai form, he’s a bit of a short fuse, so Nanami gives him that space and tries to focus on work as Tomoe sulks in the dark. But in fine dysfunctional courtship form, both of them can think of nothing but the other, as if they had cast spells on one another.
Mizuki tells Tomoe his feelings for Nanami won’t go away just because he’s no longer contracted with her. So what does Tomoe do? Break into her room at night and contract with her, with the customary kiss, and boom, just like that, the Tomoe Yokai Experiment is resolved.
The fact that a contract or lack of same had no effect on his feelings for her has a profound effect on Tomoe. It occurs to him he has fallen for her, but he can’t help but express that fall by yelling, scolding, bullying, and teasing. Matters aren’t helped by the fact that Nanami reiterates her love for him, but knows he’s not interested in her in that way at all. If he wasn’t, things would be much easier.
Just when you think he’s realized he’s gone too far and comforts her, he follows it up by trying to strip her! In any case, this is a classic case of someone reflexively taking their romantic frustration out on the very object of their affection.
Tomoe doesn’t like himself in this state anymore than Nanami does. But once the Divine Assembly officially concludes with a big divine party, Tomoe is able to be civil and even debonair as her escort. Then Nanami chases a familiar butterfly that leads her to Mikage.
Nanami’s duties at the diving assembly, which she was performing in Mikage’s stead, involved distributing strings of destiny to and fro with the other gods, deciding who will be matched with whom in the mundane world. What Nanami didn’t know is that a similar string connects her and Tomoe; a pairing facilitated explicitly by Mikage himself.
He knows Tomoe better than anyone else in any dimension. And so Mikage knows—and it has been confirmed time and again to us by Tomoe’s behavior towards Nanami—that Tomoe believes humans to frail and fleeting in their existence to devote his full soul to. He had done so once before with Yukiji, who passed away while he lingered. Human and yokai relationships are taboo because of the vast difference in lifespans.
Mikage brought Nanami to Tomoe to teach him that humans aren’t weak. Nanami was cast away by her family and gone through innumerable hardships, but never gives up, never hesitates to help others, and never fails to flash a big adorable smile when Tomoe is around…and not acting like a dick.
Mikage’s aim was to “rekindle Tomoe’s bond with humanity”, by choosing Nanami, taboo be damned. But while Nanami and Tomoe have yet to figure out how such a thing will work, but the fact he came back to and contracted with her unbidden by anything other than his love for her, proves there’s is no shortage of sparks at the heart of that kindling.
Following the Divine Assembly, this week’s Kami-Haji is a bit of a disjointed grab bag, with some parts superior (in terms of my interest in them) to others. I’ll get right to my favorite part: the aftermath of Nanami’s talk with Mikage. Despite Mikage’s blessing, without knowing explicitly why Mikage wants Tomoe to “choose” her so badly (beyond wanting him to be free of him), Nanami remains hesitant in her courtship of Tomoe, especially when Lord Okuninushi recommends against it.
Nanami even travels home separately from Tomoe in order to give her situation more thought, but thankfully, she gets another viewpoint, and one she should give more weight than Okuninushi, who as far as we know hasn’t ever truly loved a human. That other viewpoint comes from Himemiko. It only takes one look at Nanami to sense her uncertainty, and wastes no time setting her straight.
Nanami thinks she’s being reckless and foolish to cultivate a romance with Tomoe because she knows she’ll die long before him, and thus knows she could break his heart when that day arrives. She’s doubly concerned with the fact this would be the second time in Tomoe’s existence that he’s survived a human lover. But I, like Himemiko, think Nanami has it all backwards.
It’ll do Nanami no good to conceal her love the rest of her days, or settle for someone she doesn’t love. Rather, she should treasure what time she has in the living world with Tomoe, expressing her true and unfiltered feelings, not letting those years go to waste and lead to regret. Himemiko speaks from experience: the pain of one day losing her human love Kota will pale in comparison to the regret she’d have in her heart had she never pursued him.
As great as Himemiko and Nanami’s day of shopping and love talk is, it doesn’t quite fill a whole episode, which is a good thing, as I preferred the montage (during which a lovely arrangement of the first season’s opening theme plays) to a more heavily-padded shopping scenes. Still, that means the balance of the episode must be filled, and in this case, it’s filled with less compelling stuff.
Kirihito/Akura-oh’s quest to restore himself has promise, but the introduction of Yatori is sudden and shrug-worthy. Sure, I dig Yatori’s Sia Wig and crazy green eyes, and the fact he’s aware Kirihito is really Akura-oh (and Kirihito believes him to be a fool, which he isn’t), makes for an interesting dynamic. But nothing happens yet; Yatori only promises to raise a force and begin a campaign against the tengu mountain of Kurama in Akura-oh’s name. Kirihito’s just, like…“um, thanks?”
The mention of Kurama calls to mind Nanami’s crow-tengu classmate and sometime-ally Kurama, who just happens to be having a concert that Ami invites Nanami to (Tomoe outright refuses). She then accidentally steps on a little tengu named Botanmaru who just happens to be looking for a fellow tengu who came down from the mountain seventeen years ago.
Botanmaru is specifically after this tengu because he doesn’t believe the commonly-held opinion among his peers that leaving the mountain made him a failure. He also looks up to him as an inspiration, because both of them are late-bloomers (Botan still can’t fly) and hopes he’ll be able to offer some advice.
To Nanami’s surprise, the one Botanmaru seeks is Kurama. With her extra ticket, she takes Botanmaru to his concert, where he’s in Full Fallen Angel Idol Mode, and not anywhere any guy, particularly Tomoe, wants to be. The episode concludes without the two tengu meeting yet, but it seems the next main storyline will be about this, and I suspect Tomoe will object to Nanami intervening in tengu affairs, for no other reason than it means having to hang out with Kurama.
Nanami’s observation at the end that Kurama never actually plays the acoustic guitar he breaks out on stage for his “ballad”—it was just a prop—is a funny way to close.
Botanmaru’s wretched state (he passes out from the mundane world “poison” and has welts from lashings) convinces Kurama to return to his home mountain from whence he descended seventeen years ago, when he wasn’t much bigger than lil’ Botan. I like how he admits he’s far more into the mundane world scene because of all the cute girls.
One of those cute girls insists on tagging along in case she can support Kurama. Nanami constantly referring to her damn white talismans is a nice little running gag, but it’s also a more serious sign that she’s no longer one to sit on the sidelines as friends—or even mere acquaintances—face challenges. And fixing the problem on the tengu mountain is definitely a challenge.
Kurama didn’t just hesitate to return because there are no women on the mountain. When he says he’s a failure, he means it; and not only did he flee the mountain, but he fled after his beloved brother Suiro, who was the fastest tengu on the mountain, saved him from a cruel trial, costing his mentor his wings, which, for a tengu, are everything. The one who put Kurama thorugh that trial is now poised to succeed the dying leader.
The mountain is also covered in thick, nasty misasma in which evil spirits lurk, one of which exploits Kurama’s weakness and takes Suiro’s form. At first I was like “Okay, this guy is kind of lame for spouting all this exposition like this” but it turns out he was an imposter. The real Suiro is much kinder, though notably cold to Nanami, sending her on a trek to the outhouse.
The somewhat mannerless Yatori has slinked his way into Jiro’s court, which is troublesome, since we know Yatori aims to hand this mountain over to Akura-oh. As friendly as he’s being with Jiro, this guy is no ally. Jiro, all puffed-up and tough; the yang to Suiro’s yin, doesn’t see Yatori as a threat, which could prove fatal as the crisis on the mountain worsens.
The change of setting would be refreshing if it weren’t essentially a bunch of thick green-gray fog and dead trees. The mountain is a very dreary place right now, though Nanami is hopeful she can bring some light and joy, if only to a few wary fledglings, one of whom had his orphaned boar piglet slaughtered by Jiro while cradling it in his arms.
Jiro is all about tough love and strength; he has no time for the weak or sentimental. But it’s not at all certain Jiro is the right one to ascend to leadership—especially with Yatori hanging off of him.
Jiro is built up throughout the episode as a bit of an ass, but these are dire times and he has cause to put up a hard line. So when he spots Nanami under the cherry blossom tree she temporarily restored and seems to be instantly smitten (and why not; Nanami is a cutey), it’s clear this guy isn’t your normal villain/usurper. But while I realize this is the introduction to a more tengu-focused story arc, I was still miffed by Tomoe’s exceedinly scant presence.
The tables are turned on the human Nanami early this week as for once she is the one being regarded as a rare and strange supernatural creature, a “celestial nymph,” by Jiro. He’s not the gentlest soul to her, either, roughly grabbing her arm and threatening to break it before Mamoru, true to his name manages to spring her.
Scared, trembling, and sporting a sore arm, the sight of the far gentler Tomoe is enough to make Nanami collapse into his bosom ing joyful relief. This is the side of Nanami that makes Tomoe want to protect her with everything he’s got. And I’m sure Nanami would always prefer for Tomoe to be waiting with open arms whenever she gets into such a state.
After being treated roughly and then gently, Suiro continues to talk to Nanami while facing Tomoe, as if her countenance is too awful to look upon. When she forces the issue, he admits he’s simply not used to interacting with women, especially, as he says, “beautiful maidens.”
After glimpsing his impossibly gorgeous face, Nanami has to wonder if he’s just being nice. Don’t get me wrong, Nanami is super-cute, and I wouldn’t call her plain, but it’s clear her’s is a more normal, casual beauty compared to all these magazine cover bishounen.
Suiro, perhaps the most classically feminine of the characters in the room, has always mothered Shinjuro, and now that he’s back it’s as if nothing has changed: he still sees him as a little kid with mussed hair who can be placated with apples and promises “it will all work out.” Only Kurama isn’t a kid, and isn’t buying it. Nothing will work out this time unless he acts.
When Kurama storms out to cool his head, Suiro asks Nanami and Tomoe not just to leave themselves after giving the peach pills to give to Kurama’s sire, but to take Kurama with them as well. He can tell that Kurama left a lot behind in the mundane world to come to the mountain, and he shouldn’t be expected to abandon the life he’s lived for seventeen years.
Nanami’s response is simple: she and Tomoe aren’t leaving until Kurama says he wants to go. They both find Kurama surveying Jiro’s heavily-fortified compound, and Kurama comes to the same conclusion Tomoe does: he can’t do this alone. Nanami volunteers to help in anyway they can, because she’s not just someone who runs scared into the arms of others. She’s both vulnerable and strong; scared and brave; all seemingly contradictory traits that perplex Tomoe so.
Kurama doesn’t even have to ask Nanami, but he does anyway as a courtesy; not an easy thing at all for him to do, considering he prefers to shoulder all the burdens himself. What’s so funny is the cliff they’re on is so windy, Nanami doesn’t quite hear him ask for her help, and Kurama is too bashful to ask again. Thankfully, Tomoe heard.
Meanwhile, within compound they intend to infiltrate tomorrow, it’s plain to Yatori—and us—that Nanami has had an effect on Jiro. You could say he’s been enchanted; his heart and mind are in disarray. His instincts made him act forcefully to a potential threat in the nymph, yet he cannot deny her presence in his mind has been all but constant ever since their meeting. You can call it puppy love, but no doubt he sees it as a weakness, one he’ll hide from his subordinates at all costs, even as he continues to cull young tengu who aren’t strong enough to pass muster.
This episode is immediately made better by frikking having Tomoe in it, saying more than one line; although a few of his lines are obviously defensive barbs loosed against the girl he’s fallen for flustering him simply by existing. As fate would have it, they share a bedroom that night.
Nothing really happens, despite what these images might suggest, but when coming back from the bathroom, Nanami accidentally curls up in Tomoe’s bed, and while initially freaked out, Tomoe is surprised to find himself embracing her, right up until she comes to. It’s all very “romawkward”, as one would expect from two people still on the very fringes of a romantic relationship, and still not comfortable openly talking about it or even acknowledging the mutual attraction exists.
That morning, we see the plan that will get them into the compound: Kurama will pose as the land god Nanami really is, Tomoe will pose as his familiar instead of Nanami’s, and Nanami will pose as an apprentice tengu, which introduces us to Nanami Tengu Drag, which might be the most adorable thing I’ve seen all Winter.
I had a feeling this “heist” episode was going to be a good one, but I wasn’t prepared for how much ass it kicked, much of it courtesy of our heroine Nanami. It’s quite simply one of her finest hours. It’s all because she has to be herself, which means tapping into her stores of morality, decency, and emptahy along with her increasingly potent divine powers.
But first of all, I just want to reiterate that Tengu Nanami just made my year. He/She is so friggin’ cute she makes Botanmaru look like a pile of puke! The spiral glasses are a particularly nice touch. But along with that cuteness comes great strength.
But anyway, the reason Nanami is able to steal the show is that the (somewhat) carefully orchestrated operation doesn’t go according to plan. Kurama had hoped to get Jiro drunk on mundane world medicinal alcohol, but the bull has formidable tolerance.
Tomoe, furious that Jiro hurt Nanami, tries to work his magic, posing as a slightly sultrier Nanami to throw Jiro off his game (helped at least a little by the booze). It works for a time; at least long enough for Nanami to find the Sojobo.
Kurama and Tomoe are undone when Tomoe breaks character and brings up Nanami, the maiden Jiro met, and even threatens violence. Kurama stops his “familiar”, but Jiro imprisons them both in a strong, anti-yokai barrier prison. With these two out of commission, it’s Nanami’s game to lose.
She doesn’t lose. The plan fails mostly because she and the others weren’t aware of the existence of a yokai under Jiro’s employ (Yatori), or the fact the Sojobo has been petrified as a result of his soul being extracted.
Nanami, in top heroine goddess form, doesn’t cower in fear before the bombastic Jiro. In fact, when he smacks Botanmaru, she gives him a stern scolding, one he probably hasn’t heard in a long time, if ever, and sorely needed. He blames Botanmaru for being weak, but Nanami points out Jiro hasn’t been running this mountain himself, all alone. Even the strongest have people they rely on.
Jiro doesn’t know how this litle whelp of a tengu knows about such stuff, because he doesn’t know he’s talking to a human land god. When Nanami brings up Sojobo’s soul extraction, Yatori butts in a shoos Jiro away. In case you were wondering, yes, this guy is up to no good, and is simply using Jiro to secure an army for Akura-oh.
But Yatori is just as clueless about this tengu lad as Jiro, and when he threatens to off him and Botanmaru, the wig and gloves come off and Nanami enters Full Bad-Ass Mode, a mode she remains in for the duration of the episode.
With Mamoru by her side, she casts a barrier against evil that easily dispatches Yatori. One could say he’s dealt with too easily, but this has never been a show about long, drawn-out physical battles, but rather battles of wits, timing, and ideals. In any case, it’s awesome to see Nanami wield such power so comfortably and confidently, and we know why: the people she loves and cares are counting on her, and she won’t let them down.
Even in disguise, her words prove just as powerful a weapon against the big dumb mean bear that is Jiro, within whom lies a precocious but insecure boy desperate to earn the Sojobo’s approval.
When he isn’t watching where he’s going he bumps into the three adorable little tengu we met last week, who all expect to be reprimanded severely for getting in his way. But Nanami’s words echo through his head, and suddenly picking on a bunch of little kids seems stupid. Good for him. Better for Nanami!
Jiro’s sudden crisis of the heart also means his hold on his “encampment” is tawdry at best, and Nanami takes advantage. Ignoring Yatori’s pleas to keep him around since he’s the only one who knows where the Sojobo’s soul is stashed, she decides to simply cancel out all of the barriers in the compound with one big barrier against evil, and find the soul herself.
As she “tears” through the place, she scares the bejesus out of various tengu who’ve never laid eyes on a woman before, and even leaves a gleaming golden trail in her wake. Once her barrier is cast, the whole place starts to sparkle. When Tomoe and Kurama’s prison fades away in the golden light, Tomoe knows exactly what’s up: his Nanami is demonstrating precisely why she’s worth falling for.
This episode features the unlikely but increasingly tolerable pairing of Nanami and a somewhat humbled (and therefore more reasonable) Brother Jiro, as they search for the Sojobo’s soul. He’s still stern and no nonsense, but he doesn’t prevent Nanami from following him down into a secret cavern.
Jiro even tells her this was where Shinjuro got into trouble with a thunderbolt beast, and where Suiro lost his ability to fly by rescuing him. But when Jiro drops into a deeper chasm, even when lightning shoots up, nay, because it does, Nanami goes in after Jiro, not because she doesn’t trust him, but because he had the bearing of a man going to his death.
The beast rears its head for Nanami first, and while she’s able to fire off a barrier against evil, it counterattacks with a massive lightning strike. It’s in this moment Jiro finally understands why Suiro saved Shinjuro and regrets nothing: the despair of losing his ability to fly was small compared to the despair of losing someone he loves.
Before Suiro knew it, he was moving to save Shinjuro. And before Jiro knows it, he’s moving to save Nanami, whom he admits he’s fallen for, and can’t bear to watch die.
I love how over-the-top Shinjuro’s reaction to learning the soul is hidden in the same place where he was traumitized, but he quickly composes himself, knowing that not only is he a far stronger tengu now, in part because of that experience, but he’s also not alone: Tomoe is with him and Nanami is further in.
Tomoe dispatches the “kitten” with his superior fox fire, but he isn’t able to bask in the light of Nanami’s gratitude for saving her as he usually does. Nanami is too concerned with Jiro, who is badly injured and loses consciousness.
In a really nice icebreaker, the defeated thunderbolt beast, suddenly not so fearsome-looking anymore, coughs up the Sojobo’s soul like a hairball. Kamisama Kiss has always been great at tempering or punctuating its more serious scenes with lighter fare. Unlike, say, Violin girl, its slapstick never ruins the mood, but rather keeps it in check.
Nanami’s continued concern for Jiro irks Tomoe, because he doesn’t like the idea of Nanami, whom he likes, worrying about another man. Still, he’s able to comfort her by assuring her Jiro will happily bear whatever consequences he must, because he got to save Nanami. He speaks form his own extensive experience: saving Nanami is always worth it.
Kamisama Kiss puts on a romantic comedy/drama clinic this week, perfectly balancing Nanami’s joy and relief when Jiro comes to (thanks to her peach pills) with the embarrassment of walking in on a nude Jiro being bathed by Suiro.
Tomoe initially playfully teases Nanami, but as usual goes a little bit farther than he should due to his own frustration of holding in his true feelings for the lass. When he tells her it makes no difference to him whether she goes back home with him or stays with Jiro to get to know him better, it clearly wounds Nanami, who contrary to Tomoe’s jealous suspicions, hasn’t simply flipped her love switch from Tomoe to Jiro.
Still, Jiro did manage to do one thing Tomoe hasn’t been able to yet: clearly confess his feelings for Nanami. So at the cherry blossom tree viewing/Sojobo & Jiro recovery party (that’s a mouthful), Nanami is receptive to Jiro’s own attempts at courtship, which aren’t bad for someone who’s never laid eyes on a woman before.
The beauty of the restored cherry tree makes for about as romantic a locale as one could hope for, but as much charm and respect Jiro has for Nanami, when she tells him how precious the peach pills she used to save him are, and how she wants Tomoe to have them if anything ever happens to her, it becomes clearer to him that he’s barking up the wrong tree.
Consider: when he flew her up into the tree, in a moment of fear Nanami called out for Tomoe. Also, when she has too many high-proof sake-filled steamed buns and gets wasted, she repeats his name again and again. With the walls of sobriety down, she also lowers her toughing-it-out mask. The only one she wants is Tomoe, and she’s far more happy being carried on his warm comfortable back than being in the middle of a cherry tree with Jiro.
She even unabashedly lets off an “I love you”, not her first nor her last directed at Tomoe. And perhaps knowing she’s passed out and won’t hear it, he says he loves her too out loud. It’s a small step, but he knows it’s a necessary one.
As Shinjuro tells him, it’s precisely because human lives are so short, that if you have to say something, you’d better say it before it’s too late. Tomoe has technically said what he needs to say, but this time doesn’t count. Can he do it when Nanami is conscious? We’ll see.
Kami-Haji is really in the zone in its home stretch, such that it can abruptly change gears from the Tengu arc to Kirihito without breaking a sweat. Mind you, I was a little skeptical of the choice of gear—there’s only two eps left; get back to Nanami and Tomoe!—I decided to be patient and see where the show was going with this. It was a good decision, and my patience was rewarded handsomely.
Having built a new portal to the Netherworld…in his house (probably not the best idea), Kirihito—or I should say Akura-oh—prepares to dive back in to look for his body. What’s interesting is the means with which he does so: by using the bracelet he made from Nanami’s hair (quite a bit of it…yikes!) to keep his human body intact while down there. That’s right, Mr. Big Bad can’t do a thing without Nanami’s (indirect) help, and he knows it.
The Netherworld is just as dark and dreary and unpleasant as it was last time, but it doesn’t take long for Akura to find his body. Just a slight niggle: it’s on top of a volcano, in an eternal cycle of being simultaneously burnt and regenerating.
Yatori tagged along as is ridiculous 90% of the time, but we see why he came when he gets serious and stops Kirihito from doing something reckless. His hair bracelet will be of little use; what he needs is the ability to quell the volcano’s fire…and the best thing for that is fox fire; specifically Tomoe’s.
So, okay, Kirihito will be paying Tomoe (and by extension Nanami) soon. Is there really time for that? Never mind; Kirihito’s side of this episode comes to a beautiful end: once Yatori gets him back to the mundane world, the portal starts leaking poison from the Netherworld. At first Kirihito/Akura is unconcerned, even after one of his shikigami turns to dust; he slaved over that portal and he’ll be damned if he’s going to seal it.
But then he remembers he’s in Kirihito’s house, and his mother is at his door with a late night snack. And he seals that portal right up. It’s an incredible feat for someone so nasty and self-concerned, but Akura-oh clearly inherited more than just Kirihito’s body.
Embedded in Kirihito’s side of the story is a cutaway to Tomoe, the guy who betrayed him by falling for a human woman and thinking he could be a human himself, who is in that moment making hamburger steak for his human/god master, because it’s her favorite.
First of all, BAAAAAAAAW. Secondly, Kirihito may poo-poo Tomoe’s love and devotion for a human (first Yukiji, now Nanami), but he kinda loses his philosophical ground when he puts the safety of his host body’s mother before his own.
Like Kirihito sealing the portal later, Tomoe suddenly feels guilty removes the shiitake mushrooms he meant to sneak into the mix after Nanami expresses excitement about him making her favorite dish. DOUBLEBAAAAAAW.
The second half begins with Nanami watching a wedding on TV, and brings up the fact she’s agreed to host Himemiko’s wedding when it happens. Mizuki and Tomoe briefly misunderstood her phrasing to mean she was getting married, to which she responds “I’m not getting married. Ever.” And she says it with a creepy face that suffers no debate.
Her stance is harsh, but understandable, considering she comes from a broken home, and the marriage she’s most familiar with—that of her parents—obviously didn’t end well.
How apropos then, that when Nanami tags alone with Tomoe and Mizuki to visit the Year God, she ends up revisiting those rough years, even transforming into her twelve-year-younger self.
One wonders why in the world Nanami would ever think looking back on her past twelve years would “sound fun”, but call it curiousity and awe at her surroundings, combined with her special brand of hard-headed recklessness Tomoe both loves and hates about her.
And while I maintain Tengu Nanami remains The Best, Lil’ Nanami is no slouch in the adorableness department!
Tomoe and Mizuki fail to catch Lil’ Nanami (who lands a fantastic jump-kick on the latter, believing him a kidnapper), but they’re able to bear witness to her experiences at this age, from being given a chocolate bar by her deadbeat dad just before he runs off for good, to her mother being hounded by debtors.
It’s a lot for a little kid to take in, but even at her young age, she becomes overcome by shame at enjoying a luxurious chocolate bar as her mother struggles to scrape by. (Mind you, it’s her Dad’s fault, not hers).
Even in the face of such hardships, the moment Nanami’s mom notices her daughter, her face brightens and she embraces her treasure, as if to assure her that everything will be all right. I had no idea Nanami’s mother was so kind, decent, and loving. Fortunately for us, Nanami took after her mother in that regard.
So the question is, what happened to make Nanami family-less and homeless? Tomoe learns this after getting a good look (and possibly feeling the aura of) Nanami’s mother: she’s very ill, and doesn’t have long to live. Her mom didn’t run off like her dad…she died.
Being a little kid, Nanami has no knowledge of her mother’s impending death. And as we know, once she’s gone there’s no one else to take her in, until she comes upon the earth god shrine. But Tomoe tells Mizuki not to interfere; he wants to see a bit more. After all, he’s witnessing a side of the woman he loves he’s never seen before. Maybe seeing that side will finally give him the courage to tell her of his love. Here’s hoping.
Kami-Haji wastes no time piling on the adorableness in its final episode. Lil’ Nanami is button cute, just the kind of person you want to hold and squeeze and protect for all time. But we learn along with Tomoe that that cuteness is tempered by a steely resolve to look out for herself and be wary of men; advice given by her mother, who herself could not escape a life of bad luck with a crappy excuse for a man. We also learn that the women in her family only ever bear more women, all of them beautiful.
Tomoe is positively transfixed by this educational foray into Nanami’s past, and even though Mizuki tries on numerous occasions to nudge him to put an end to it, Tomoe watches on, even as things go from bad (Nanami’s mother dying, as expected) to worse (Nanami living with her awful dad, who does nothing but goof off and burn their house down). The things that happen to Nanami are almost comically cruel, but for all the slapstick mixed in with the narrative, the episode never makes light of her plight.
It also makes it clear these are the experiences that made Nanami the young woman she is today, and that something great and beautiful can come out of all that suffering and hardship. With that, Mizuki again confronts the lil’ Nanami to try to coax her back to the present, and again, she flees from Mizuki, who if we’re honest doesn’t have the most trustworthy aura about him.
Tomoe is different, though. Even though he’s a man, Nanami seems to trust him implicitly. Is it the connection she has with him in the present shining through here, or the connection between her family lineage and the god who granted them beauty at a heavy yet bearable and character-building cost?
Tomoe isn’t just a fan of lil’ Nanami because she’s adorable. He also likes the fact that everything she desires is clear to him here in her flashback world, as things she concentrates more on appear with more detail and in greater focus. Seeing everything she wants to clearly, and having the power to grant it all, Tomoe’s devotion for her grows. Here, when asked if he truly loves her and is someone she can count on, he can answer directly: yes he does.
Heck, he even proposes marriage, and she accepts…but when the grown Nanami wakes up, she’s seemingly forgotten everything about her dream, which deflates Tomoe quite a bit, because he thought he’d actually made progress.
He laments the fact that the happy-go-lucky yet delicate girl he was able to confess to so easily was lost in the twelve years since, especially when she’s able to single-handedly convince the zodiac sheep to allow the new year god to shear him. Then Nanami surprises Tomoe again and makes him rethink everything when the Year God furnishes her with a photo of her mother.
Now, that wouldn’t seem such an impactful gift, but considering her mother died when Nanami was very young and all photos of her were lost in the fire (a heartbreaking fact), it means multitudes for Nanami to finally see her face clearly. And in doing so, Tomoe sees that neither Lil’ Nanami nor her mother really vanished; they’re still within Nanami.
Back at the Shrine, Nanami is back to work on her talismans, and Tomoe is back to work denigrating their poor quality, earning her defiant scowls. But when relaxing after a long day ushering in the new year for worshippers and the like, Nanami settles down for some tea and TV with her shrine family, whom she’s been with now for a year.
When she steps outside, the falling snow reminds her of what a shadowy figure once said to her in a half-forgotten memory of the past (which we know to have just happened at the Torii gates), in which Tomoe tells her younger self she won’t always be alone and wary, but be “the lady and mistress of a household more rowdy than she could wish for.”
And so it’s come to pass. She has a family, without having resorted to marriage she’d sworn off. And yet, when asked again, Nanami adds the qualified “probably” to that swearing-off, opening the door for Tomoe, if he wishes to walk through it.