Kamisama Hajimemashita has hummed along at a relaxing pace for most of its 16 episodes so far. For most of the first season it operated plot-wise somewhere just to the north of a pure slice-of-life – there was stuff happening, but the atmospherics and cast drove the series. That had already started to evolve even as the first season ended, but there difference is quite noticeable now – there’s as much focus on what’s happening as on how it’s happening, and the plot is thickening like a stew that’s just been spiked with cornstarch.
If Tomoe and Nanami are the two main characters here and thus the ones whose actions literally drive the plot, it seems to me that this season there are two characters who are driving it globally, and that’s Mikage and Akura-oh. It’s subtler in Mikage’s case (indeed, he was doing the same in the first season – the invisible hand, as it were) but Akura-oh is the one making things happen now. He’s doing that as Kirihito of course, and even as we see a larger theme like Nanami’s desire to stand up for herself in focus, it’s Akura-oh’s machinations which are dictating how it plays out.
Kirihito’s back story (was it ever supposed to be a secret from the audience that he and Akura-oh were in the same body?) finally emerges this week. He was a young man who was caught in an avalanche, and trapped on the same mountain where Akura-oh’s soul was imprisoned. Near death, his spirit somehow reaches out to Akura-oh’s and offers him the use of his dying shell, if only the youkai will perform a service – go to Kirihito’s mother and apologize for the argument which was their final conversation in life.
For all his evil deeds with Tomoe and for all his self-professed bad boy braggadocio, I can’t help but notice that the first thing Akura-oh does when he wakes up after centuries trapped in darkness is to keep his promise – he apologizes to Kirihito’s tearful mother. This being the series it is, it should come as no surprise that there are two sides to everyone, and that no one is beyond redemption – and the subject of Akura-oh’s redemption may be an important one in episodes to come.
As for Nanami, she’s still stuck in Yomi, and eventually led to meet with the Goddess of the Underworld, Izanami. She offers Nanami a free pass out of the Underworld, but alone – Kirihito has to stay behind, because, well – he’s dead. Nanami’s behavior is true to form here – she refuses to leave Kirihito behind despite the fact that he’s deceived her, and even eats some of the departed buffet in order to prevent herself from being returned to the surface. She declares her resolution to take care of things herself and rescue Kirihito, and shows considerable strength and ingenuity (and skill with white talismans) in trying to do so. But in the end, it’s once again Tomoe (who was tipped off by the attendants as to what was going on, and is pretty pissed about it) who saves her – and she falls into his arms in tears when he does, damsel-in-distress style.
Does this represent a setback for Nanami’s character? Well, probably – at the least, it shows she has a long way to go to truly change the dynamic with Tomoe. But baby steps are better than none, and this adventure has been a start at least. Akura-oh now has a lock of Nanami’s hair in his possession, and Tomoe has had to revert to being a youkai (thanks to the magic mallet that hilariously turned the attendants into CLAMP characters) in order to beat back the War God to rescue her, so things have gotten considerably more complicated to say the least.