by Casey Brienza,

Kamichama Karin Chu

GN 1

Kamichama Karin Chu GN 1
Kazune Kujyou has returned home, and Karin Hanazono can't wait to get on with the business of living together with him. New adventures soon come a-calling, however, in the form of the diminutive Suzune, their child from the future. Suzune exhorts Karin awaken the Three Noble Gods in order to defeat the Seeds of Chaos. If they are not beaten in the present day, then the future will be in jeopardy. Kazune receives a ring and becomes Uranus, while Karin receives a clock that glows with the Gods are near and transforms her into Aphrodite. Eventually, it is discovered that popular teen idol Jin Kuga is Hades and longtime friend Michiru Nishikiori is Neptune. Can these Gods win the day—even when the clock is turned back on them or they are no longer together?

Due to various North American publishers' fluctuating relationship with Kodansha, Del Rey has been publishing popular mangaka first debuted by Tokyopop for several years now. Koge-Donbo's Kamichama Karin, however, is the first (and, hopefully, last) property to be split down the middle between the two companies. The original, seven-volume Kamichama Karin manga has been published in English by Tokyopop, while the sequel series Kamichama Karin Chu, where Chu is a pun on the number two and the sound of a kiss, has recently begun release from Del Rey. In Japan, both were originally serialized in the shoujo manga magazine Nakayoshi, with a ten month interval separating one from the other.

Although you can, theoretically, read Kamichama Karin Chu without having read its prequel, this would not be, generally speaking, advisable. The manga seems to assume that you already know who all of these characters are and why they matter…and if you don't, well, understanding why they are who they are and do what they do just is not Koge-Donbo's number one creative priority. For example, if you are wondering exactly how Kazune and Karin came to find out that they were actually husband and wife in another life (or something) and how Himeka (who the heck is she?) was their daughter, you are going to keep on wondering. Also, at one point late in the book, a quirky personage wearing eyeglasses and a cape hops down from a tree and accuses Karin of taking away his reason for living. He was a once-divine antagonist of some sort from the previous storyline, this much is clear, but you learn nothing else about him. Karin does not even address him by his real name! This bit of plot about “Glasses Man” just dangles alone in the atmosphere, completely unattached to other events in the new series. There is really no recap of the plot thus far anywhere in the first volume, and allusions to what happened before are frustratingly coy and vague.

On the other hand, fans of the franchise may be pleased to know that the new series gets right down to business without rehashing what has come before. Unfortunately, whether you care a whit about that business is another matter entirely. Never mind that the target audience here is elementary school girls. Even taking this inconvenient truth into account, the plot of Kamichama Karin Chu remains, to put it bluntly, exceptionally derivative and dumb. Purposefully so. The whole conceit about a future child of the heroine's materializing the past to warn the cast of present day threats has been ripped whole cloth from Sailor Moon. Yet after the three “Noble Gods” have been found and the characters' brief spell as kindergartners is over, the threat of the “Seeds of Chaos” is inexplicably forgotten, dropping so quickly off the face of the page that you will be reeling. Instead, the final third of volume one focuses on a bout of insipid relationship angst between Karin and Kazune. She thinks he is going to England to study abroad and, made miserable by the thought of being apart from him, is determined to stop him. Turns out, however, that everyone was confused and it is his sister, making her first appearance in the new series, that is going. It's a badly composed, pointless story that is bound to leave you feeling as irritable and confused as Karin herself. And because it comes at the end, you are bound to be left with an especially bad impression likely to discourage further reading. This is not parody. It is sloppy plotting. Plain and simple. If anything is being mocked here, it sure as heck is not the magical girl genre—it's the readers hoping for an interesting, coherent storyline.

Of course, for many, “reading” per se was never the point in the first place. Koge-Donbo first made a name for herself in moé character design, and it is for this, not her gripping plots of nuanced character development, that fans flock to her banner. Fortunately, she delivers; Kamichama Karin Chu is chock-full of eye candy. Everybody and their cats are drawn with teeth-rotting cuteness. Huge eyes veritably quiver with moisture. Even all of the times Karin weeps and accuses Kazune of being a “male chauvinist pig” are supposed to inspire “Awww…!” from the readers. Moreover, costumes and layouts are dynamic, detailed, and reasonably fun…although if genuine, laugh out loud visual gags and slapstick seem to have been left behind in the mangaka's other pencil case. As has pretty much all the dramatic tension—but hopefully you will be too busy squeeing to notice.

Overall : C+
Story : C-
Art : B+

+ Super-cute artwork and even more of what made the first Kamichama Karin a fan-favorite.
Umm...even more of what made the first Kamichama Karin a fan-favorite. Can you stomach it?

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Story & Art: Koge Donbo

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