More than any series this season, Kamisama Dolls has the ability to find another gear and crank up the intensity to ridiculous levels. We saw it in episode 7, where it took the form of an emotional barrage, and again here. This time it’s a frenetic, violent and jarring display of non-stop action that finally sheds some light on the past of our main character.
It’s hard not to take a little delight in hearing Kana Hanazawa sink her teeth into a really crazy role, and she’s found one in Mahiru. This girl is just batshit nuts – nuts for Kyouhei-sama, and nuts in general (though I give her credit for being the only one in the cast to call out Utao for being a brocon). I was tempted to say we’d finally found our unmitigated villain among the younger generation (the Hyuga head qualifies for being a child-abusing bastard) because Mahiru in her present form has very little to recommend her. She’s ridiculously violent and doesn’t think twice about the collateral damage of using her kekkashi, Magatsuhi, in a big city. Judging by Kirio’s shuddering when he thinks of her she’s no kinder back at home, either. She’s also an arrogant snob who enjoys asserting her superiority over “lower” families from Karakami.
But then KamiDolls does what it does, takes a villain and turns them into a sympathetic figure – although barely in Mahiru’s case. In another brilliant flashback sequence we see how Kyouhei, Aki and Mahiru were almost killed by a mysterious and horrible kekkashi that eats the minds of passers-by in place of needing a seki. Mahiru was but a newly minted seki at the time, and when Aki and Kyouhei stumbled on her at the entrance to a mine shaft in which the creature was hiding, the three of them were nearly killed despite combining their forces against the beast. It was only through Kyouhei’s ability to use Kukkuri’s left hand that they were saved, though Kyouhei’s mind was broken and he quit being a seki afterwards. And Mahiru, apparently, has obsessed over him ever since.
Another fascinating element was introduced in the person of Hirashiro (Kenyuu Horiuchi), the very first Diet (National Assembly) member from Karakami Village. He’s recruiting both Aki (who he freed from prison for the purpose) and Mahiru to his “cause”, and that’s where things get really interesting, especially given the debates over what should happen to the place both on the show and among the viewers. This show always plays in the world of shadows where right and wrong are concerned and Hirashiro fits right in. What should happen to the village – is the system so dangerous and corrupt that destruction (as Aki seems to propose) is the only answer? Or, as Utao believes, can the kekkashi be used for good and most folks in the village are kind people? We don’t know much about Hirashiro’s agenda except that he wants to get rid of the elders and “modernize” the village – which at first flush sounds pretty good to me on paper, since I think the place is cursed. The taint of oppression and cruelty stains everyone who comes into contact with it, and no one is seemingly able to escape. But what Hirashiro is proposing sounds like using the power of the kekkashi for profit and power in the modern world to me, and that’s just as bad.
In short, things are really quite a mess. Peace between the Hyuga and Kuga doesn’t seem so far-fetched with Kyouhei and Koushirou potentially leading their families, but the Hyuga elder seems to have other ideas. The beast in the mine seemed strikingly like Amaterasu, the kekkashi the Hyuga elder is hiding underneath their compound. Kukko and Hirashiro both appear to be in over their heads, with Mahiru going crazy in the Diet member’s office and tasering Kukkuo into unconsciousness. With her kekkashi’s odd ability to put rivals in a kind of stasis field and her obvious instability and reckless disregard for human life, she seems far more dangerous than Aki. Utao and Kirio are still bickering like the little kids they are. It seems to be as if Kyouhei may be the only one powerful enough to restore order to all this insanity, but right now he appears to be neither willing or able to get back into the saddle and resume his role as seki of the century. It feels to me as if the series can’t conclude without that happening, though – all signs point to that as the dramatic apex to come.
I continue to be impressed with this show, even more than I expected when I called it a potential sleeper. For my money it’s probably the third-best show of the Summer season, and at It’s very best it takes a back seat to none. The entire flashback sequence this week was an object lesson in excitement, intensity, raw energy and terror that any series would be proud of. The flashback is one of the most overused devices in anime (and elsewhere) but KamiDolls has flat-out aced it twice, in totally different ways. It seems to me that this show could run forever based on the richness and complexity of the world it’s created, perhaps the most interesting and detailed of any series this season.