Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Kamigami no Asobi: Ludere deorum
Sub.Blu-Ray - [Complete Collection]
Yui Kusanagi is an ordinary high school girl who lives at her family's temple. One day when she's in the shrine's storage shed, she finds a beautiful sword, which instantly transports her to a mysterious school filled with exquisite young men. It turns out that all of the boys are gods from various pantheons, and Zeus has brought them all there to learn about the human heart so that the gods and people might better understand one another. It's Yui's job to make sure that this happens – thus beginning a magical school life in the tabletop garden of the gods.
Who needs fractured fairy tales when you can have mangled mythology? Welcome to Kamigami no Asobi, an otome game-based series that throws together gods from the Shinto, Greek, Norse, and Egyptian pantheons in a magical high school setting alongside an Ordinary Japanese Schoolgirl, whose job it is to help the gorgeous young (looking) gods to better understand the human heart. You're going to want to turn off your knowledge of mythology to enjoy this one, as the series plays fast and loose with Greek and Norse tales, but if you can get past that, this is one of the more entertaining reverse harem shows of recent years.
Our heroine in this adventure is Yui Kusanagi, whose family runs a Shinto shrine. One day after school she goes into the storage shed and finds a glowing sword. When she touches it, she's whisked away to another world. It turns out that the sword is the Ama-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi, the sword found by Susano-o in the Orochi myth, which anime fans may know as the source story for Blue Seed. It has somehow allowed Zeus, the Greek god, to summon her to his magical school for training gods to understand humans, and now her job is to work with all of the lovely young gods so that they can “graduate” and...successfully work with their followers? That part's a little unclear, but in short order Yui is interacting with Greek gods Apollon (an alternate but valid spelling of Apollo), Hades, and Dionysus, Norse gods Loki, Thor, and Balder, and Shinto gods Susano-o and Tsukuyomi. Their teacher is Thoth, Egyptian god of wisdom, and Anubis is randomly running around annoying the viewers. Over the course of twelve episodes Yui and the gods enjoy fun activities like a school festival, a school play, a school trip, and, inexplicably, Christmas. Meanwhile all of them fall in love with her and Balder almost brings about Ragnarok while Apollon conveniently rewrites the Cassandra story to make him a viable romantic option.
Yui is part of what makes this series work. She has more in common with reverse harem heroines like Kahoko from La Corda D'Oro than Nameless Girl from Amnesia in that she has both a brain and a personality, both of which she uses in her work with the gods. When something makes her uncomfortable, she lets us know, and she tries to accommodate the different needs of the gods with Zeus' stated goal while never forgetting that she does, in fact, have a family she'd like to go back to. The fact that her family runs a Shinto shrine that appears to have Susano-o's sword, which he gave to his sister Amaterasu, who bequeathed it to her descendants, makes her a logical choice for Zeus' plan, particularly since I don't know of many well-known or “mainstream” religions besides Shintoism which pass leadership down along the family line, and her family name, Kusanagi, is actually the name of another one of the swords from the same myth, once again implying a relationship between her and the Shinto pantheon. Interestingly enough, she also might be counted as the third Shinto being in the school, since every other student-represented pantheon has three gods to Shintoism's two.
The plot itself is a mix of standard school anime storylines, reverse harem moments when Yui gets to have private time with the guys who have the most romantic potential, and some odd reworking of familiar myths. The two which get the most notable treatment are “The Death of Baldr the Beautiful” and the story of Cassandra of Troy, with the latter clearly having been retrofitted to make Apollon seem like romance material and thereby conveniently leaving out the bit where Cassandra rejects him and he curses her with foresight as punishment. (Thinking about it, the Greek gods weren't a great choice for a romance anime.) The reworking of the Norse myth is largely concerned with Loki and Balder's relationship, with Kamigami no Asobi striving to make Loki a more likable trickster figure who really cares about people, most specifically Balder. This tramples all over portions of the Ragnarok myth as well, and while I admire the attempt at bringing in aspects of the gods' stories, it doesn't quite work, either as plot fodder or mythological storytelling, although it does set Balder and Loki up as a lovely couple.
It is worth noting that Apollon is presented as the lead contender for Yui's heart, and that he is much more similar to Tamaki from Ouran High School Host Club than the typical reverse harem heartthrob. Both his and moon god Tsukuyomi's portrayals make it look like their sisters got all the brains in the family, and it feels like Balder is the most fleshed-out character in terms of personality, with Loki a close second. Probably the most amusing of the cast, however, is Hades; really pay attention to his lines towards the end as he tries to come out of the background. His is the stand-out voice as well, with Daisuke Ono's morose delivery suiting the character perfectly.
Visually, there's lots of fanservice here, with an abundance of male flesh on display, including the elusive male nipple, and if the bodies aren't particularly well-formed from an anatomical perspective, they still look quite nice on the screen. Backgrounds in Zeus' tabletop garden are distinctly phallic (look at those rock formations), and the colors are bright and attractive. Humor is also well presented in the art, especially Apollon's Christmas candles, which may give you nightmares, and the eventual usefulness of Thoth's favorite speaking position, which actually does come in handy in the final episode. The major visual quibble I had was Apollon's godly form, which incorporates more elements of East Asian mythology than Greek, specifically his floating halo/scarf. More appealingly, when the gods are out of their uniforms relaxing, they're shown wearing the traditional garb of their countries, which is a nice touch.
In terms of reverse harems, Kamigami no Asobi is one of the fun ones, with a heroine who has more going for her than blind luck, a varied cast of divine suitors, and an effort put in to make it all make sense. While it doesn't always succeed on that last part, particularly in terms of source mythology, it does succeed in being entertaining, which really ought to be its ultimate goal. Sentai Filmworks has done a nice job with the translation, especially when puns are made in Japanese; it really feels like they try to make a similar joke in the subtitles. The use of the term “fae” for “yosei-san,” Apollon's nickname for Yui, worked for me, although I could easily see it annoying others; I probably would have preferred “Baldr” or “Baldur” as the romanization of that god's name, but in the end, both of those are cases of personal preference and Sentai's choices do hold up. This may be a silly show, but it's one that clearly put some thought into its story and it makes for a satisfying and entertaining twelve episodes.
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B-
Art : B-
Music : B-
+ Fun story, heroine who has an actual brain and personality. Attempts were made to incorporate the root mythologies, puns largely translated well.
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