After a series of circumstances involving her father’s crippling gambling addiction that led to her inevitable eviction, Nanami Momozono has since become the new Land God of the Mikage Shrine. Originally struggling to fulfil the duties of a god, Nanami faced tribulations involving numerous beings brought straight out of Japanese mythology before she finally grew accustomed to her role. With this newfound confidence, along with the steady increase of her divine powers, Nanami finds herself becoming more and more involved with the world of the supernatural. Her invitation to the annual congregation of the gods is only the beginning, as a mysterious human with a surprisingly vast amount of knowledge and a keen interest pertaining to the Netherworld is thrown into the mix. Kamisama Kiss takes a ridiculous story and adds a few boys to shake things up with the female protagonist, altogether creating a wonderfully refreshing take on the romance genre.
The first season did a fantastic job establishing the setting and introducing major characters. Capitalising on this, the second season goes more in depth into the development of characters and begins to create an overarching story. Though you’ll find yourself engrossed in the the hectic life of Nanami the god, there’s plenty to garner your attention in the life of Nanami the high school girl as well. Kamisama Kiss is one of those oddities in anime that I really enjoy, but can’t quite figure out why it’s so popular. At times, it almost seems old-fashioned when compared to other leading anime in the romance genre, or even when compared to modern anime in general. Perhaps it’s the simple design of characters that become so much more vibrant when placed in the stunning environments exhibited in the show that puts it at the lead of the pack. Whatever the case, Kamisama Kiss does it right.
The overall charm of the show derives immensely from the simple style that is employed by the studio. TMS Entertainment is a studio that has been responsible for many of my personal favourite shows, one example being Gugure Kokkuri-san, which shares many similarities with the style of Kamisama Kiss. Often displaying humorous and over-exaggerated expressions, the characters are portrayed in a way that is not always relatable, but persistently charming. Seeing the main characters constantly deflate and explode in fits of emotion is complimented through the chibi-like forms that they sometimes devolve to. These moments help to accentuate the beautiful settings and character design that is seldom seen. Though infrequent, these scenes are masterfully crafted in a way that doesn’t downplay the simpler parts that are shown more often, altogether creating a perfect balance that is easy to appreciate.
Unlike many shows of the same genre, Kamisama Kiss treats all of its characters with the same respect that it does the main two, providing intriguing backstory and relevant development to characters you would normally expect to be introduced and forgotten almost immediately. Going so far as to portray the antagonist as somewhat endearing, the show has definitely made good use of its full cast of characters, to the point that I can’t say there wasn’t a single one that I didn’t find likeable. Well written dialogue also helps to drive this development forward, furthering the quality in a number of factors. With this heavy focus on characters the story benefits immensely.
When focusing solely on the romance aspect of the show, the story is more than a little lacklustre. Yet when the myriad of colourful and unique characters is brought to the forefront instead, Kamisama Kiss proves that it truly is more than just another generic romance anime. Of course, the new plot that only just begins to thrive is worthy of some praise in terms of helping to create an engrossing series, but the fact that it was never in any way resolved left me feeling somewhat let down. When you introduce some world-ending bad guy into your show I would expect something substantial to happen before the end. Instead, we’re given an, albeit interesting, backstory of what seems to be an evil denizen of the mythological world who starts to be influenced by the human world in a similar way that Nanami is influenced by the god’s world, and that’s it. The issue is dropped with barely a second thought. That being said, the little self-contained stories with the other characters are great, and I honestly appreciate the relevancy that all characters are given. Aside from the artificially awkward love that is shared between Nanami and Tomoe, as well as the unfinished greater plot point, the story is still enjoyable.
It’s simple and the romance leaves a little to be desired, but somehow Kamisama Kiss exceeds where others fail. I urge all entries into the romance genre to consider following in this show’s footsteps by putting more effort into the development of side characters, who are often more interesting than the main characters anyway. If nothing else then invest in a story that’s worth watching on its own; not every romance anime has to be a cookie cutter cliché that presents nothing of value except for a stock anime girl pining after a pretty anime boy. I consistently find myself watching these sort of shows expecting the worse and relishing in the trashiness of it, but Kamisama Kiss attests to the fact that a show doesn’t have to fit the mould to be enjoyable.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.