Kamisama Kiss 11

August 30, 2015

Julietta Suzuki – Viz – 2012 – 21+ volumes

It’s been forever since I read this series!  That’s a shame, because it’s pretty good.  Very low-key, very upbeat episodic stories with lots of interesting one-shot characters.  The only thing I had trouble with after jumping in here was the terminology the series uses, but there are handy indexes in the front and back that cover most of that.

Let’s see… well, Tomoe and Nanami still aren’t together, which shocked and dismayed me, or would have, if I hadn’t been reading shoujo manga for the last 15 or so years.  I like their relationship a lot, although it’s also taking me a moment to get a bead on Tomoe.  He’s very cranky and doesn’t outwardly show affection to Nanami, in word or deed, but again, since this is a shoujo manga we can assume he really likes her.  Admittedly, even during the cutest scene in the volume, where he basically proposes to her, he doesn’t look all that lovey-dovey.  I guess that’s just who he is.

The plot is tapping back into a story from a volume or so ago, where Akura, formerly BFF evil buddies with Tomoe, is trapped in the body of a human and trying to resurrect his demon body.  He ventures into the deadly underworld where his body is kept, but not much comes of it.

The cutest, and longest, story in the volume is about Nanami running under a set of torii that make you review the past 12 years of your life.  Tomoe and Mizuki review it with her, and we see Nanami’s horribly sad childhood.  Even Tomoe is so depressed he needs to intervene.  It doesn’t really seem to make Nanami that sad, though.  This goes cute places, and I was super-thrilled it was in here.

There’s also a story at the end about how Nanami’s Kamisama powers may or may not be growing, and how she continues to make a nuisance of herself to Tomoe.  It’s a nice story though, and has a bit of a wake-up for both characters.  And everything in this volume leads up to New Year’s Eve, which recaps several characters I only vaguely remember, but who all seem to be having a good time.

But that’s really the point of this series.  Some light fun, where all the characters have a good time and there’s not a ton of drama.  I love reading it.  I’m surprised to see it’s still going, as 21 volumes seems long for something like this.  I plan on catching up to the English volumes, so I’ll see if it becomes more plot-centric shortly.

Kamisama Kiss 10

June 28, 2012

Julietta Suzuki – Viz – 2012 – 12+ volumes

So sad! I still like this series quite a bit, but the Kurama story arc continues through this volume, and I wasn’t all that excited about it last time. Granted, having a series like this, that excels at portraying the supernatural in an interesting way, is wasted if it is just a romance. But the story here is more about Kurama and the Tengu village, and not so much about Nanami’s growing skills as a Kamisama. I do love these encounters with different supernatural types, but I prefer the format of the earlier, shorter stories.

But the Kurama arc here is still pretty good. Nanami and company have to find a way past the shield of the acting head of the village, which is no easy task. Amusingly, the easiest way to do this is to make it look as if Kurama has become a kamisama as a bit of subterfuge, and I enjoyed that immensely. Of course, it turns out that there’s more to the condition of the old head of the village than it seems at first, and the very harsh current head might need to be taught a lesson.

Surprisingly, there were some nice Nanami/Tomoe moments slipped in for good measure, which I was not expecting. This was helped along by the fact that the current head of the village has a very obvious crush on Nanami, one that he grudgingly admits to. This, of course, makes things weird between Tomoe and Nanami, and… that goes some interesting places, not the least of which are the last two pages of the volume. I do like that it ends on that note, with what will clearly be a new story next time.

Even with a volume I’m less interested in, though, this series always makes me smile. There’s something horribly addictive and endearing about Nanami and Tomoe, and I’m still a softie for supernaturally-themed stories like this. Kamisama Kiss has a lot of things I enjoy going for it, and it’s one of my current favorites. Julietta Suzuki is a fantastic writer, and it might be worth a try if you’re looking for a nice, light shoujo read.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Kamisama Kiss 9

May 24, 2012

Julietta Suzuki – Viz – 2012 – 12+ volumes

Hooray! I’m always happy to read a new volume of Kamisama Kiss. It’s one of my current favorites, and features a mix of folkloric plot and great characters with an adorable romance that I am absolutely weak to.

The kamisama meeting wraps up in this volume, and the revival of Ashura-Oh is put off for a later date. At the beginning of this volume, Nanami (literally) stumbles across a tiny child tengu who is searching for a lost member of his village. He describes a late bloomer like himself that left to become someone great, a very heroic character. Neither I nor you should be surprised to find out that the one he’s looking for is Kurama, the rock star that attends Nanami’s school and periodically hits on her. This leads in to massive backstory about Kurama and the culture of the tengu village, which is currently in danger due to the failing health of their leader.

I was a bit disappointed by this, because the last volume teased another Tomoe story, and the beginning of this volume hinted that their romance might be going somewhere. Neither of these issues are touched on, really, though Tomoe is now 100% more adorable when it comes to guarding Nanami. But the tengu story is a good one. It feels strange to be getting so much depth for Kurama, who has been such a minor character up to now, but fleshing out characters like Kurama is what Suzuki does best. If this were any other shoujo manga, he would have stayed a boring, celebrity stereotype romantic rival that never did anything. But I love that about both Kamisama Kiss and Karakuri Odette. There’s a little something for all the characters here.

And again, I’m a sucker for folklore-themed stories like this. All the details of the tengu village, the child-rearing techniques, and their secession rituals were utterly fascinating. Usually I like a little variety among my demons, but there’s so much detail here that I had a good time reading it. Plus, it made me reach for the next volume of Natsume’s Book of Friends, which is never a bad thing.

So, yeah. It’s still a unique mixture of funny and sweet, with lots of details about Japanese mythology and a very interesting and in-depth cast of characters. It’s one of my three favorite shoujo manga right now, along with Skip Beat and Dengeki Daisy. Highly recommended!

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Kamisama Kiss 8

March 13, 2012

Julietta Suzuki – Viz – 2012 – 11+ volumes

As much as I love this series, even I have to admit it’s a little formulaic. Still, I don’t know how she does it, but Suzuki has a knack for taking those formulas and making them new again. Here and with Karakuri Odette. Neither series really blazes new ground in shoujo manga, but I love the characters so much I just don’t care. I absolutely need to know what happens next.

So, here, Nanami is in the land of the dead with a “human.” He’s actually a malevolent being that’s trying to get his body back and merely borrowing the body of a dead human, but Nanami doesn’t know that. She first tries to find her way out of the land of the dead, then she tries to do it with the human, who is held captive at the insistence of the kami of the realm. Annoyingly, Nanami doesn’t try to find out why this is, she simply does what she feels is right and defies the kami.

I say that it was annoying, but I actually liked this bit of story. Nanami lacks confidence in her kami abilities, and the trials here help make her powers that much better. Part of it is that her traveling companion is so antagonistic, far from the comrades in the stories that have come before. Part of it is simply that it must be so in order for her to escape, and another part is that she has to do it without Tomoe. Again, while a lot of this sounds contrived, it was hard not to like this little bit of story. I even really wanted to dislike it, because I thought it didn’t make much sense that she was defying the kami. But I just couldn’t. Nanami does a good job here.

And then there’s Tomoe. Things are realized. Shoujo manga things. He also flies to Nanami’s rescue, an interesting feat indeed that involves unlocking his true nature. More than the trial in the land of the dead, I loved and adored this part of the story. The aftermath is what it is, and I saw it coming. Some awkwardness follows, of course. But I’m glad that the story doesn’t seem to be putting this off any more, and I’m looking forward to things improving from here on out.

And guess what? Guess who makes an appearance at the end of the volume? Could it be? Maybe Mikage?

Actually, I’m not entirely sure myself. It was a story twist that I was not expecting, but now something earlier makes sense. So as of right now, things are moving in a new direction, and I’m happy with it.

I adore this series, and I’ve been reading every volume as soon as it lands in my hands. It’s horribly addictive, and it always leaves me wanting more. Especially now, since the story seems to be moving away from themes of Nanami being a kami and more towards a character-centric plot about Tomoe. I don’t mind at all, honestly. While this volume had a continuous plot, I love the format of this series in that it uses a one shot-style story to develop an overarching plot. The direction of the overarching plot has changed, and I’m looking forward to the style of one-shot story that will suit it best. The short stories are also one of my favorite things about this series. Well, yes, the short stories, the characters, and the fact I can’t finish a volume without a ridiculous smile on my face. It simply makes me happy, and I’d be happy to read anything else Julietta Suzuki writes from here on out.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Kamisama Kiss 7

January 17, 2012

Julietta Suzuki – Viz – 2012 – 10+ volumes

I love this series so much! This, Dengeki Daisy, and Skip Beat are probably my three favorites. Certainly I like a whole lot of other shoujo series as well (Kimi ni Todoke is another good one), but these three. They’re the right combination of funny and character-driven and just well-written in general. Every volume is charming and a pleasure to read.

Having said that, I was a little worried about this volume since it switches from the meandering one-shot chapter format that has been so successful so far and focuses one one storyline, namely Nanami going to the Kamuhakari. No need to worry though, because in classy Kamisama Kiss style, the first half of the volume has a few short stories that lead up to the Kamuhakari, and after a chapter that takes place there, the story breaks off again to do something else at the end of the volume. I was so pleased. While it would annoy me in any other series, I love the characters so much here that they almost seem wasted on an ongoing plot. The one-shot chapters are awesome because it gives the characters an opportunity to shine and work together in various different ways, instead of always working towards one goal.

And while the chapters are vaguely disconnected, they work together towards a common goal, too. The first chapter is about Mizuki, Nanami’s snake shinshi, venturing out into the human world to find out what he’s missing by being left at home all the time. Though he’s a powerful shinshi, he knows nothing of human culture, and the impurities that humans pour into the environment and themselves overwhelm him. He comes to a conclusion about himself by the end of the chapter, but in the process, he has been cheated out of a good chunk of the shrine’s money.

This comes to bear later, when Nanami finds that there’s only enough money to take one of her shinshi to the Kamuhakari. While Tomoe is the obvious choice (because of his devotion and her crush), Mizuki talks Nanami into bringing him, since apparently Mizuki is the “right” kind of shinshi and Tomoe is only a brutish fox that will be made fun of. Neither Nanami nor Tomoe care much of the opinions of others, but Nanami doesn’t want Tomoe to be made fun of by the other kami, so she spares his feelings and leaves him at home.

While she’s debating over the Tomoe/Mizuki question, Nanami winds up having to fend off an attack from some kami who lost their rank and are jealous of her human kami status. While dealing with this, she meets Kirihito, a human with bizarre powers. Their encounter is brief, but Kirihito comes back later as a V.I.P.

Then the chapter that introduces the other kami and the Kamuhakari itself. This is all sorts of crazy, funny, madcap wonderful. As I’ve said before, I have a weakness for stories that incorporate folklore in new and interesting ways, and this chapter has it in plenty. Nanami does take quite a verbal lashing from other kami, but she stands tall.

And then… we meet Kirihito again. Nanami is sent on a special task to fix a gate that leads to the underworld, and meets Kirihito there. For some reason. Meanwhile, another chapter features Tomoe and what he’s up to at the shrine while Nanami’s away. He hasn’t really yielded his feelings for her yet, but it’s imminent. I can tell. The fact he sits around by himself all day and thinks about her is probably a glaring sign.

Anyway. There’s lots of little side-stories going on among all that as well. An amusement park date between Nanami and Tomoe. A flashback to Tomoe’s past, and a link with a new character. A strange sub-plot about the sake that Mizuki makes. Appearances by Kurama and the fish deity. It’s pretty amazing how much story is packed into these little, sort-of-unrelated chapters, and all of it contributes to developing the quirky characters in some way or other. It’s what makes this series such a pleasure to read.

This volume ends on a cliffhanger, with Nanami in the land of the dead. Cliffhangers are unusual for this series, but even without them, I always badly want the next volume. I can’t get over how much fun this is to read, and how good Suzuki is at developing both her story and characters. Given the nature of the series, I feel like Suzuki could write for years on these characters, covering whatever details she wanted, and I would never get bored.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Kamisama Kiss 6

November 17, 2011

Julietta Suzuki – Viz – 2011 – 10+ volumes

This is a little different! The story takes a break from the romance between Nanami and Tomoe to feature a contest between Nanami and a girl named Kayako. Apparently the gathering of the kami is happening, but Nanami isn’t enough of a kami to attend, so the organizers decided to have a contest to see whether Nanami could beat a powerful girl known as “the human kami.”

The contest is a lot of fun. Kayako is a huge jerk, and full of herself, so she constantly puts Nanami and her powers down. But Kayako doesn’t have a shinshi like Tomoe, and one of the organizers hints that this might be her downfall. But Kayako does have real power, which Nanami does not, and it does turn into an issue during this story. The issue is ten times worse than normal for Nanami, since Kayako constantly rubs her face in the fact Nanami has no power to use. It’s pretty funny.

There’s some supernatural danger that both Kayako and Nanami get to save the school from, and there’s also plenty of scenes where Tomoe gets to be a hero. Tomoe’s rude and sarcastic nature is in fine form in this volume, and it’s a perfect match to Kayako’s badgering. Nanami gets it from both sides here, though predictably, Tomoe and Kayako don’t get along. If the romance is what you liked best in this series, don’t worry, it hasn’t been entirely left behind here. There’s some wonderful scenes of Tomoe acting out here. Part of me thinks that this will be going somewhere, but the other part remembers how it totally did not in Karakuri Odette, Suzuki’s other translated series.

But it still has the wonderful writing and sweet story that make me love Suzuki. Plus, one of my favorite things about the series is the supernatural elements, which are often downplayed in favor of the romance, and we get to see a lot of that here. While I think characters are her strong suit, the kami system and the magic and myth associated with it in this series is developing wonderfully.

This is still one of my top favorite current shoujo series. I can’t wait to lay my hands on every volume as it comes out, and the continually changing storylines in each volume guarantee that this will be a great read for some time to come.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Kamisama Kiss 5

September 12, 2011

Julietta Suzuki – Viz – 2011 – 8+ volumes

So I just finished writing about Karakuri Odette, Suzuki’s other work published in English. I had nothing but nice things to say about it. This series is like Karakuri Odette x5, because it’s just as good, but uses some of my favorite themes. It’s actually a romance, and it has a plot involving folklore and folk creatures. I think the only way it could hit more of my shoujo manga weaknesses is if it had a demon in it.

This one snuck up on me a little bit, but I’m pretty thoroughly addicted at this point. I read this volume straight out of the box because I had to know, even though I knew very well nothing was really going to happen. It’s very episodic, with not a whole lot of momentum as far as developing Nanami’s kami powers or her relationship with Tomoe.

But the reason I love it are things like the last chapter in this volume. Nanami tries her best to hold a traditional Shinto festival to dispel rumors that her shrine is haunted, and after Tomoe rejects her attempts at several of the usual traditions, he decides to coach her on how to dance the traditional Kagura. There’s a couple chapters about how Nanami is desperately trying to learn the dance, and a lengthy scene at the end where she freezes up in front of her audience and isn’t sure she can remember it well enough to perform. And then… she does it. It’s beautiful, and just a little magical.

Not only was this scene fantastic, I also learned something about Kagura while I read it. It’s difficult to convey just how powerful this dance was after all the preparation leading up to it, but it was wonderful. It made me fall in love with this series all over again.

Getting people to worship at the shrine that Tomoe works so hard to maintain is a big part of the second half of the book, but there’s a wonderful story mixed in with a new mystery character that sheds light on both the best and worst qualities in Nanami and others. It’s touching and entertaining, and it’s interesting that Suzuki can so effectively analyze what makes her characters so… well, real, even though they are gods and spirits and whatnot. They’re easy to relate to, and not over-the-top stereotypes, which is a big part of what makes this series fun to read.

The first half of the book takes a look at a very interesting cliffhanger from last volume, namely, what Mizuki’s new status is. Nanami, Tomoe, Mizuki, and Nanami’s friends from school all go to a festival at a different shrine at the beginning of the book, which is part of what inspires Nanami later. It’s more of what you’d know of a summer festival if you’ve read a lot of manga, with food vendors and fireworks and yukata and whatnot. What starts out as the usual plot device in all shoujo manga turns out to act as an interesting contrast to the festival Nanami throws later, which goes back to the roots of such festivals and makes it more about the shrine and the act of worship than the social activity. The spirits and their memories also make this festival a lot more fun.

Again, I said this at the end of my Karakuri Odette review, but I have a hard time conveying just why it is that Suzuki’s series are so wonderful. They have great characters that are easy to relate to, sure, and the right mix of humor, romance, drama, sadness, and everything else that makes a shoujo manga great. They’re almost always very positive. But mostly, they’re just extremely well-written. There’s nothing fantastic that I can point to and say, “this is why you should definitely read it!” but… you should anyway. It’s wonderful, and I think any fan of shoujo manga would really enjoy it. This gets better with every volume, and now I’m beginning to think that it might have a plot that is picking up a little steam. I can’t wait to read more.

I love that, for all the series I have in my list over on the right hand side there, Julietta Suzuki’s two series, Kamisama Kiss and Karakuri Odette, fall right next to each other in alphabetical order. How unlikely.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


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