by Rebecca Silverman,

Kamisama Kiss

GN 7& 8

Kamisama Kiss GN 7 & 8
The time has come for the Kamuhakari at Izumo! Nanami must decide which of her shinshi will accompany her, and her decision does not make everyone happy. She's fairly confident it was the right one until she ends up trapped in the Land of the Dead trying to save a man named Kirihito. Who is this Kirihito guy, and why won't Izanami let him return to the world of the living? Meanwhile Tomoe has been very consistent in his denials of any sort of affection for Nanami. Doth the fox protest too much?

The kamuhakari, or gathering of the gods, at Izumo has been in the offing for a couple of volumes now, and with book seven of Julietta Suzuki's delightful series, it finally happens. Nanami won the right to go, and now she's ready to board the plane and get there. But naturally things cannot go so smoothly for her – the War Kami is less than thrilled at a human kami's presence and even the host of the event seems to have some reservations about her attendance. When she is asked to go clean up the area around the gate to the underworld, Nanami encounters Kirihito, a mysterious young man first mentioned by her rival Kayako. Kirihito falls into the Land of the Dead, and in an effort to save him, Nanami descends as well. Readers versed in Classical mythology will be hard pressed not to make comparisons with, for example, Persephone's or Orpheus and Eurydice's tales, and there certainly are similarities. Likewise readers familiar with Celtic fairy legends will find some similar ground, all of which makes this segment more folkloricly accessible than one might imagine. This is comforting since Viz does not provide any cultural glosses for most of the gods – they tell us that Izanami rules the underworld and how she got there (although they don't mention the whole incest angle of her myth), but that's about it. A little background would have been nice, even if Suzuki made most of her kami up out of whole cloth.

Tomoe fans will particularly enjoy these volumes, as the fox shinshi plays a fairly large role. Volume seven has Nanami tricking him into taking her to an amusement park and his part in the kamuhakari section is rewarding to both Nanami and loyal readers. As the cover of volume eight shows us, there is a return of his long-haired form, one which, regardless of how one feels about males with flowing locks, maintains his exquisite elegance and slightly haughty pre-Nanami demeanor. These are a very intense couple of books for him, and it is endearing to see his shell crack not just from annoyance or frustration with his kami's lack of this or that. Nanami we had an emotional handle on, and even Mizuki has been very clear that all he wants is somewhere to belong. Tomoe has maintained an emotional distance that is shortened this time around, yet without sacrificing the character that Suzuki has spent the last six books establishing. This is especially interesting when compared with Kirihito, a character who looks like he will be returning in future volumes, but for these two, the fox steals the show.

Suzuki's art gets a chance to shine this time with the kamuhakari scenes. While an early chapter about Mizuki and Mamoru hitting the town allows her to take the story into the modern world, she is really at her best when depicting the different gods and their shinshi, not to mention their surroundings. The god at whose shrine the gathering is held, for example, combines aspects of ancient Japanese dress (his pants) with more contemporary accents (his cape) while still being utterly flamboyant. This is true of most of the gods, with certain Natsume's Book of Friends aspects such as masks also turning in an appearance. While these chapters do get more crowded with both drawings and tone, they also give off an air of the otherworldly, lending Nanami's journey a more mystical aspect than a conference, supernatural or not, might otherwise have. Also worthy of mention are the splash pages for these two books, which are mostly very attractive and interesting, a bit moreso than is typical. One in volume eight is especially adorable, featuring a slightly SD Nanami hugging both of her shinshi, who are drawn in like format, with the facial expressions making the image.

It is easy to see why Kamisama Kiss made YALSA's list of Great Graphic Novels for Teens. It is a warm story with plenty of heart and other emotional content, while also maintaining a lighthearted, fun air. Even when Tomoe's troubled past is touched upon, or tragedy occurs, Julietta Suzuki's tale manages to retain its charming air. Nanami is, as Suzuki realizes to her surprise, stubborn, but in a way that allows her to be strong and get things done. With these volumes we learn that she can give the same interest and depth to other characters as well, and when the last page is turned, readers are left eagerly awaiting the release of volume 9.

Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : A-

+ Good development for both Tomoe and Kirihito, interesting visuals for the gods. Good forward movement in the plot.
Some background on Japanese gods would have been nice, even if only to say that Suzuki made stuff up.

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Story & Art: Julietta Suzuki

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