I remain fully vested in Kamisama Dolls, despite it’s somewhat schizoid presentation to the viewer thus far. The sixth episode is by far the most quiet and reflective, and probably the most tonally consistent of the series.
The return to Karakami Village was neither as uncomfortable or dramatic as I expected, but I don’t consider that a bad thing. Things have mostly been intense for six episodes so a little normalcy (or what passes for it in this mythology) feels like a refreshing change of pace. One thing we certainly get for our money here is a large cast, and there’s a whole stable of Karakami oddballs to be added to the ones we’ve already met in Tokyo. For starters, there’s the Somaki Clan, the craftsmen whose role is the care and repair of the Kekkashi. Grandpa is so soft-spoken that he needs loud-mouthed daughter Moyako (Takagaki Ayahi) to interpret his profanity-laced diatribes. Younger sister Yurako (Yamaguchi Rie) is yet another Utao-taku, and her antics do call up some of the sillier and less effective moments of the series. We also spend a bit more time with the Kuga parents, neither of whom make much of an impression.
Both Kyouhei and especially Utao are keen to learn more about Kirio, but their father will only tell them they need to talk to his father, the head of the Kuga Clan. Kyouhei rails at his father’s seeming lack of interest in his own son, but this does effectively play up the iron control the village exerts over its residents, even when their own children are concerned. Kuga Ojii-san is a dour old bastard, but at least he doesn’t beat Utao bloody with a stick for her failures in hunting down Aki. He reveals much that we suspected – Kirio is her twin (younger) and was taken away to be raised in secret by the Hyuga for reasons he’s not willing to share.
There’s some additional fluff involving a flight on Kukkuri which seems mostly an excuse for some slapstick involving Hibino’s clothes being yanked off, but the compelling parts of the episode are elsewhere. As we progress, I find myself liking all the characters, but the ones whose arcs really interest me are Kirio and Aki. I love pathos and these two have it in plenty, and I sense that both are far more victim than villain. Kirio especially seems to have had a raw deal, but he’s apparently caught a break in being partnered with Kochirou. He takes the boy home to stay with he and wife Kii-chan (another damn K name!). Kochirou might just be the first person in his life to treat Kirio with any kindness, and the ugly ones on his back are clearly not the only scars the little boy has to bear. If he’s jealous of the love that’s showered on Utao – and he certainly is – who could blame him? I don’t think Kyouhei and Utao are going to let this go – that sibling story is going to be an important piece of the story over the second half.
As for Aki, while he’s again missing in body, his presence is stamped all over the story. Everyone asks after him for their own reasons, and when Moyako takes Hibino to the telepathic forest where the Kamu ni Chi – the “God’s Blood” sap that the wood of the Kekkashi is soaked in to give it its magical power – Hibino sees a vision of Aki as a young boy with his dog and is overcome with sadness. Whether Hibino is especially receptive or merely over-sensitive due to having been absent from her home for entire life, the message is clear – there’s so damn much we don’t know about Aki. He’s clearly at the center of much of the psychic trauma that runs through this story.
Kamisama Dolls isn’t perfect. The antics with Utao can still be too self-aware, and not all of the comedy is effective. But in general, the series has done a fantastic job piecing together and complex, atmospheric and fascinating story peopled by a diverse and appealing cast. I appreciate series that can offer a split dynamic between urban and rural – Zettai Shounen comes to mind – and whether in Tokyo or Karakami this is interesting stuff.