by Rebecca Silverman,

Kamisama Kiss

GN 13

Kamisama Kiss GN 13
Himemiko's wedding to Nishiki is imminent, but the ayakashi is still deeply in love with Kotaro, her human boyfriend. Will Ryu-Oh's intervention help or hinder things? And if Nanami doesn't want to perform the service, what depths will Nishiki's devoted manservant Shiranui stoop too...and is Tomoe aware of it?

To say that Nanami's relationship with her shinshi Tomoe, a wild fox yokai made reluctantly tame, is complicated would be putting it mildly. Nanami has had feelings for her disdainfully elegant companion since the beginning of Julietta Suzuki's romantic fantasy, but Tomoe himself has been much harder to read, concealing his emotions behind a veneer of snideness or indifference. Things get a chance to change, however, with this volume's double plot devices of Himemiko's wedding to Nishiki, another swamp ayakashi, and body swapping, with Shiranui attempting to circumvent Nanami's reluctance to officiate the ceremony by giving her body to a yokai.

This volume is mostly about emotions, with Himemiko's regret at doing what she believes is best for Kotaro by leaving him, Nishiki discovering what emotions really are all about, and Tomoe's struggles with the not-Nanami who is far more aggressive than her real-life counterpart. The Himemiko/Kotaro/Nishiki storyline is the most satisfying of the three, although it is not without its bittersweet moments. In some ways, that is what makes it the best developed in the volume. As Shakespeare said, “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,” and this is something that the trio learns well over the course of the volume. To say that there is no parallel being set up between Himemiko and Kotaro's relationship and Nanami's and Tomoe's would be short-sighted, although Suzuki does do a decent job of keeping it subtle or at least out of the spotlight. The way that Himemiko and Kotaro care about each other is sweet as only shoujo romance can be, and in this case that sweetness serves to teach Nishiki a gentle lesson. The same cannot be said of his devoted shinshi Shiranui, whose own strong feelings for his deity prevent him from really understanding the significance of the way things turn out. Whether this is as deliberate as Tomoe's refusal to consider unusual relationships or simply the result of what is essentially cultural brainwashing is difficult to tell; the simple fact of the matter is that Shiranui is blind to all possibilities outside of his own understanding of how things are supposed to work.

As for Tomoe, to whom this volume really belongs, it is clear that he must fully remember and understand his own past with the mysterious human woman before he can truly move on as a character. While this can be frustrating, it is also an interesting process to watch as it develops, and volume thirteen does begin to really touch on this at the end. We don't get a lot of Tomoe's thoughts, so it is difficult to tell whether or not his is really aware of what is going on for most of this book – Mizuki is clearly in the “Tomoe's a moron” camp, which does make us question Tomoe's grasp of the situation – and that uncertainty adds to the question of his true feelings. As to how he will react when he really does acknowledge a variety of things, well, we still can't be entirely certain. Suzuki keeps Tomoe fairly close to her chest as a character, giving us only limited glimpses of his real emotions, and that is part of what makes him so fascinating as both a character and a romantic lead. It can also make him come off as a total jerk part of the time, which is a problem inherent in romance heroes, but Suzuki gets away with playing that aspect off for laughs fairly well.

Suzuki's art continues to work well with the story, particularly in the case of Nanami's transformation. Her real body looks eerily different when housing someone else thanks to a good use of both clothing and body language, and the body holding Nanami's soul is not quickly forgotten. Likewise Himemiko's human and ayakashi appearances are both recognizably her, which adds to the sweetness of her relationship with Kotaro. Tomoe's body language is another standout, and if Suzuki's art occasionally suffers from stiffness and blank expressions, for the most part it keeps the story moving nicely.

Kamisama Kiss remains a story that is equal parts fun, romantic, and fascinating. With some additional development for Tomoe (and his relationship with Nanamis past and present), a chance for Mizuki to go off on his own and do some investigating, and a nice parallel in romances, Julietta Suzuki's tale is still a treat to read and looks like it will be able to remain so for volumes to come.

Production Info:
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B

+ Good use of parallels in relationships, not just the romantic ones. Tomoe's character is becoming less elusive while still retaining its attractive mystery.
Some stiff art and blank faces hold the story back a bit, Nanami is a little too absent for most of the book.

Story & Art: Julietta Suzuki

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Kamisama Kiss (manga)

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