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Friday, April 18, 2014

Kamisama Hajimemashita: Why Nanami Momozono Is My Queen

When I grow up, I want to be like Nanami Momozono. There, I said it, it's true. After finishing the tenth volume of the Kamisama Kiss manga, it's an undeniable fact that Nanami is the coolest human kami in the history of supernatural shojo. And there is no better story of a down on her luck homeless teen girl who turns into a capable and fearless homegrown deity than hers.
First of all, there's something remarkable about the shojo manga Kamisama Hajimemashita aka Kamisama Kiss. It's a supernatural story, an inter-species romance, a human drama, a comedy of errors, and a fantastical action tale all rolled into one, but it is never fully overwhelmed by one of these elements alone.
And it's safe to say that Kamisama Kiss has quickly become one of my top favorite shojo titles. Not in recent years, but ever, because it's doing everything right and has a fantastic heroine to boot. Nanami Momozono is a gift from above, a queen in ability who deserves the crown, a local deity worth worshiping. In a genre where it seems a lot of heroines are an unfortunate shade of milquetoast, Nanami is assertive, energetic, and willing to make herself heard to protect the ones she loves and strengthen her position as the head of her shrine.

One could compare Nanami's journey into kami-ness with the path of another Shojo Beat protagonist, Natsume Yuujinchou's Natsume, who can also interact with the yokai side of life. Natsume fell into his abilities via hereditary progression, while Nanami fell into it by a stroke of fate in a city park. Natsume struggles to balance his interaction in the human and yokai worlds, while Nanami fights for recognition in the yokai world while blending in seamlessly in the human world. It also helps that Nanami's assistant is a pointy-eared bishonen and not a plump odd-faced cat; Nyanko-sensei doesn't draw the same type of attention as Tomoe does.
I think that, if by chance Natsume and Nanami met on the printed page, they would initially bristle a bit at the other but would eventually become good friends. It helps that Nanami can make friends out of anyone with her fresh face and emotional honesty, from the somewhat standoffish human kami Kayako to the irate and violent tengu leader Jiro. And Natsume himself is an easygoing person to get along with, no matter how much he might see himself as closed off at first pass.
One could imagine that Nanami would understand Natsume's emotional struggles and give him guidance through his issues and probably teach him how to use ofuda to make cheap pork buns taste expensive. And, of course, Nyanko-sensei and Mizuki and Tomoe would all go drinking together. It's a shame Julietta Suzuki and Yuki Midorikawa will probably never work together.
But Nanami is not a super-powered perfect character by any stretch. By volume ten, she is still coming into her powers as a kami and relies on Tomoe's strength in several situations. She can be loud and clumsy and make foolish decisions. But she's growing in both ability and emotional acumen, especially regarding her feelings for her own shinshi, Tomoe.
Nanami is very much a young woman who is maturing in a strange world of ayakashi and demons, and she's still able to maintain going to school and serve the worshipers of her shrine while occasionally going on field trips to kami conventions and help out friends in a bind. And if that isn't an admirable young lady making her way in the world in the best way possible, I don't know who else could be.

So yes, if you are ever in the area, come visit Nanami Momozono's shrine. It's a little off the beaten path but the residents there have been doing a great job of cleaning up the place. If you need a matchmaker or a prayer heard, there's no better place to go. And perhaps, if you're lucky, you can catch our resident deity between attending classes and answering her worshipers' requests. I'm sure after the first trip, you'll become a regular visitor to Nanami's place as well.