It’s been a few months since the first “Kako-hen” OVA was released, but my schedule has been so crazy that I just haven’t found the time to dedicate to it that I feel this series deserves. It matters not a whit how much time passes between meetings – every time I’m reunited with this series it’s a welcome meeting with an old friend whom it feels like you just saw yesterday. KamiHaji never loses an ounce of its seemingly endless store of charm – it’s a wonderful place to spend a little part of your life.
Every time I thought this show was a goner – it’s never sold especially well on disc – it manages a comeback. The second season was a huge surprise, this OVA series less so (partly because it was announced far more quickly). The “Past Arc” will be told over four OVAs (releasing with the manga volumes ending next August) – not enough time according to some manga readers, but vastly better than the alternative. And with the shoujo black belt Akitarou Daichi at the helm, I sincerely doubt pacing is going to be as much of a problem as the more negative fans believe.
The seeds of the story for “Kako-hen” were very much planted in the open-ended second season. We know the main players: Yukiji, the woman Tomoe fell in love with in centuries past. Akura-oh, Tomoe’s old partner in crime and prime mover of the second season. And of course Mikage, the itinerant Kami of Mikage Shrine whose absence sets of the events of the series. He teased us with fleeting interventions in the second season, and the premiere of “Kako-hen” finds him involving himself more directly in the action that at any time so far.
Mind you, Mikage really has no choice. The past has called due its chips for Tomoe, and the curse Mikage had suspended by erasing Tomoe’s memories reasserted itself violently. One might muse on the symbolism here – it was the joy of love that caused Tomoe to curse himself, and tasting it again which caused him to regain his memories and awaken that curse. Is it better to live in the absence of love, forgetting the feelings it brings, or bear the pain the awareness of love brings? But the practical implications are more immediate – Mikage is forced to stop Tomoe’s heart and suspend him inside a mirror in order to prevent his immediate demise. But that only buys Tomoe about a week, absent some other form of intervention.
The gist of the story is intimately familiar here – the deep feelings between Tomoe and Nanami which drive everything that happens. Kamisama Hajimemashita is far more open with its emotion than is the norm in anime – even shoujo – and that’s one of the things I love about it. There’s never a moment of doubt that Nanami will risk everything – not just her own welfare but that of the world – to go back to the past and try and save Tomoe the only way she thinks she can, by preventing his meeting with Yukiji. Things aren’t going to be that simple, of course, but the character interactions – and Akitarou’s direction – remain as relentlessly compelling as ever. Whether it be four OVAs or a season of TV episodes, KamiHaji is always a pleasure to spend time with – and I’m glad we’re going to be together for at least a little while longer.