In this era of “genre” dominating seemingly all anime discussions, sometimes a series comes along that’s just a good, solid anime. It does things you can’t do in live-action, dabbles in sci-fi as anime used to do so often, and offers a well-produced final product with genuinely interest characters and premise. And Kamisama Dolls is definitely such a series.
I officially really like this show. It’s smart but doesn’t make you think too much, keeps it’s mysteries but not so much that you’re clueless about what’s developing. And, critically, something both interesting and important seems to happen every week. There was a whole lot of development here, starting with a truly well-staged combat sequence between the Utau/Kukkuri and Kirio/Takemikazuchi tag teams. I loved the way it was made abundantly clear that despite the power on display, these were still very much little kids fighting (apparently they’re 12, though I’d have pegged Utao no older than 10). Their impulses and emotions governed their decisions, starting with the fact that they just about irretrievably blew the cover of secrecy off the whole kekkashi thing. I suspect that will be big trouble later on.
The most interesting element of that fight for me was how the good guys won it. It seems odd that Utao, flustered as she was, would have been suddenly able to pull off a brand new move to absorb Takemikazuchi’s lightning with Kukkuri. Rather, what I suspect is that Kyouhei stepped in as the Seki for a few seconds when the decision was on the line – he used to be Kukkuri’s partner, after all. But that isn’t made clear just yet. What is made clear is that Kirio’s enthusiasm for the fight has caused major headaches for all of them, not least Kochirou, who’s still tasked with finding Aki and hasn’t succeeded. It’s big trouble for the “winners” too, as their kekkashi is wounded as well, and all parties have to go back to the village with their tails between their legs. Hibino begs her way into the party, curious about her heritage but woefully unprepared for the mountain roads to the village.
I suspected a return to Karakami (another bloody “K” name!) would be in store, though it’s happened sooner than I expected. Here we meet a flood of new additions to this already large and interesting cast – a classmate of Kyouhei’s he meets on the road, the head of the Hyuga family, a Miko in his household. The Hyuga head is a bit of an old rotter – he beats Kirio bloody with his walking stick until Kochirou intervenes on his behalf and rescues the boy. It’s revealed that Kirio was raised secretly by the Hyuga patriarch, likely because he and Utao were able to communicate with kekkashi from the womb and were thus foretold to be great seki-to-be. But if he’s indeed Utao’s twin, why where they separated – to keep balance between the Kuga and Hyuga, perhaps? And why was Kirio raised in secret while Utao was raised in the open like a normal child?
What’s revealed here, in part, is some of the reason why Kirio resents Utao so much. Obviously his childhood has been a misery, while Utao has been raised by a loving family and called “Utao-sama” by the village. He’s going to be a key player going forward, it’s easy to see – yet another villain in this series who’s more victim that villain. That seems to be a recurring theme here – the heroes aren’t so heroic (Kyouhei has a dark past, that’s certain) and the baddies aren’t all bad. Kirio is a defenseless child raised to be a bloodthirsty warrior, and if he’s indeed Kyouhei and Utao’s sibling I can’t see them accepting this treatment of him. And then there’s the matter of that super-kekkashi Amaterasu the Hyuga are hiding in the basement, looking like something out of Evangelion. It’s the reason Kiri was groomed, apparently, as no Seki so far has been able to control it.
If I were to hazard a guess, perhaps the Hyuga have tired of a long-standing state of balance between the two families and keeping the village’s powers hidden. Perhaps their sadistic old patriarch has decided it’s time to crush the Kuga and exert their power over the outside world. Kirio was groomed for it, they tried to recruit Aki for it.
In any case, Kamisama Dolls has done an outstanding job of pacing these events to make each episode both satisfying on its own and a great teaser for what’s to come. This show has a big plot that doesn’t feel overwhelming – it’s one I really wish had two cours, because there’s a ton of potential storylines here. Not as flashy as Penguin Drum or as heartwarming as Usagi Drop, Natsume Yuujinchou or Ikoku Meiro, Kamisama Dolls is nevertheless quietly working it’s way into the top tier of summer shows.