I really like this arc, and not just because it does a nice job of expanding the breadth of this season’s story. As we’re seeing, it’s offering a(nother) nice opportunity for Nanami to demonstrate her growing strength as a character. But is’s also offering a very interesting stand-alone plot in the events on Mt. Kurama. It gets Kurama himself involved, which is a plus, but it’s interesting in its own right.
One thing I’ve noticed in immersing myself in Japanese culture (to the limited degree I can) is that there’s an unpleasant element of grown men getting their machismo on by physically pushing little boys around. It’s present in every society I think – something to do with the resentment of the young by those who know youth is passed – and certainly not predominant here. But it seems more “normal” here than anywhere else I’ve seen, to the extent that it isn’t automatically condemned as abhorrent behavior. And it damn well should be.
Kamisama Hajimemashita is hitting pretty hard on this, though as always with this series it’s an iron fist in a velvet glove. Through the character of Jirou we’re really seeing this ugly streak in it’s ignoble glory – we see the terror on the young boys’ faces, we hear them crying, and we’re not spared the sight of Jirou physically abusing them. He’s engaged in a reign of terror in a society with no females to act as a moderating influence (though Suirou does fill that role as best he can, all kidding aside) – that is, until Nanami shows up.
I really like Nanami in this role, as a protector of the innocent and an advocate of common decency. It’s through her involvement, in fact, that we see Jirou does at the very least have a sense of shame. He’s infatuated with Nanami, yes (Tomoe notes that seeing Jirou’s infatuation is like looking in a mirror, a very biting bit of commentary), but it goes deeper than that. It’s her words he remembers when he’s towering over the trio of terrified tots that have just bumped into him, the older (but still tiny) boys trying to shield the smallest from his wrath. It’s quite a powerful and tense scene, this, and as so often happens with this series you’re taken by surprise when that happens because the humor is so deft and effective.
Jirou not, in fact, having stolen the Soujoubou’s soul (or even known about it) and having the ability to reconsider his own brutality is a small mitigation in his favor, but as far as I’m concerned he’s still a douchebag. Nevertheless it seems he’s on the path to at least partial redemption (looks like he’ll be proposing next week), with Yatori as the Wormtongue of the storyline. And Nanami is kicking serious ass, having banished the latter with a barrier spell of her own and now in the process of neutralizing Jirou’s barrier herself. It was also nice to see Mamoru finally get involved in the action (with Yamashita Daiki finally getting to stretch his vocal chords).