Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 02

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Kamisama Hajimemashita – 12

Upset with the town’s rumors that her shrine is rundown and haunted, Nanami begins planning an autumn festival. Among the events is a Kagura dance, which Nanami only has one week to learn. Normally not clumsy, she cannot remain calm around Tomoe, and progress is slow. Making matters worse is the wind deity Otohiko, who doubts Nanami can truly succeed his friend Mikage. He unleashes a cloud of miasma that envelops the shrine, and Nanami cannot disperse it no matter how hard she tries. Having accomplished nothing, a dejected Nanami flees the shrine. Meanwhile, an ominous sealed box she knocked over in storage breaks open.

All episode titles up to this point have been pretty accurate in describing what the episode will be about (“God Gets Kidnapped”, “God Goes To The Beach”, etc.) So with a title like “Nanami Quits Being a God”, combined with the fact it’s the penultimate episode, we knew despite things ending on a happy note last week, some final conflict would commence this week, and Nanami would indeed quit being a God. Nor were we surprised that the architect of that conflict is the deity who had only played a bit role up until now – the bizarrely-attired Otohiko – whose formidable power and devotion to Mikage pointed to an inevitable clash with Nanami. So what was surprising? Simply put, the manner and speed with which Nanami gives up.

That there’s only one episode left after this underscores the need to get things going, but 9/10ths of this episode goes at a very leisurely pace, replete with scenes of Nanami practicing the Kagura dance – which is fun, but repetitive. This lollygagging is to the detriment of creating a plausible scenario in which Nanami would truly say “I can’t take this anymore” and flee. The episode does not  fully succeed in doing so. One could say Tomoe’s “you need not come” remark was the straw that broke the earth deity’s back, but we’re talking Nanami, who has not only gone through quite a bit of hopeless situations, but also has nowhere else to go (besides Kurama’s again). Nanami’s rather rushed retreat aside, the series has more than earned our confidence it will recover with a strong finale.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Kamisama Hajimemashita – 11

In the first half, a bored Mizuki sees Kurama on TV and decides to travel to Tokyo to get some pointers on acclimation to human culture. When he arrives, he is appalled by the level of pollution, crass rudeness, and monetary system. He ends up being invited to a TV Tokyo party by one of Kurama’s handlers. Trying a drink from a drunken man, he falls ill, and wakes up under the care of a young woman also new to the city and struggling to fit in, but is determined not to give up. Mizuki thanks her for helping him by giving her some of his homemade sake.

In the second half, Nanami takes Tomoe to an amusement park, where he repeatedly refuses to talk about a hairpin he has and who it may belong to. He does eventually have genuine fun on the roller coaster, and fixes her hair in a bun but later on when he denies having known and loved Yukiji, Nanami runs off in distress. She ends up riding the ferris wheel at night alone, but when she accidentally messes up her bun, the hairpin falls out, and Tomoe suddenly joins her in the ferris wheel car, telling her it was a gift for her all along.

Another great two-parter from a series that’s been very consistent in the quality of its storytelling. Mizuki isn’t the least annoying character in the world, but a fish-out-of-water segment works out perfectly for him, as his arrogance is set aside and his confidence put to the test. Simply put, Tokyo eats Mizuki alive in short order, and it’s pretty amusing to watch him fumble his way around town. Fortunately fate smiles upon him, as he meets up with Kurama, then meets a kindred spirit who lends him a helping hand, lifting his spirit in the process. This girl doesn’t even get a name, but she sounded an awful lot like Orihime Inoue (Matsuoka Yuki), and we really liked what we saw of her. This series doesn’t skimp, even on minor characters.

The second part, Nanami is in high spirits over a day of activities Tomoe didn’t even verbally agree to, and then she gets suspicious over that hairpin, which she assumes was Yukiji’s. The thing is, after running away from him, she never presses him on why he said he never knew any such woman, and continues to insist he knows nothing about women, including her. Is he lying, or is there something up with his memories? We were right there with Nanami in his past, so we’ll go with that for now. Regardless of his presumed inexperience with human women, he’s got a live one in Nanami, and it’s clear he cares about her beyond his duties as her familiar. If he just wants to “live [with her] in the here and now”, she’s fine with that.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Kamisama Hajimemashita – 09

 

Nanami travels to the past with Mizuki, but finds that Tomoe took the Dragon King’s eye so he could give it to his lover Yukiji, who is deathly ill. Rather than snatch it as Mizuki suggests, Nanami helps her swallow it, and then returns to the present. They track down Isohime, who agrees to draw out the Dragon Eye within Nanami at the cost of 30 years of her life. But once it’s out, she also tries to take her earth deity mark, leading Mizuki to contract (kiss) with Nanami to protect her. They travel by tortoise taxi to the Dragon King’s palace, accompanied by someone who turns out to be the Turtle Queen. Nanami “rescues” Tomoe and embraces him, telling him her feelings for him won’t change no matter what.

Thought Nanami’s adventure into the past would occupy the bulk of the episode, and that her love and resolve would be tested against a different kind of Tomoe? We did. Yet the time travelling lasted less than five minutes. That setting had a lot of potential, but the episode had other plans and moved on quickly. We continue to be impressed with the wealth of ideas this series is constantly spooning out, and the confidence and precision with which it shuffles them around. It turns out, Tomoe wasn’t stealing the eye because he was a selfish trickster, but to save the life of the woman he loves. Nanami can’t exactly snatch the eye and leave her to die, so a new plan is needed.

This involves making another deal with another deity (Isohime), though it quickly goes sour, and a sudden but not altogether unexpected thing happens: Mizuki contracts with Nanami. Now she has two bishies at her beck and call. But the theme of remuneration continues when by chance Nanami shares a cab with the Turtle Queen. She loses her haori out the window, but she doesn’t get upset; making it was enjoyable and its own reward. Mizuki ultimately retrieves it, and it’s returned to her as ‘payment’ for Tomoe. The queens attitude makes omething clicks in Nanami – she’s sitting around waiting for Tomoe to return her feelings, something she can’t control. So she’s going to stop waitin’ and worryin’ and start doin’.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

 

Kamisama Hajimemashita – 08

Nanami’s friends Ami and Kei suggest they all go to the beach for summer vacation so she can get over Tomoe’s rejection. Tomoe is against it, as he says he cannot enter the sea, but comes along anyway, as does Mizuki. When Ami nearly drowns (due to the intervention of a wind deity who is friends with Mikage), Tomoe goes in after her, alerting the Dragon Lord Sakuna to his presence. Sakuna imprisons him in a giant mollusk. Nanami swims after him but Sakuna rescues her from the deep, telling her he’ll only give up Tomoe if she retrieves the eye he stole from him 526 years ago. Begging Mizuki for aid, they travel to the distant past.

This series is definitely on a roll. Nanami has barely an episode to digest what happened between her and Tomoe last week (and as a result can’t easily digest any food either) before Tomoe is spirited away by another deity. Fortunately for her she knows other deities; this week it’s Mizuki’s turn to help her out again. She insists wanting to rescue Tomoe has nothing to do with her being in love with him, but of course that’s nonsense; she can’t separate that reason from any of the others she may have, no matter how practical they may be. Interestingly, it seems like Mikage is orchestrating this whole thing, pulling the strings from the shadows to get Nanami to save Tomoe. Why exactly is anyone’s guess.

This Dragon Lord guy has the memory of an elephant and is quite the stickler when it comes to debts (he has the date of Tomoe’s transgression down to the second), but we like how he’s also a pretty reasonable guy who not only saves Nanami from her foolhardy dive into the ocean (even deities need gills down there), but also promises to hand Tomoe over to her if his debt is repaid. And the only way to do that is to go to the past and avert Tomoe’s theft in the first place. Now that it’s not just her soul but her body going back, Nanami’s love and resolve will be tested to greater degree than ever, as she’ll once again be confronted with the Tomoe of the past, who isn’t bound to her and may not be as nice as the present Tomoe (and even he’s not that nice…)


Rating: 8 (Great)

Kamisama Hajimemashita – 06

Since their last kiss, Nanami finds her heart pounding whenever she’s near Tomoe. When she comes down with a fever, Tomoe disguises himself as her and goes to school in her stead. Kurama, believing he’s Nanami, tries to win her over with his prowess at English and singing, but fails. Tomoe discovers a deviant demon in the girl’s locker room and seals it in a lollipop. Meanwhile, Mizuki pays Nanami a visit and burns incense to transport her soul to the past to meet the “real” Tomoe, a cruel, village-raiding brute under the employ of the “Bloodthirsty King.”

Kamisama Kiss has been a consistently strong and entertaining series throughout its first half, with its own unique, ethereal ethereal look, feel, and style. This latest episode may be our favorite yet, as it contains a little of everything and doesn’t waste a minute of its running time, and slowly nudges Nanami further into something resembling a romantic interest in her familiar. She may be a deity, so she has the human-youkai love taboo to deal with. Furthermore, Tomoe taking Nanami’s form could have been a hammy mess, but he handles it, Kurama’s lame advances (seriously, his English sucks), and a perverted lesser demon with cool aplomb. We especially like how he’s not a perfect copy of Nanami, but rather an amalgam of Tomoe’s mannerisms with a paler, bustier, more fox-eyed Nanami.

What impresssed us is that his day of school in Nanami’s body wasn’t the whole story, as the second half deals with Mizuki trying to convince Nanami that Tomoe is trouble, and it’s the fox’s plan for her to fall for him. To this end, Mizuki transports her soul into the friggin’ past (not a dream or hallucination, but the actual past) where she meets a Tomoe who looks the same but has far rougher edges, and for a moment looks poised to have his way with her (she inhabits the body of a village maiden named Yukiji). The whole sequence is very…otherworldly. But her brief trip to the past seemingly had little effect on her opinion of Tomoe: whomever he used to be doesn’t concern her as much as the kind, gentle Tomoe she’s come to know and is falling for. But we’re curious about the fate of Yukiji, and who that Bloodthirsty King dude is.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Kamisama Hajimemashita – 04

When Nanami handles a white snake that got into the school, she gets a strange mark on her arm. Tomoe warns her it’s a “Mark of the Betrothed” and is worried the snake spirit will return for her before long. He insists on guarding her at all times, and so poses as her classmate. He falls asleep and she wanders off and is kidnapped by the familiar Suenagaku Mizuki. She wakes up in his shrine, which is frozen in time. She’s to marry him, and cannot escape. Before long, Nanami realizes Mizuki’s deity is gone, as no one has prayed to the shrine in many years. Tomoe arrives just as Mizuki is about to force himself on Nanami. Tomoe is about to destroy the plum tree that holds the shrine’s plane together, but Nanami stays his hand.

Just as there are good people and bad people, there are good spirits and bad spirits. This week Tomoe learns once again that his master is only a fragile, mortal girl, and a ripe target for the bad ones. This Mizuki guy was more pathetic, tortured, and obsessed than evil, but the fact of the matter was he sought to take Nanami for his own, and she had no say in the matter or recourse. If it weren’t for Tomoe, she’d have been trapped in that underwater shrine without a deity, displaced from time, for all eternity. It’s a pretty grim prospect.

But Mizuki was only a familiar, and one Tomoe could easily defeat, had Nanami not decided to be merciful. There will be more adversaries, and they will be more powerful and perhaps more malevolent (there’s another one coming next week, in fact!). With all the free food and cute sprite servants and the regular contact with a very nice-lookin’ fellah, Nanami has to stop taking her new role lightly. There are bad gods out there who are just waiting for the moment Tomoe dozes off or she slips up. She must be vigilant. We’ll say this: her life has definitely gotten more “interesting” than those of her classmates, whose only foundation for existence seems to be hanging around hot guys…or picking on snakes.


Rating: 8 (Great)