Reviewby Rebecca Silverman, Oct 9th 2011
After rescuing Tomoe from the Ryu-oh's clutches, Tomoe finds himself sharing shinshi duties with the snake spirit Mizuki, and he is not best pleased by it. Nanami tries to make them get along with mixed results. After that, inspired by a shrine festival at the beach, Nanami decides that it is time to get worshipers back at her home base. But how can she do that when everyone thinks that her shrine is a haunted ruin?
If there's one thing that can be said about Julietta Suzuki's second English translated series, it is that it has an interesting concept. Nanami Momozono, former ordinary high school girl, has become the tochigami (land god) of a small local shrine. By this point in the ongoing series, “former ordinary” is important, because even the sophisticated fox spirit Tomoe has begun to notice that Nanami is developing some spiritual powers of her own. She is still far from being a proper god, but she is perhaps equally far from being the girl she once was. This slow progress into the supernatural is one of the story's strengths, as it takes the concept of the now-cliche average Japanese schoolgirl and begins to move beyond it.
Where volume four was mostly concerned with potential romantic entanglements and the rescue of Tomoe – complete with a fascinating glimpse of his past – this book deals more with Nanami's godly duties. She is determined to make the shrine a place of worship once more, and to that end plans a festival to summon people back to it. This decision is derided by Tomoe, who feels that she is not up to the task. Mizuki provides a counterpoint to his pessimism by cheerfully going along with what Nanami wants to do. The elevation of Mizuki to a more prominent player is a good move on Suzuki's part. He makes an interesting foil to Tomoe's more restrained feelings (“restrained” when he isn't angry, that is) and his clear joy at belonging somewhere radiates from his smiling face. In fact, one of the book's strongest chapters is its first, which delves into Mizuki's emotions at being made one of Nanami's shinshi. It is surprisingly stirring in its simplicity, and comes out and says what Suzuki has been implying since she introduced the character. While this series is not as focused on the concept of “belonging” as previous work Karakuri Odette, readers who enjoyed the quiet emotionality of that series will welcome moments like this one.
The downside to Mizuki's new status at Mikage Shrine is that the story has begun to have the feel of a reverse harem manga. With Mizuki and Tomoe both living to take care of Nanami on a literal level and tengu Kurama showing some fascination with her, readers may be reminded of tales like Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time or La Corda d'Oro. While Kamisama Kiss is certainly not on the level of those games-turned-manga, the plethora of pretty boys hanging around our heroine may be a turnoff for some readers. Fortunately for those not fond of the reverse harem genre, Suzuki makes it clear that Nanami only has eyes for Tomoe, regardless of his apparent coldness, and none of the males are actively pursuing her.
The human aspects of the various spirit beings remains one of the artistic strengths of the series. Catfish spirit Himemiko returns to give Nanami a helping fin with the festival, as does dragon spirit Sukuna. Both have interesting character designs reminiscent of their true forms, as do Tomoe, Mizuki, and Kurama. (Kurama's heavy eye make-up is a particularly nice touch.) While Nanami herself has a fairly common look to her, all long hair and wide eyes, it simply serves to accent the exotic qualities of the beings she is surrounded by. Other human characters are also more generic, but Suzuki gives them some nice individual touches, like the fact that Nanami's friend Kei appears to be surgically attached to her cell phone. Backgrounds are relatively simple and often done strictly in tone, but when they are needed, such as at the festivals, Suzuki does provide.
There is one very damning error in this volume, hopefully one which is present only in the review copy I received: in chapter 29 one page from an earlier chapter is repeated and the sequential page is left out. We can hope that this glitch will not effect regular purchases of this book, but you may want to check before you buy.
That issue aside, this is a charming entry into an already fun series. During the major plot of the volume – the festival – the seeds for two major plot developments are sown, showing that Suzuki still has plenty of places left to visit in the spirit world. Nanami's determination is admirable and makes a nice counterpoint to Tomoe's more blasé attitude and Mizuki's cheer. While the romantic subplot has been largely left behind, there are still plenty of moments for those who are in this for the love. With humor, grace, and the only partially-familiar world of Japanese mythology, Kamisama Kiss continues to be an entertaining tale of one girl's journey into godhood.
Overall : B
Story : B+
Art : A-
+ Attractive characters, genuinely emotional content, lead-in for two potentially interesting plot points.
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