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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Manga Reviews: Kamisama Kiss, Strobe Edge

Today in super small manga reviews, a human-turned-kami watches her supernatural entourage grow by leaps and bounds while a young woman struggles with her feelings for a guy who is beyond her reach (or is he?).
Spoiler alert: post contains spoilers for Kamisama Kiss volumes 2 through 5 and Strobe Edge volumes 6 and 7.
Kamisama Kiss (Julietta Suzuki): Nanami Momozono is alone and homeless after her dad skips town to evade his gambling debts and the debt collectors kick her out of her apartment. So when a man she's just saved from a dog offers her his home, she jumps at the opportunity. But it turns out that his place is a shrine, and Nanami has unwittingly taken over his job as a local deity!
Where has this supernatural shojo series been all my life? Oh, right, in Japan. After marathoning through all of these volumes over the span of so many hours, I absolutely 100% adore it. I especially adore Nanami, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite shojo heroines in recent years. Meanwhile, we have Tomoe, her perfect foil, who soon becomes the object of her sudden and new affections.

What is great about these four volumes of Kamisama Kiss is that we see Nanami learn more about the world of yokai and ayakashi while getting back into the fold of her human life. She goes back to school and earnestly works hard at her studies while also trying to lift the status of her shrine and new home out of 'spooky haunted house' territory with a big summer festival, complete with special performance by the shrine tochigami AKA her. And Nanami handles it all pretty well!
We also see the variety of characters that are attracted to Nanami's big, outgoing personality. There's Mizuki, the shinshi of a rotting shrine that becomes Nanami's second shinshi (much to the irritation of Tomoe), popular idol/tengu in disguise Kurama, and Sukuna, the one-eyed ruler of the sea who has a vendetta against Tomoe. And yet, with her bravery and her stubbornness, Nanami wins them all over.
Right now, Kamisama Kiss is two things: an unlikely love story between a human girl and her non-human second in command as they run a shrine together, and the story of a young woman exploring the world of ayakashi and becoming a worthy kami for those who visit her shrine. Needless to say, this is a manga worth catching up with.
PS - Tomoe's Ennui Blog is adorable and I love it. Poor Tomoe!
Strobe Edge (Io Sakisaka): What is love, anyway? Ninako Kinoshita’s friends tell her it’s one thing, but Ninako wonders what this mysterious feeling really is. When she meets Ren Ichinose, the handsome, enigmatic guy that all the girls worship, her life takes an unexpected turn. With just a few words and a smile, he changes her world...
In recent volumes of Strobe Edge, we've seen the awkward teen romance between Ninako and Ren rise and fall, and for a while it seemed unlikely that the two of them would ever become close. Well, sorry, but Ren still hasn't told Ninako how he feels - and in these volumes, Ninako is suppressing her feelings as well, although their daily interactions heavily betray how interested they are in each other. Augh! Just kiss already!
The problem is, for Ren, he has just broken up with his long-term girlfriend, and is still feeling the weight of that relationship. Ninako, who has the patience of a saint, is giving him distance because she doesn't want to force anything upon him, especially right after he's left Mayuka. Naturally, none of Ninako's friends care and tell her to move in before any other girls realize Ren is single and move in for the kill. Except that Ren isn't interested in any girls at the moment, and for a while, it seems that the uneasy equilibrium of friendship between Ren and Ninako can still be maintained.
I have to say, Ren and Ninako's relationship is getting frustrating. At this point, they are staying away from each other for purely superficial reasons. If Ren could fully realize his feelings for Ninako, there would be no need for all the hiding and pretending that they don't care for each other. Then again, it wouldn't be much of a shojo manga!
Meanwhile, we've got some additional drama when a figure from Sayuri's past bubbles up to the surface. Her ex-boyfriend Yu is regrettably a little boring but it doesn't help that he's only arrived in this past volume. His best moments come during the side chapter that shows his and Sayuri's past relationship. But it brings some great moments between Sayuri and Daiki, including a cavity-inducing lovely scene in the hallways that makes them the center of attention for their amused classmates.

I feel like I gotta give Ando points for persistence, but he should really find a way to move on from Ninako. Ninako isn't going to fall in love with Ando. I hope this series lets Ando get over Ninako without dying, because this shojo lacks a body count that similar titles (sup, Sand Chronicles, NANA, et cetera) would have already. So, please don't kill Ando, Io-sama! Have mercy on his lovesick heart!