Based on a manga by Julietta Suzuki, Kamisama Kiss (2012) offers a skewed take on the “magical girl”
Like most anime heroines, Nanami thinks of herself as an
ordinary high school girl, although she has some unusual problems. Her
classmates make fun of her because her father abandoned her after racking up staggering
gambling debts. She ends up evicted and homeless.
As she sits alone with her belongings in a nearby park, she
helps a bespectacled stranger named Mikage, who’s terrified by a stray dog. In
return for her aid, Mikage kisses her paternally on the forehead and casually offers
her the use of his unoccupied home. Having nowhere else to go, Nanami walks to
what she assumed would be a house, but is actually a run-down shrine.
She’s greeted as the mistress of the shrine by the exuberant,
diminutive keepers, Onikiri and Kotetsu. Mikage’s kiss transformed Nanami into
a “Land God,” but her powers are undeveloped and weak. It’s her duty to learn
how to use them to help the people who offer prayers at the shrine.
But first she has to contend with Tomoe, an icily effete
fox-spirit who served as Mikage’s famliar. Fussy and snobbish, he sniffs at
Nanami’s weakness. But when she manages to kiss him as they fall from a tree,
he becomes her familiar, bound to aid and obey her in every way he can.
Between her work at the shrine and misadventures at school,
Nanami keeps Tomoe busy. Pop idol Shinjiro Kurama thrills all the girls when he
starts attending high school. But his interactions with Nanami reveal he’s
actually a powerful crow tengu. (Tengu, forest goblins in Japanese folklore,
often have avian characteristics.) But he’s no match for Tomoe, who turns him
into an ostrich. Nanami has to restrain him from roasting and serving the
When an odd white snake appears at school, Nanami carries it
out of the building to safety in the surrounding garden. He turns out to be
Mizuki, the familiar of a drowned shrine. Touched by Nanami’s kindess, he
decides to marry her and keep her forever in an alternate world. Once again,
it’s Tomoe to the rescue.
Before long, Nanami and Tomoe start falling in love in spite
themselves, a classic anime pattern. But love between humans and supernatural
spirits is strictly forbidden, so there are complications.
At times, Kamisama
Kiss may remind viewers of Rumiko Takahashi’s popular “feudal fairy tale” Inuyasha (2000). But Kamisama is a broad comedy that lacks
the depth of feeling Takahashi gave her characters. Nanami is flighty to the
point of near-hysteria and lacks Kagome’s solid, sensible core. The orchidaceous
Tomoe is devoid of Inuyasha’s rough-and-tumble charm. The misadventures of
Nannami and Tomoe are often funny, but they’re so frantic, it’s wearying to
watch more than one or two at a time.