Reviewby Carlo Santos, May 9th 2006
Kannazuki no Miko
DVD 1: Solar Priestess + Artbox
Himeko Kurusugawa is a clumsy girl whose mundane life changes when she crosses paths with Chikane, the most popular girl in school. When an otherworldly monster invasion ruins Himeko's 16th birthday and leaves her injured, Chikane steps in to take care of her, and lets Himeko recuperate at her mansion. Himeko soon learns that she and Chikane are the two miko (priestesses) who must protect the world from Orochi, a legendary eight-headed beast that takes the form of eight people—one of which has already attacked. However, Himeko's childhood friend Souma is also one of Orochi's manifestations, but has aligned himself with the forces of good. Now Himeko and her friends must protect the world from Orochi.
Giant robots! Ancient legends! Maids! Unexpected yuri scenes! Everything about Kannazuki no Miko says instant fan favorite, but somehow it adds up to less than the sum of its parts. Changes in scene and mood don't seem to connect, characters behave without rhyme or reason, and even thrilling action scenes are hampered by sloppy animation. There are lots of little things to like about the series, but as a whole, you have to wonder—"What? That's it?" Sadly, for these first four episodes, that's it, and nothing more.
If Kannazuki no Miko were split into two different series, it might be easier to enjoy the separate story threads. The first half of Episode 1 sees the beginnings of a sweet high school relationship, with a healthy dose girl-on-girl fanservice—both physically and emotionally. But the weirdness begins when Himeko gets involved with mystical battles and ancient foes. It just comes out of nowhere, with no sense of transition, and after the smoke clears, it's... time for Episode 2 and some back-story. On their own, the action scenes work well, as do the school-life scenes, but there's no flow at all between these different moods. The jerky pattern quickly becomes predictable—Himeko and company spend maybe half an episode building relationships, only to be interrupted by a giant robot and its vengeful pilot. Good story ideas both, but they collide so unceremoniously.
Along with this erratic, mood-swinging storyline comes an erratic cast of characters. Instead of reacting to events in the story, they seem more concerned with obeying prescribed character types: Chikane, for example, starts doting on Himeko for no apparent reason other than her role as the dominant half of a yuri couple. Souma insists on protecting Himeko because of their childhood friendship, yet the flashbacks show only a shallow relationship that consists of, uh, riding on a bike in the sunset. Himeko herself is a weak, empty personality—look up moe in the anime dictionary and you'll see her face, all timid and helpless. It's cute watching her friends take care of her, but isolated scenes of sweetness don't provide enough emotional substance. The only truly entertaining characters are the various personifications of the Orochi, who purposely play on stereotypes for comic relief. Yes, even the catgirl.
In an anime with so many striking visual elements—giant robots, bishoujo, an intergalactic villains' hangout—J.C. Staff manages to come up with effective designs for each. The lead female characters have an appealing look even if they're not the prettiest, while the mechas have an imposing figure despite their simple appearance. Backgrounds and scenery also catch the eye with vivid colors, although the Orochi's otherworld looks more like a special-effects dumping ground. The robot battles are infused with energy and exciting to watch, being the highlight of each episode. However, it's all too easy to see the cheap animation shortcuts—combatants charge at each other in freeze-frame; body parts collide awkwardly; even something as simple as Himeko turning around looks labored.
A classical-tinged soundtrack sets the mood for the series, with flourishes of strings and piano being especially effective during dramatic character moments. The battle music is less inspired, resorting to repetitive blasts of brass and the pounding of harsh chords. An energetic opening song by KOTOKO confirms that this very much an adventure series, although it descends into something of an electronically produced mess instead of the upbeat, catchy song it's meant to be.
Although the English dub seems shaky at first, it's something that the ears can get used to, as long as you have the tolerance for Himeko's lilting, girly-girl voice. (It's going to sound like that no matter which language you pick.) The varied cast of Orochi villains provides an ideal showcase for the versatility of Bang Zoom!'s cast, right down to the catgirl whose "nya" mannerism comes out effortlessly. The dub script itself plays pretty loose with the original subtitles, even though honorifics like "-sama" carry their way into the dub. Nonetheless, the general meaning of the dialogue stays intact throughout.
The collector's box features arguably the best art in the series: a full montage of the characters, with Himeko and Chikane in a mildly suggestive pose on one side, Souma with his robot along the spine, and the Orochi members on the other side. The bonus item is less impressive, though—just a plastic shell necklace like the one Himeko wears in the show. The DVD itself features little in the way of extras, with only a creditless opening (which inexplicably contains the intro scene as well), although a reversible cover and mini-pencilboard make the packaging more attractive.
From these early episodes, Kannazuki no Miko promises something to suit every anime fetish—giant robot battles, magic and mysticism, girls who like other girls—heck, they even manage to get in an evil bishounen before Episode 4 closes out. But if sensible storytelling and deep characters are what turn you on, then this isn't the series to go to. Things only happen because, well, that's the way they're supposed to happen in adventure stories. Characters do what they do because that's the way they're supposed to behave. It's easy to enjoy the big fights and gushing sentimentality, but looking at the big picture, there isn't much else to see.
Overall (dub) : C
Overall (sub) : C+
Story : C
Animation : D
Art : B
Music : B-
+ Exciting action scenes and some cute character moments.
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