Kamisama Kiss has a very important quality that doesn’t get talked about much: as simple as it sounds, it makes me happy. It’s just a fun show to watch, in the way that good shoujo that doesn’t take itself too seriously can often be. Between the flawless direction, the lovely and whimsical art and the consistently amusing dialogue this is one of the better low-maintenance viewing experiences of the season.
My statement of last week that there are no real villains in this series might arguably have had the lie put to it with the introduction of the Thunder Goddess Narukami (Hyousei). I suppose it’s too early to call her evil but she’s certainly nasty enough – having coveted Tomoe’s services for decades she sees the elevation of a mere human to be Tomoe’s master as her opportunity to steal him – and the shrine – for herself. Of course as usual this is mostly an excuse to give Tomoe and Nanami another bonding experience, but there’s the added bonus of the hyper-moe chibi version of Tomoe that Narukami brings forth when she hits him with a hammer. Unfortunately his new tiny body can’t hold his youkai power and starts overheating, but Narukami is seemingly fine with that – if he doesn’t want to die, he can simply agree to become her familiar.
One former villain has definitely confirmed his place among the good guys, and that’s Kurama, whose house Nanami shows up at with the ill Tomoe after they’re booted out of the shrine. He sees himself as a love rival for Nanami but of course there’s no way in Hell that’s happening, though he definitely proves invaluable in doing battle with Narukami. There’s no suspense about how the episode is going to turn out – this isn’t that kind of series – but the experience of watching get to where you know it’s going is certainly a pleasant one. It’s snappy and funny and pretty and cute, and the characters are plenty likable. Kamisama Hajimemashite may not demand much from the audience, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t giving them something of value.
Magi – 04
What’s this, Magi you say? Yes, it’s back – I found the fourth episode to be an order of magnitude better than the third. We’ll see where it goes from here, but I wish I’d found the time to watch this one sooner than I did.
While we get a brief check-in with Alibaba early in the episode – he’s pining for Aladdin and has used some of his dungeon swag to buy freedom for the local slaves, for which Morgiana is extremely grateful – the bulk of the episode is focused on Aladdin. He’s woken up in a small village on the high plains, among the Kouga Clan, whose leader Baba (Sawada Toshiko) tells Aladdin that the village is two years walk from where he came from. There’s also some background from the old woman about the Rukh, the strange butterfly-like wisps of light that Aladdin sees hovering around him and credits for saving his life when he’s in trouble – she says they’re the collective souls of those whose lives have ended and bodies returned to the soil.
While I find the third episode of Magi frankly rather boring, I was constantly involved in this one, start to finish. The world of the Kouga – a former great empire now reduced to a single clan, very reminiscent of a Mongolian nation in their expertise with horses and yurts – was really well-conceived and impressively detailed. While we’d only just met them the story of their struggle to maintain their way of life had a lot of grip, especially after the arrival of the Kou, whose leader Hakui Ren (Mizuki Nana) claims to want to unite the world in peace and kill no one in the process (good luck with that), a perspective not shared by her racist idiot of a Captain.
The conflict between the Kouga and the Kou (and the sands of time) is played out a little too broadly, and there’s a bit too much of characters smiling beatifically at the camera – but on the whole, this was a good little story with a really jarring surprise ending. If indeed Aladdin and Alibaba are going to be separated for a while at this point I find Aladdin’s arc the more interesting of the two, not least because it’s somewhat unusual ground to cover in a shounen and Alibaba’s appears to be much more conventional. And his quest to discover what he is and to find a feeling of belonging is more compelling than Alibaba’s textbook shounen hero dreams, at least for now. One episode featuring Alibaba’s arc as good as this one would change all that, of course.