Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Returned from the past and reunited with Tomoe, Nanami is looking forward to living the romantic life with her love. Tomoe, for his part, wishes that he had her to himself like he did 500 years ago, especially when Mizuki enrolls in school as well. Then on their class trip to Okinawa reality intrudes in the form of Kirihito. He's stolen a goddess' feathered robe in order to retrieve his real body, and the angry yokai captures Nanami's friend Ami in retaliation. How far will Nanami go to help Kirihito and save Ami? Whatever the answer, it will almost certainly be “too far” as far as Tomoe is concerned...
For many book series, manga or otherwise, the fulfillment of the romance plot or subplot marks the end of the story. In Julietta Suzuki's Kamisama Kiss, that does not appear to be the case – volume seventeen got Tomoe to finally admit his feelings while Nanami learned the truth about his love from five hundred years ago, and the two at long last got together. The series, however, did not end, and now Suzuki must shift focus back to Nanami's duties as a tochigami to move things along. While some readers may be perfectly happy pretending volume seventeen was the last, and this latest one does feel a bit slow in comparison, Nanami herself is a good enough character and her navigation of the godly realms is interesting enough that it doesn't feel like the series is being dragged out.
The first part of the book is devoted to wrapping up things from the previous arc, with Tomoe essentially grumbling that Mizuki and school are ruining his lovey-dovey time with Nanami. Nanami, on the other hand, is on cloud nine, skipping through life (literally) with a goofy smile on her face and a general air of delight. That changes when Mikage, who appears to be staying put at the shrine for the time being, sees her grades and declares that she may not go on her school trip unless they improve. This is an interesting decree in a couple of ways, not the least of which is that Mikage seems to have zero interest in reclaiming his position as land god – he's just hanging out while Nanami handles things. It would seem that he has more investment in raising her, so to speak; while he has acted in a fatherly way before, now he is truly taking over that empty spot in her life, and it is clear that she's calling him her “foster father” to her friends. Despite the fact that he's making her study harder than she has been and that he is setting rules for her, Nanami doesn't appear to have an issue with Mikage's new (or at least more emphasized) role in her life, and indication that she really is still a child even though she's been on her own for quite a while. His steady presence and rules may be giving her the sense of safety that she had been lacking, allowing her to indulge in her school life and to be excited about her newly solidified romance; in other words, to be the teenage girl she hasn't really been able to be.
Mikage's parental presence does not, however, curb her willingness to carry out her godly duties or her feelings of needing to do as much as she can to help people. On the trip to Okinawa, she wanders into a story out of global mythology: someone has stolen the feathered robe of the mermaid yokai Unari, and she has kidnapped Ami and caused a horrible storm in retaliation. The story of the otherworldly maiden who has her magical garment stolen is one which exists all over the world as a celestial or swan maiden or a seal woman (selkie), and some readers may remember it as the base story of Yu Watase's Ayashi no Ceres, so Suzuki's use of it here adds an air of familiarity to the story. Unlike in most folkloric texts, however, it turns out that the robe has been stolen not to keep the maiden bound to a human husband, but because it has magical properties. Kirihito, who is Akura-O in a sickly human body, has been appearing sporadically since his introduction, and now this robe represents his latest (and possibly last) hope of finding his original body in the land of the dead. It's an interesting change to the fairy tale, and it gives Nanami a better reason to be invested in its retrieval...and in Kirihito's failing health. While her choices – all made in the interest of saving Ami, the friend who has really stood by her since the series' start – may not strike us as all that brilliant, they are very much in line with Nanami as a character, and not all that different from what she was doing in the past. That remains one of the triumphs of this series – Nanami grows in strength and knowledge, but she never fundamentally changes from who she is in volume one: a character who does her best for others, even if it isn't the best thing for her. It may be this personality that drew Mikage to her in the first place, and also which is currently keeping him around in a parental role, especially since this little stunt may prove more dangerous to her than most of her previous ones.
With the story moving along at a good clip and both of Nanami's friends beginning to play a bigger role, Kamisama Kiss continues to be a delightful series. Suzuki's art is more refined and she's taking more risks with Nanami's appearance, while Tomoe's now fully-engaged emotions are allowing him to play a slightly different role in the story, or at least give us the opportunity to view his actions a little differently. The stakes are quite high as this volume ends, proving that even though one of the central plot points has gotten some resolution, there's still a lot of tale left to tell in Nanami's life.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : A-
+ Use of the feathered robe tale is unusual and interesting, increased role for Nanami's friends. Tomoe's reactions are quite entertaining, Mikage's new fatherly role works well.
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