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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Manga Review: Kamisama Kiss GN 1

Kamisama Kiss volume one
Author: Julietta Suzuki
Viz Media/Shojo Beat
198 pages
Some girls have all the best luck in the world - but not Nanami. Having been bullied by her classmates for being poor and left homeless by her gambling addict father who runs out on her and his skyrocketing debt, there's no way her life could get any worse. That is, until a kind looking man leads her into an unusual set up: becoming the tochigami for a rundown shrine populated by a trio of yokai, including a very arrogant fox-eared man who would rather drink and carouse than serve Nanami's will. What's a girl to do?
Okay, so maybe Nanami does not live the most charmed life. But after reading the first book of Kamisama Hajimemashita/Kamisama Kiss, I could see why being the tochigami could be a good life. Having an attractive powerful demon at your beck and call is pretty sweet, even if you have to spend your days weeding the yard, reading prayers, and practicing magic. But hey, magic!

Kamisama Kiss is your standard shojo story turned upside down. In this story, the supernatural world has dropped face-first into the human world, the main female character now has some pretty awesome magic, and also acquires a surly servant who looks good in a kimono, even if he'd rather be anywhere else. Seriously, Tomoe is a seriously good looking bishonen. If anything, this series is one part Natsume Yuujinchou, one part Fruits Basket, and all around charming and adorable.
I did not think I would like Nanami as much as I did by the volume's end. She is someone who works hard and has no patience for other people's nonsense, whether it is her father's money problems or Tomoe's 'better than you' attitude. Nanami does not stand by idle for long if she knows she's needed, even if it means barging into a meeting between her ayakashi servants and the Majesty of the Swamp. She practices her shirofuda skills so she does not have to be so reliant on Tomoe's powers.
(Speaking of the Majesty of the Swamp, I can't be the only person put off by a yokai falling in love with an eight-year-old boy, right? At least she waited another ten years to make a move - which is probably the only reason why this arc was explored in the first place. I wonder if matchmaking will be one of Nanami's duties going further on in the series.)
Of course, we also have Nanami's foil, the loud and arrogant Tomoe, who sees Nanami as a poor excuse for a tochigami. Regardless, he is now Nanami's shinshi, her unerring servant who is magically compelled to answer her command. It's a very Inuyasha situation, although Kagome didn't seal her contract to Inuyasha with a free-fall kiss. I think Tomoe is slowly growing concerned for Nanami's safety and ability, even if he hides his concern behind a mask of bluster and anger. They work together so well, too.
I actually watched the first episode of the Kamisama Kiss anime, so I couldn't help but mentally compare that with the manga's first couple of chapters, which that episode thoroughly covered. I actually prefer the anime's treatment of Nanami's dire circumstances that lead her to being homeless; the 'old film' style really worked at being entertaining and still effectively delivering important plot stuff. Still, it was a pretty to-the-letter adaptation, although it took me longer to watch that episode than it did to read the entire first book.
I have to admit, the artwork is nothing special, although Julietta Suzuki does a great job with facial expressions. Her use of panels and blank space is good, too. One of the best drawn scenes is a flashback to what looks like a young Tomoe, who is so adorable. If it means that we'll have lots of backstory sub-plots for Tomoe in the future then I'm all for it! I hope we also see how Tomoe and Mikage met, as well as just more Mikage in the main story (he can't leave that easily!).

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Kamisama Kiss' first volume. It was a supernatural shojo with plenty of humor, action, and drama and some really great characters worth following. I can't wait to read more of the hijinks involving Nanami and Tomoe and the onibi-warashi who live in the shrine.