Taking a sharp turn away from Akitarou Daichi’s current TV series, it’s time once again to catch up with Kamisama Hajimemashita – and boy, they could hardly be more different. It’s no doubt a measure of Akitarou-sensei’s massive talent and experience that he can easily segue between such sharply contrasting material, but when it comes to this sort of anime there’s just no other director who seems so at-home. He makes it look very easy.
One tends not to become as entrenched in the plot when so much time passes between viewings, as is generally the case with OVAs. Of course Kamisama Hajimemashita is a very easy series in which to lose yourself in the atmosphere, which helps, and it is pretty easy to get a sense of why manga readers view this arc as a pretty heavy-duty piece of storytelling. The humor and warmth of KamiHaji never surprises you when they present themselves, but the intensity of this show often does – it can get very heavy and very dark at the drop of a hat. And “Kako-hen” is a pretty intense story.
One thing that really stands out here more than ever before (unsurprisingly) is just how frightening Tomoe was in these old days. It’s quite interesting to watch Nanami interact with him, always trying to reconcile the Tomoe she knows with the dangerous creature she’s dealing with in the distant past. It’s also striking how formidable Yukiji is – it’s not surprising that someone like the youkai Tomoe would fall for her, even if it did have rather unfortunate consequences.
I don’t know what rules apply to this visit (visits) to the past – Mikage did allow Nanami to go, after all – but it certainly seems as if she’s dancing with fire here, even notwithstanding the fact that she’s really not supposed to interact with Tomoe at all. Eventually she does end up getting an audience with the fallen God Kuromaro who can theoretically lift Tomoe’s curse, with the help of a kappa but at the cost of her peach pills. But her time runs out before she can ask him to do so, and it almost seems as if that’s for the best. Clearly, this is not a guy you’d want to hang around for long. Eventually Nanami does return to the past, and takes on a seeming suicide mission in impersonating Yukiji in her marriage procession, knowing Akura-oh is going to try and snatch the bride-to-be away.
I think the most striking part of these episodes comes after Tomoe has rescued Nanami from one of Akura-oh’s minions, and taken her to a thieves’ shack deep in the mountains. He seems intent on raping her, and Nanami actually finds herself conflicted over it – because the Tomoe she knows is the being she’s in-love with, and she’s physically desired him for so long. I can see where some viewers might be disturbed by that, as it treads into dark and dangerous territory. But it sure is a fascinating development, and full of uncomfortable permutations. There’s no reason to doubt this Tomoe would have gone through with it, since we know he’s already committed many atrocities. Obviously his budding attraction stays his hand – but it it to Yukiji, or is it to Nanami that he feels that attraction?