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January 23, 2012

Bento Bako Weekly: Kamisama Kiss volumes 5-6

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Written by: Kristin
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First things first! It’s time for another Manga Moveable Feast! This month the MMF will be celebrating the works of Usamaru Furuya, creator of Genkaku Picasso, Lychee Light Club, and No Longer Human. Experiments in Manga is hosting this month, led by Ash Brown. So check it out! Thanks to a good Samaritan, I’ll be reviewing No Longer Human volume 2 later this week. For now, here’s more of the adorable Kamisama Kiss.

Title: Kamisama Kiss
Author: Julietta Suzuki
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volume: Volumes 5 and 6 (ongoing), $9.99
Vintage: 2010 by Hakusensha in Japan, October and December 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Comedy, romance, supernatural

[Volume 4 review.]

During the little crisis of the previous volume, while her shinshi Tomoe was otherwise indisposed, Mizuki activated the contract to become Nanami’s new shinshi. For a while, Mizuki had felt connected to Tomoe, because both of their shrine masters were gone, leaving them alone. However, Nanami arrived, giving Tomoe a new master to serve, and bringing life back into the Mikage Shrine. Mizuki felt even more alone, and grew angry and jealous of Tomoe. Becoming Nanami’s shinshi has given him new purpose, but Tomoe is far from thrilled with the arrangement. At a shrine festival, Nanami commands that they hold hands until they can get along; a seemingly futile experiment, until Tomoe recalls a presence from his past. Back at home, Nanami grows discouraged that the shrine still has no worshipers, and soon learns that the towns people find the shrine creepy and believe it’s haunted. In an effort to prove them wrong, Nanami decides to hold a summer festival at the shrine. Tomoe is absolutely against it, but Nanami forges on. She wants all the hard work that Tomoe puts into keeping the shrine neat and clean not to go to waste. Tomoe, who still has difficulty seeing Nanami as anything more than just a human, begins to have a change of heart when he realizes how persistent and passionate Nanami is about holding the festival, and finally agrees to help. He agrees to teach her the Kagura, a ceremonial shrine dance, but Tomoe is a harsh taskmaster, and Nanami is still struggling with her feelings for him. Her work is cut short when a strange spirit appears and mocks her abilities as a kami, then declares he’s going to test her to see if she’s really worthy of being a tochigami. When she returns home, she immediately notices that Tomoe is behaving strangely; he’s acting far too nice, and treating her entirely differently. Mizuki is suspicious as well, but Nanami’s unease starts fading as her feelings for Tomoe cloud her judgment. However, when Tomoe starts talking about abandoning the shrine so they can be together, Nanami finally comes to her senses. As she continues her preparations, she begins to realize the work and care Tomoe puts into the shrine, and at last rejects the bizarrely acting Tomoe, which ends her “test.” The story briefly shifts to our favorite tengu, Kurama. Kurama, who has rejected the world of the ayakashi for the human world, can’t resits humiliating Tomoe and helping Nanami, who requested his aid for the festival. A failure in the ayakashi world, he’s amazed at the gradual growth of Nanami’s powers. Kurama isn’t the only aid Nanami summoned, however, as Ryu-oh and Himemiko have also answered her call. As ayakashi, however, their suggestions are rather…outrageous. Kurama sees his opportunity as an ayakashi living in the human world to make himself useful, taking the advantage and even shutting Tomoe out of the planning. Tomoe still manages to get the final play in, though. The day of the festival finally arrives. As ayakashi who have heard of Nanami’s Kagura dance start to arrive, the pressure begins to mount as she realizes how many are depending on her to perform her role as the shrine’s tochigami. A pep talk from Tomoe clears her mind, and as she begins her dance on the stage, a spirit appears and helps her perform a spellbinding miracle.

Volume 6 opens with Tomoe pondering the significance of Nanami’s miracle, and poor Nanami suffering from the physical strain of performing the Kagura. While she’s recovering, a familiar and troublesome face appears. The ayakashi that tested her in the previous volume is a wind kami named Otohiko. Otohiko has arrived to invite Nanami to Izumo, where a year gathering of kami is to take place. They’ve decided to pit her against another human girl who is worshiped as a kami to see which of them is worthy of going to Izumo. To entice her, Otohiko casually tosses out that someone there might know where Mikage has run off to, but Tomoe immediately steps in and says he doesn’t care about that, and that it’s not necessary for Nanami to attend. Nanami thinks he’s lying, of course, but she doesn’t have time to investigate as her opponent, a girl named Kayako Hiragi, appears to challenge her. After some advice from her ayakashi friend Kirihito, Kayako decides her first move is to steal Tomoe for herself. Infuriated, Nanami finally makes up her mind and agrees to the competition. Otohiko arrives to give them the details. Each girl is given a small egg to watch over for seven days, after which a shikigami will hatch, and Otohiko will decide the winner based on how they turn out. Unfortunately, as Tomoe argues over the situation with Nanami, the egg breaks on its first day, and out pops a tiny monkey. Later, Kayako confronts Nanami in the library without Tomoe around, but they’re suddenly attacked by a large spider yokai. Kayako attempts to banish it, but Tomoe has to step in and destroy it, frustrating Kayako who doesn’t have a shinshi to back her up like the otherwise fairly powerless Nanami does. Nanami, however, doesn’t like having to constantly rely on Tomoe, and wants to be able to do things on her own without always depending on him. Unfortunately, because of the way Tomoe killed the yokai, it left a miasma growing in the school that is attracting other yokai. Kayako comes to demand his help, so Tomoe uses the opportunity to end Nanami’s stubborn resolve, but she insists on at least attempting to purify the school on her own first. Her powers aren’t strong enough to clear away the heart of the miasma, though, and it ends up feeding off her powers instead. Tomoe rescues her, but with his hands stained in blood and tainted by the miasma, there’s little he can ultimately do. Fortunately, and strangely, Otohiko arrives to give Nanami some advice on how to make use of her shikigami. She must give it a name to bestow power to it, so she names it Mamoru (“to protect”). As Kayako begins growing hysterical over her inability to quell the miasma, and Tomoe is helpless while he’s tainted, Nanami suddenly arrives and begins to purify everything, including Tomoe, with the help of Mamoru. After this incident, Kayako starts skipping school in order to nurture her egg, and Nanami is sent to her house to drop off some school papers. While there, they surprisingly bond a bit over their love of some certain ayakashi, but when she leaves, Mamoru warns her that something is wrong with Kayako’s egg. When Nanami returns, she finds Kayako weakened from giving all her energy to her egg, and leaves Mamoru behind to bind it while she takes Kayako to the hospital. While Kayako recovers, Tomoe has a serious talk with Otohiko and finally discovers the truth about the “test.” Devastated by the truth, Kayako goes on a rampage and destroys her egg. Furious with how Kayako has been treated, Nanami rushes to her side.

One of the things I like about Kamisama Kiss is that the romance elements are secondary, leaving the focus on the story as a whole. It doesn’t overwhelm the story, is what I mean. It’s there, sort of hovering on the edges of everything, and it’s slowly growing, but it’s not what’s important in the series. Nanami’s growth as a kamisama always takes center stage, and the rest of the elements evolve around that. Nanami’s feelings are the focus of volume 5, while Tomoe’s are dominant in volume 6. As Nanami is faced with a bizarrely acting Tomoe in volume 5, she finds herself able to step into his shoes and comes to realize how much care he puts into maintaining the shrine. His efforts are part of what make Nanami want to hold a festival so badly, because she wants the towns people to see how much his hard work has improved the shrine and made it worthy of visiting. She doesn’t want it to go to waste. So when the fake Tomoe starts talking about running away and leaving the shrine behind so they can be together, Nanami realizes something is wrong, because she knows Tomoe would never abandon the shrine like that. She learns this when “Tomoe” leaves the shrine, which causes it to revert back to it’s run down state without his powers to maintain it. Nanami isn’t strong enough yet to do this herself, but she loves the shrine, and puts all the effort she can into repairing it, finally realizing how much care and effort it takes to keep things in shape. Her powers also start growing in this volume, even though she doesn’t realize it herself. Her aura is purifying the shrine and protecting it. When Kurama goes to visit, he realizes just how much Nanami has changed in such a short time. She even has powerful yokai friends to come to her aid, and a second shinshi (Mizuki) has bound itself to her. Then there’s the miracle she evokes during her dance at the festival. She’s slowly becoming less of a normal human girl and more of a kamisama. Tomoe sees this too, and more than just being bound to her, he’s starting to feel Nanami is worthy to protect and serve. Although he is initially against holding the festival, he gives in and ends up helping Nanami in various ways, surprising even himself by his actions. He encourages her in his own ways, gets irritated when he can’t be useful, and even appears to be jealous over Kurama, Mizuki, and Mamoru. He won’t let those around Nanami forget that he is her shinshi. He shows off in front of Kurama as if to say “I’m her shinshi, and no one else. Only I can do certain things for her.” He pouts when Nanami gives attention to Mizuki. He flaunts their status as kamisama and shinshi in front of Kayako. Where before he was just sort of tolerant of having been forced to become her shinshi, now he wants to help and protect her because she’s Nanami, not just because she’s his kami. When her bright smiling face runs forward and she purifies him from the miasma at the school, he feels refreshed and grateful, like when he first met Mikage. He seems to worry less and less about finding Mikage as the story goes on, and more about doing what he can for Nanami. As if she is finally starting to really take Mikage’s place, both as the kami of the shrine, and as his master. The Kamuhakari in Izumo seems like it’s going to be dangerous, particularly given how dead against it Tomoe’s been, so I’m quite interested to see how attending will affect Nanami’s growth as a kami, and what it’s going to take for Tomoe to keep his human master safe. Especially since someone is trying to manipulate things behind the scenes.

Oh, by the way, Saturday night I read the first volume of A Devil and Her Love Song from Viz Media (out February 7), and was absolutely delighted by it. If you’re on the fence about it, get off and pre-order the first volume. I’ll review it soon, but I just wanted to say that it’s a good first impression. If you follow me on Twitter, I occasionally comment on new or upcoming manga I’m reading, so if you’re interested, I always post my Twitter SN in my sign off below.


Review copies provided by Viz Media.


One Comment

  1. […] (Organization Anti-Social Geniuses) Lesley Aeschliman on vol. 5 of Chobits (Blogcritics) Kristin on vols. 5 and 6 of Kamisama Kiss (Comic Attack) Queenie Chan on Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Queenie Chan) Justin on vol. 2 […]

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