Kamisama Dolls – 07

[HorribleSubs] Kamisama Dolls - 07 [720p].mkv_snapshot_00.43_[2011.08.16_19.40.02] [HorribleSubs] Kamisama Dolls - 07 [720p].mkv_snapshot_01.31_[2011.08.16_19.40.50] [HorribleSubs] Kamisama Dolls - 07 [720p].mkv_snapshot_03.38_[2011.08.16_19.42.57]
[HorribleSubs] Kamisama Dolls - 07 [720p].mkv_snapshot_06.38_[2011.08.16_19.45.58] [HorribleSubs] Kamisama Dolls - 07 [720p].mkv_snapshot_06.59_[2011.08.16_19.46.18] [HorribleSubs] Kamisama Dolls - 07 [720p].mkv_snapshot_09.21_[2011.08.16_19.48.41]

When I said “This is my pick for sleeper of the season” in my Summer Preview, I don’t think even I expected Kamisama Dolls to become the series it has.  Surely, with this week’s episode KamiDolls has set a new standard and redefined itself as a series.  Wow.

I hardly know where to begin in trying to describe just why this episode was so spectacular.  It was fearless, beautiful, tragic and horrifying all in turn.  Even in a show that had already revealed hidden depths in its first six episodes, nothing prepared me for the sheer weight of this one.  There were tantalizing hints dropped in those earlier eps about what might have brought matters to where they stand today, but the events themselves  far exceeded normal anime clichés.  In the end it all fit together perfectly and explained much of the subtly tragic undertone that runs through the series.

It came as no surprise to me that Aki was a victim first, a killer second – though the lines are still blurry even now.  He was a bastard of the Kuga family, who somehow managed to find himself as Seki for Kuramitsuha, a role that by rights should have gone to eldest legitimate brother Atsushi.  Atsushi is a cruel, sadistic young man who isn’t afraid to abuse the power his status gives him, and harbors a deep resentment against Aki.  There are strong hints that Aki is abused mercilessly by Atsushi and his minions, with only Kyouhei as a friend, but the real impetus for tragedy is the arrival of a teacher from the outside world.  She’s Chihaya Senou (Nabei Makiko).  She immediately befriends Aki, forcing him to adopt a stray dog that had defended him, and immediately becomes the object of Kyouhei’s crush and gets on Atsushi’s bad side by refusing his advances.

Some of what follows is predictable.  Atsushi makes life difficult for Senou, and given that the Kuga and Hyuga run the village unchallenged he can make it very difficult indeed.  She’s shunned by the adults, who pull many of her students out of school.  But here’s where things go off the script.  Senou is no angel – she was fired for sleeping with a student’s father, and the boy became so upset that he ran into the street and was injured by a car.  That’s why she can’t find work anywhere else – and to make matters worse, she falls in love with Aki, who reminds her of her lover’s son.  They sleep together, and when word of that gets back to the Principal her job is forfeit.  Not only is Aki underage, but his name is poison in the village.  That’s pretty edgy material indeed – but the tragic events that follow from Atsushi’s petty attempt at revenge far exceed anything we’ve seen in the series to this point.  They’re so terrible, in fact, that they cause Kyouhei to stop being a Seki.

Stop me here if you saw all that coming – I certainly didn’t, even with the clues we’d been offered.  I deeply admire the ability of this series to shift between moods and styles so effortlessly, though not all feel the same way.  Even so, this was an order of magnitude apart – it many ways the episode felt like an extremely dark Ghibli film.  The animation was lush and fluid, showing the innocence that was lost as expertly as the tragedy that destroyed it.  The insert song contributed to that feel, and the absence of an OP or ED added to the impression of something completely apart from the rest of the series.  In essence, this was all very adult – the events and motivations were darker and more complex than almost anything you’ll see in anime this year.  There were no shortcuts and no hedging of bets, or punches pulled.

I was also struck by the dramatically different portrayals of life in the village presented in the last two episodes, hardly accidental.  In episode six we saw a place that was strange, but seemed mostly harmless and even idyllic – where families love their kids and eccentric locals fill ancient roles in the odd hierarchy.  There was a hint of painful memories, but just a hint.  In this episode we saw a cruel and deadly place where the powerful abuse the powerless and rumor and gossip are wielded as a weapon, where the cruel can threaten their perceived enemies – and do worse – under the protection of their family name.   Last week Kyouhei might have seemed peevish, even petty for turning his back on the village – now, his decision is eminently understandable and even laudable.

Kamisama Dolls is a series that seems very ill-served by a one-cour format.  This is a huge story, layer upon layer of conflict and connections with a large and diverse cast.  So far at least it seems unwilling to settle for short-cuts and easy answers, so it’s hard to imagine things being wrapped up in a mere six episodes.   Aki may be a victim, but he’s also someone who was apparently stopped from being a Seki in the first place because he’d shown cruelty to animals.  There’s the matter of Kirio and his nightmare upbringing, still not fully explained.  How does the revelation of his real identity affect his status in the village, and what kind of relationship with he have with his siblings and parents?  There’s a hidden danger in the hands of the Hyuga, which was surely introduced for a purpose.  Kyouhei himself seems destined to take control of Kukkuri at some point, given that we’ve seen hints that he was the strongest Seki of them all – perhaps to combat that threat.   And that’s not even to consider what’s going to happen when most of the cast returns to Tokyo.

As much as I was invested in KamiDolls already, by proving itself capable of delivering something special like this the series has stamped itself as a highlight of the year.  Even if it never reaches that lofty height again, the emotional impact of everything that happens from here on out will be magnified by the credibility this episode earned.

[HorribleSubs] Kamisama Dolls - 07 [720p].mkv_snapshot_17.18_[2011.08.16_19.56.50] [HorribleSubs] Kamisama Dolls - 07 [720p].mkv_snapshot_18.40_[2011.08.16_19.58.12] [HorribleSubs] Kamisama Dolls - 07 [720p].mkv_snapshot_19.56_[2011.08.16_19.59.28]
[HorribleSubs] Kamisama Dolls - 07 [720p].mkv_snapshot_20.54_[2011.08.16_20.00.26] [HorribleSubs] Kamisama Dolls - 07 [720p].mkv_snapshot_22.43_[2011.08.16_20.02.16] [HorribleSubs] Kamisama Dolls - 07 [720p].mkv_snapshot_23.24_[2011.08.16_20.02.56]

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24 comments

  1. Note: Thanks to ZZHK at Animesuki for pointing out that you can tell from Kukkuri's music in this ep that it was indeed Kyouhei who manipulated it at the end of the Kirio battled in episode 5.

  2. l

    WOW, I will not look down on this series ever again. I promise. But who would have thought things would turn out this way. Certainly not me.

    Again always the bad boy that get the girl huh.

  3. N

    Wow… I was not looking forward to this ep due to thinking it would be centered oin Kyouhei and the Sensei with some cliche developments… but the fact that the techer was no angel, that she slept with Aki and the very potrayal of the village impressed me greately 😀

    Anyway, this ep sure raised the standards and lets hope the Anime team does a good AO ending here.

  4. S

    I was very much looking forward to seeing how BB will animate this arc and I must say I'm extremely impressed. I was expecting some form of sugar coating but they made it explicitly clear what was going on, even to the extend that Chihaya was raped. The whole flashback reminded me of "Majo no Jouken" (which is a must-watch J-Drama) but I find it very hard to sympathize with Chihaya and in many ways, she was clearly asking for trouble. Also, would like to point out that Kishi Seiji has done an excellent job with the pacing for Kamisama Dolls. They've left out some details from the manga but certainly kept the best parts in tact ;D

  5. t

    If you had told me this week's episode of Kami sama dolls was going to put me in more despair than this week's episode of steins gate I wouldn't have believed.

    Not that SG wasn't great but it's like you said,I didn't see it coming either,or rather,I expected tragedy what I didn't expect was the delivary of said tragedy to be so good.
    Props to the whole staff,now that challenge for them is to keep the momentum the show has now in the next episodes.

  6. Thanks for all the comments. Seishun, "no sugar coating" is a pretty good summation of what was so surprising and great about this episode. Chihaya certainly was treated shabbily, but she first slept with a student's father, and then with an underage kid – she's no angel, indeed. That's one of the things I like about K.D. – generally speaking, there's a lot of moral ambiguity to the characters.

    Hands up, any anime-only viewer who would have predicted this after the first episode. Not many shows have surprised me as often as this one has – and I was expecting it to be a good series.

  7. A

    ''It came as no surprise to me that Aki was a victim first, a killer second – though the lines are still blurry even now.''

    I sort of muddled up my responses on Animesuki (writing a long post 3 AM in the morning = not the best idea) but now that I had some time to cool off, I don't think the line blurred as much as it got removed in this episode.

    I made the case that a lot of what Aki is like had to do more with him possessing Kuramitsuha had contributed to the state of mind he was in back during the start of the series (because he felt like it was part of his soul) but I now think Kuramitsuha's effect on Aki's life goes beyond just him bonding on almost psychological levels.

    I think it's clear that Aki is a very talented and powerful Seki, and that him being Kuramitsuha's partner was not only suitable, but logical. You want the best to handle such powerhouses, and considering how badly Atsushi was using Kuramitsuha, it made sense for Aki to not only start to harbor resentment for the way he's been isolated, but also for taking away his power.

    Sure, he's been showing signs of being deranged early on (or so we've heard. He had been killing animals when he was young, but what sort of animals though? And was he provoked into killing them, such as to protect his life, or was it for giggles as the people had implied) but the thing is that, from what we've seen when Chihaya extended her hand to him, we've seen that he started to improve and be more caring, not only to those around him but also to Nono, and he even shown signs of pain when he found his dead body.

    What this tells me, is that Aki was feared due to how powerful and proficient at using Kuramitsuha, that the people in the village became afraid that they wont be able to control him (since he didn't click with anyone other than Kyouhei) so instead of doing the proper thing and trying to approach Aki with empathy and a more welcoming attitude, all the while disciplining him in the ways of using his powers for the benefit of the village (in fact, some discipline in how a Seki should act would've made sure people like Atsushi wouldn't be such A-holes) then this entire mess wouldn't have happened.

    Aki, rather than being a victim, is more of a result of his circumstances. He was treated with fear, hate, and ill will that when he got around to his breaking point, he decided to repay the world in kind. The only reason why he maintains any sort of moral compass is his relation to Kyouhei, which seems more of him trying to make Kyouhei realize that he should side with, and not against him.

  8. w

    Wow, now that sold me on why I should be watching this show, I wasn't expecting Aki/Kyouhei's pasts to be THAT messed up. I do wonder about Aki losing control of his kakkashi though, they said it was for cruelty to animals but he clearly liked his dog and one of the characters commented that that was Aki's true self, he wasn't a bad person. Wonder if his stepbrother manipulated control of the kakkashi from him as well.

  9. Aki, rather than being a victim, is more of a result of his circumstances. He was treated with fear, hate, and ill will that when he got around to his breaking point, he decided to repay the world in kind.

    Arabesque, for me, that pretty much describes a victim. Semantics I guess – but I do feel more sympathy for Aki after this ep, not less.

    Helen, I think it's intetionally been left unclear whether that story about Aki is true. Given what we know of that village it could certainly be a smear campaign, but given what we know of Aki it could possibly be true. If you like ambiguity, this is the show for you…

  10. l

    Enzo, will you be blogging the upcoming Hayate no Gotoku movie?

  11. No, afraid not – I dropped Hayate during the first season…

  12. A

    Eventually, I realized while trying to explain what my point about why I didn't see Aki as being a victim that I was getting my foot stuck in my mouth repeatedly, so I abandoned that train of thought and concede that yes, he's pretty much a victim.

    Damn, what is wrong with me. This episode sort of made my writing abilities take a dive.

    Anyway, I keep wondering about how things are going to develop from this point on. Since their going back to the city, I suppose another confrontation is set to happen, either with Aki or with the Hyuga.

    Though maybe Aki will be more willing to go back to the village after staying a week with Kuuko. Lesser of two evils …

  13. d

    Utao sweeping the floor? Surely the shrine has more power than to use their own cute little wanna-eat-you-up daughter to sweep the floor.
    Aki with no shirt on: he has the body shape of a female, he is thinner than sensei!

  14. m

    This was a great episode. By the way Enzo have you read Lucifer and the Biscuit Hammer. I think you would enjoy that.

  15. I'm not the only one who considers Kuuko evil, LOL. A cell in the village may indeed look good after that.

    Mario, no I have not, though I've heard good things. Maybe I'll pick it up one of these days. I'm surprised no one has made an adaptation of that one.

  16. m

    The rumors are that its because the author wants a certain Studio* to do it and a certain band* to make the sound track. I know what the Stuido and the Band are but I dont want to ruin it before you read it and find out yourself.

  17. Well, obviously the band is The Pillows, based on the title! Considering they haven't done but one soundtrack and that's for one of the seminal anime of all-time, he may be waiting a while. I have no idea what the studio is, though I wonder if it's GAINAX… That's OK, you don't have to spoil me.

  18. A

    Err, the studio and band the mangaka wants would be considered a spoiler?

  19. m

    O_O Is it really that good? I kinda gave up round ep3 because 1)too many good shows this season and too little usage 2)Utao seems incongruous and kinda annoy me with the way they make her deliberately cute. Would you suggest I take it up again?

  20. I would, Momo. I admit I liked even the first 3 eps, but the show has definitely gotten better. BB made a mistake by taking a short manga omake about Utao and the cakes and turning it into a 15-minute moeblob orgy, but they haven't repeated it since. IMO, this is a very good show.

  21. A

    I feel sympathy for Aki and the teacher in terms of being isolated and ostracized. Aki is right:The village is a sh*thole. I really hated the grotesquely distorted, inhibited, suffocating, sick, cruel, unkind, sneaky mentality/behaviors of the villagers. (ok maybe not all of them are bad but still.. I was a bit worked up over this ep.) The ep was more revealing and getting interesting though. A brief moment of nice scenes: Aki's subtle peaceful face when walking the dog etc..

  22. m

    @Enzo Ok I'll take your suggestion up ^-^. Why did they stuff so many good animes into one season?!

  23. L

    LOL and here I am, having dropped this after the first episode, ready to pick it back up. ^_^;

  24. Do it, Guys – I really think you won't be disappointed. And Luxor, don't be thrown by the first half of episode 3 – it's a freakish, unfortunate anamoly…

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