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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