Reviewby Carlo Santos, Aug 25th 2006
Kannazuki no Miko
DVD 2: Lunar Priestess
The battle against the evil agents of the Orochi continues. Souma, who has sworn to protect the Solar Priestess Himeko, comes face to face with the Orochi's "First Neck," Tsubasa, and learns the shocking truth about the brother who left him years ago. Meanwhile, Lunar Priestess Chikane tries to come to terms with her own feelings for Himeko, spending a few days with her while Souma recovers. In their next confrontation with the Orochi, Chikane is caught one-on-one against an illusionist, while Souma and Himeko battle another foe together. As these incidents bring Souma and Himeko closer to each other, however, Chikane's growing jealousy threatens to destroy the one relationship that means the most to her.
Protecting the fate of humanity has never been an easy task. But only Kannazuki no Miko has distilled it into such an emotionally excruciating process. Angst, rage and sentimentality drip from almost every scene on this disc, and if the characters aren't busy fighting, then they're being upset with each other, or with themselves, or with the cruel, cruel fate that the world has assigned to them. The only thing that could make it more overblown is having people break into song (a battle scene that breaks into techno seems close enough). While not entirely bad—after all, there's something to be said for a yuri-flavored love triangle and giant robots in a mildly retro style—it's just a shame to see the story's potential wasted on an overdose of teenage melodrama.
If it's any consolation, Episodes 5 through 8 show a better sense of plot direction than the early installments. Gone are the incoherent swings between mecha fights and schoolyard wistfulness. Instead, the growing conflict against the Orochi sets the series firmly on one course: a fantasy adventure above all else, with a troubled love story laced around it. The relationship aspect is developed most fully in Episode 6, which focuses on Himeko and Chikane just being together, while the other episodes carry the weight of war. But love is nothing if not the proverbial battlefield, and by Episode 8, the crossed feelings between Himeko, Chikane and Souma turn out to be the flash point in the war against the Orochi. The troubled love story has become the adventure itself, and a new level of dramatic potential emerges with the heroes becoming their own worst enemies.
Unfortunately, that potential is handled in the most ham-handed way possible, with the characters spouting cliché after emotional cliché. Dramatic gusts of wind, edge-of-the-screen blurs and cheek blushes add to the maudlin effect, and by the time someone gets done with yet another heart-wrenching speech, you just want to stick it on a commemorative plate and sell it in a housekeeping magazine. It's the one part of the series that could have genuine depth, but instead it's more interested in exploring the fetishistic subtleties of Chikane kissing Himeko, rather than, say, developing their relationship. The absurdity reaches an all-time high at the end of Episode 7, when Chikane shows up on horseback and longingly watches Himeko and Souma from a distance. Why the horse? What is it for? Is it just to look cool?
As it turns out, Kannazuki no Miko really wants to look cool. The visuals are practically a checklist of Random Things Anime Fans Like To See: giant robots, magic-induced explosions, girls in various states of undress, even a bishounen for good measure. Some of these do work well—the robots have an old-school bulkiness that adds intensity to the action; the fanservice, although only average in terms of character design, brings in that rare element of girl/girl romance. Even the background art is pleasing to the eye, reflecting a colorful fantasy world. However, discerning anime fans also like to see quality animation, and that's where the series fails to deliver. Complex movements, especially in battles, turn out clumsy, and anything involving magic is automatically ruined by swirly screensaver-like CGI backgrounds. In a series where action scenes are pivotal, nothing kills off the excitement like sloppy animation.
Surprisingly, the background music is one of the places where emotion doesn't go over the top. The gentle, piano-dominated pieces used during romantic or melancholy scenes are heartfelt, but never histrionic. The battle music is less enjoyable—most of it is nondescript, and it's hard to miss that unintentionally hilarious moment when Souma and Tsubasa face off to a deeply rhythmic dance beat. Dance beats are something best kept to opening and closing themes—KOTOKO performs both, bringing the right kind of energy to an adventure series.
Despite being given some very stilted dialogue (and most of it modified only slightly from the translation), the voice actors in the English dub still manage to express the sentiments of their characters. Michelle Ruff gives a standout performance as Chikane, walking the tricky line between her inner turmoil and outward aloofness. Steve Cannon does a capable Souma, although his battle cries aren't quite so convincing, while Jennifer Sekiguchi's Himeko is pitched very close to her Japanese counterpart but sometimes lacking in confidence. These three distinct voices complement each other well, while the supporting cast—most of them playing the Orochi—are just having all-out fun with the villainous roles.
Extras on the disc include a textless ending sequence and a short montage of video clips set to the opening song; collectors will also enjoy the slickly illustrated (and on one side, mildly suggestive) pencilboard that comes in the DVD case.
The middle episodes of Kannazuki no Miko represent a genuine turning point in the series: the romance and adventure storylines, once so disconnected, come together and swing the cosmic battle in a new direction. Unfortunately, that direction appears to be one that involves entire paragraphs of angst-ridden dialogue. Two people are in love with Himeko, only one can have her, and everyone is going to drone on and on about their feelings of desire and pain until someone dies from it (or the Orochi come back for another round of attacks). Should they fight for what they love and what they believe in? Absolutely! After all, more fighting means less talking, and anything that reduces the amount of talking in this series would help make it a lot more tolerable.
Overall (dub) : C-
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C
Animation : C-
Art : C
Music : B
+ Locks firmly into adventure mode and ramps up the romantic tension between the three main characters.
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