After rediscovering my love of anime many years separated from my high school anime club, I was inspired to share it with my wife who had never before watched anime. In what I hope to be a series of articles for AniTAY, we will chronicle the shows that captured and held both of our interests. It can be a struggle to find anime that will appeal to the uninitiated and cross the gender gap, hopefully these articles can help you discover quality shows that you can watch confidently with your significant other.
To date we have watched and generally enjoyed Fruits Basket, Ouran High School Host Club, Inu X Boku SS, Zakuro, and Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun. However, not every anime we try works for us. Sabagebu!, Diabolik Lovers, and My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU were unceremoniously dropped before being finished.
This is not a formal review, but rather a more intimate look at what the two of us found enjoyable or otherwise, collaboratively written from both our viewpoints. Aestevalis has written the official AniTAY reviews of Season 1 and Season 2.
Kamisama Kiss follows the adventures of Nanami Momozono, a young high-school girl who through happenstance becomes a land goddess for a decrepit shrine after being evicted from her apartment. From there, she meets, befriends, and falls for her fox yokai familiar, Tomoe, all while having modern-day mystical adventures with an ever expanding cast of entertaining supporting characters. Fans of the first season will be pleased that the second season picks up almost exactly after the cliffhanger of the first season. This season follows the continued progression of both Nanami’s godhood and her romantic interest with Tomoe. Complicating matters is a still expanding cast of supporting characters and existing characters which have varying degrees of romantic inclination towards the titular heroine. Will Tomoe admit his feelings for Nanami to himself and to her in time, or will she be swept away from his embrace by another suitor whilst he pretends not to care?
Kamisama Kiss’s main strength is that nearly every character is enjoyable, and it’s almost a shame that there isn’t enough screen time for them all. While the relationship between Nanami and Tomoe is standard Shoujo fare, their interactions with the rest of the cast makes for a good light-hearted romp. Additionally, season 2 doubles down on the modern-day mysticism. The series takes a welcome break from the high school drama presented within the first season to instead further explore Nanami’s abilities and duties as a goddess. Scenery and situations are much more akin to the series opening that depicted Nanami and Tomoe in the ‘other’ world. This helps breathe life into a series that could have fallen flat treading on tired ‘magical girl in school’ tropes. Throughout Nanami remains an excellent vehicle to introduce the viewer to the strange world inhabited by gods, demons, and yokai. However, the viewer is finally rewarded with Nanami becoming more adept as a land goddess, as she learns to stand on her own apart from the always ready-to-protect Tomoe.
While the developing relationship between Nanami and Tomoe is present throughout the series, the second season focuses on developing depth and motivation for the characters introduced within the first season. This is a strategy I greatly appreciated, as it took the focus off the more Shoujo-like aspects of the series. Did you think Shinjirō Kurama, the tengu masquerading as a ‘fallen angel’, was a one-joke comic relief character? Now you can see what he was running from and partly why he is the way he is. Did you question Mikage’s reasons for abandoning his shrine and Tomoe? Now you get to see him explain his rationale to Nanami. Ever wonder why Tomoe is so standoff-ish and conflicted about his feelings for Nanami? Now you get filled in on what might be driving those feelings. All of these developments might be lost on a viewer who has not seen season 1, so I recommend starting from the beginning if possible.
If you watched the first season, you were left with a sweet, tender moment shared between Tomoe and Nanami. This left you wanting more!!! The second season gave me that ‘more’ that I was looking for. We got to see the bonding of the two love birds and were given more insight into Tomoe’s inner struggle with having ‘the hots’ for a human. Let’s be serious though... What is more romantic than a mystical fox-like creature trying to hide his googly, love struck glances from our unassuming, inexperienced, totally oblivious girl? Ummm...nothing! Their relationship is similar to that of Bella and Edward from Twilight: Brooding male with a hero complex and seemingly regular girl with secret ‘superpower’. LOVE IT.
The beginning of season 2 feels radically different from season 1. Although the voice actors remain the same, their characters sound different. Additionally, the dialogue and pacing for season 2 is faster than that of season 1, giving the feeling that the episodes are rushing along. There are a slew of other stylistic changes as well. Visual shorthand and increased character expressiveness make this season feel more ‘cartoony’ than the previous. The results are a bit jarring if you are entering season 2 fresh from season 1. Although we came to appreciate the new ‘style’ for season 2 once we acclimated to it, we both remarked on how different and unsettling the transition was at first.
Kamisama Kiss has a nasty habit of having the main characters relation develop by taking one step forwards, and then two steps back. The series itself opens with a kiss, but then both Nanami and Tomoe retreat from that act. Although it is understandable near the beginning of the series, after many episodes where it is clear the two of them have feelings for one another it would be nice to see some further development. I understand that the glacial pace and the ‘will they / won’t they’ aspect is partly a mainstay of the shoujo genre, but from my standpoint it was annoying. If you’re looking for characters to develop past the initial point of admitting their feelings to one another, you’re better off with another series.
Let me preface this... I love all tiny, cute animals in anime. I am a fan of any furball that can fit into your pocket and will pop its little head with a squeak for a snack. What I am NOT a fan of is the tiny animal turning into a wily boy child! I was so excited when I saw Nanami with a tiny monkey as a companion. I was super disappointed when the little guy turned into BIG guy. He was helpful during Nanami’s times of duress, but I’m sure he would have been just as effective in his original form.
Kamisama Kiss is an entertaining shoujo anime with enough interesting elements to appeal to both fans of the genre and those who aren’t. As there is no fanservice, comedy that survives translation, and an equal smattering of romance and action, we feel that Kamisama Kiss is a safe bet for sharing with your own romantic partner. Results may vary.
Kamisama Kiss can be watched on Hulu streaming service. Kamisama Kiss (Kamisama Hajimemashita in Japan) is based on a manga series by Julietta Suzuki and serialized by Hakusensha in the shōjo manga magazine Hana to Yume. The series is licensed for regional release in North America by Viz Media as part of their Shojo Beat imprint.