This was truly one of the underrated gems of 2012 – the “sleeper shoujo” of a busy shoujo season, slow out of the gate and short on flash. It made up for that with a ton of heart, sharp wit and expert direction by shoujo legend Akitarou Daichi. Kamisama Kiss also featured a very strong supporting cast that emerged as virtual co-leads as the series progressed, giving the story more of an ensemble feeling in spite of the presence of an obvious pair of romantic leads in Tomoe and Nanami.
I’m aware that this series gets quite a bit darker as the manga progresses (the lighter tone of the anime indeed seemed to annoy some manga fans) but for anime purposes, Akitarou-sensei chose to focus on the humor and romance aspects, in the process delivering a relaxing, easily enjoyable escape with likeable characters and deceptively good production values (the facial expressions were among the year’s best). This OVA is pretty much more of the same, two stories with a strong focus on the main couple – which, as usual, means a lot of Nanami being insecure and Tomoe being tsundere.
Fortunately we also get a good dose of the thoroughly likeable Mizuki and Kurama in the first story, a breezy tale of a pair of pears Tomoe procures after an offhand comment by Nanami that a pear tart would hit the spot. A drinking contest between Tomoe, Mizuki and Kurama yields predictably humorous results, though the main thrust of the chapter is Tomoe’s usual dedication to Nanami’s happiness. The second chapter finds the happy couple headed off to an onsen in Chichibu, where they run into Himemiko and Kotarou, an encounter which leads to a visit to the Koiiwa, a tourist trap of a “sacred” stone that supposedly has the power to ensure a couple will spend eternity together (Japan is full of such places). The highlight of this chapter is the ruse Tomoe pulls on Nanami at the end to finally get her to give up her attempts to prove her self-reliance by spurning his help, a classic Tomoe gambit accompanied by a classic Tomoe expression.
You’ve probably already decided Kamisama Hajimemashite works for you (it definitely doesn’t work for everybody) if you’re watching this OVA, and if that’s the case I think you’ll be well-pleased. It’s right in the series’ sweet spot, and this show knows exactly what it’s doing – Akitarou knows what it does well and executes it brilliantly. It’s a matter of simple, relaxed charm and gentle wit with just enough edge, a formula that works well for me. It worked pretty well with DVD (and Blu-ray to a lesser extent) sales too, leading to some hope that there might be a second season – a hope that certainly won’t be discouraged by a return of Otohiko and the introduction of manga character Akuraou (Suwabe Junichi) in the OVA’s final moments. I’d certainly like to see more of this cast – they’re a joy to spend time with, and there’s a lot of story waiting to be explored.