Kamisama Kiss at a Glance

Right there on the tin.

So, here’s the shoujo romance I was actually looking forward to this season, as opposed to that other one about monsters or something. I started reading the manga last week (ha!), having gotten these weird urges to start reading a lot of shoujo all of a sudden. Although I picked up the first Kitchen Princess omnibus this past summer, and I dutifully have been replacing my ancient Mixx/Tokyopop editions of Sailor Moon with the Kodansha ones, I must confess that I’d largely abandoned titles in this demographic when I dropped Vampire Knight over three years ago. This wasn’t exactly a shocking development, by the way, given that, well, I’m not in the target audience for this stuff anymore. The dropping of shoujo coincided more or less in my rising desire for seinen and josei titles.

And then I got bitten by a weird shoujo bug, and now I’m in, “GIMME YER SHOUJOOOOO” mode, this burning need having lead to the purchase of several volumes of Kamisama Kiss, Karakuri Odette, Saint Tail, and Sand Chronicles. xxxHolic just got bumped from my shelves because of this! What a strange twist!

I think I say all this because I am not entirely happy about getting to the point with how I’m feeling about the Kamisama Kiss anime so far. Quite simply, I’m disappointed, although I will say that the first few chapters of the manga aren’t terribly good, so perhaps this shouldn’t be unexpected. But where with the manga I for some reason felt like persisting with my reading, here I don’t think I would keep going if I hadn’t read a few volumes of the manga. It felt frequently disjointed and abrupt, and I didn’t like it.

I think the underlying issue was the pacing, but am not sure if I just feel that way since I’ve read this material in manga form already. To me, it felt like I was being tossed rapidly from one spot to another, with no stops for breath. I initially took the anime’s willingness to skip over Nanami repeating her story over and over as a good sign, as, truly, why must we tread the same ground multiple times? But this morphed into a mass of cuts in material, and while some of it causes no issue in being cut, some of it made quite a difference in the pacing. And with episode one covering most of the first collected volume of the manga, with the indication that the final couple of chapters of said volume as well as the opening chapter of volume two are going to be skipped entirely, I’m nervous about the show outpacing the manga before it wraps up.

But the cuts also make me nervous about the handling of Nanami as a character, as she’s coming off as less independent and strong-willed than she was in the manga already, and the thing’s barely even begun. On the counter, though, since it has barely begun, there’s quite a bit of time for the anime to address this matter.

I’m a bit annoyed that Tomoe isn’t as feminine-looking in the anime as in the manga… but I’m also attracted to both men and women, so lulz or something on that change. Do wish they’d had Akira Ishida as Tomoe’s voice actor, and not as Mikage’s, but, again, these are fairly personal biases.

I suppose the upshot is that overall I’m not feeling great about this, but that I’m willing to give it more time. If you do like it, you should pick up the manga and give that a go, as it fills things out more. I can’t claim that its problem-free… actually, let me just tangent slightly on that kiss at the end of the episode, given how neatly it stands opposite of another nonconsensual kiss we’ve seen this season. There are some spoilers here for the second volume of the manga.

So, Nanami kisses Tomoe to form a contract with him.

…holy shit, and I just realized that kissing = contracts means Mikage and Tomoe kissed. HOLY FUCKING BL, BATMAN!

Excuse me, where was I?

Yes, Nanami kissed Tomoe to force him into a contract with her, as contracting him means he must obey her orders, and in this case she wants to order him to save her from a youkai. I find it interesting that she does this in part because she refuses to apologize for telling him he’s a jerk earlier on, but I want to focus on the consent stuff here.

I’ll admit that I’m not as bothered as maybe I should be by this kiss, because Nanami’s cleverness amuses me, and since Nanami is pretty clearly no threat ultimately for Tomoe – he could very easily kill her if he felt so inclined, and he can fart off into youkailand where she cannot follow him. Later on in the storyline, too, Tomoe returns the gesture when their contract is forcibly broken by an interloper, so it feels like a more give and take sort of scenario.

One could also make the argument that Nanami’s action is for the purposes of forming a contract, not for romance, but I think this argument holds little to no water – even if it is to form a contract, the material calls itself a romantic comedy. Thus, while in the strictest sense “forming a contract” is a non-romantic act in Nanami and Tomoe’s world, the paradigm of the story is telling us that it is romantic.

Anyway! Although, as I said, I wasn’t terribly bothered by the kiss myself, I don’t think it is an unproblematic act, since, yeah, the show romanticizes it, even as Tomoe is annoyed after the fact (although for being contracted, not specifically for the act of kissing as an ignorance of his bodily autonomy). And Kamisama Kiss as a whole, while better than a lot of shoujo romance crawling around out there, still has some fairly problematic aspects when it comes to gender, consent, and personal agency. Writing this post has actually gotten me interested in looking at the whole concept of contracts with supernatural beings within the medium, as its a fairly common trope (which itself numbs us to the fact that forcing contracts with anyone is problematic on its face).

Well, this post sure has bloated! I’ll just wrap up here by mentioning the OP, of which I really loved the song. It felt like the perfect illustration of something I talked about in the comment section a few times on my Monster-kun post – the singer talks about being weary of being a Good Girl and a desire to be, for once, a Bad Girl, and to not be punished for it. Its like hearing the collective psyche of women and girls speak up, and it surprised me that it was the music picked for such a fluffy shoujo romance.

By the way, for shits and giggles, I almost uploaded that photoshopped picture of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan kissing by accident instead of Nanami kissing Tomoe since both filenames had ‘kiss’ in them and I was distracted. Whoops.

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5 Responses to Kamisama Kiss at a Glance

  1. Vincent says:

    You did recommend this over Monster-kun, so I shall give it a shot when I get home. Judging by your post, Kamisama Kiss already seems far more tolerable than Kaibutsu, with much less problematic issues.

  2. I liked this episode, but as you know, I haven’t read the manga yet. Definitely planning on trying it, though.

    I wasn’t all that bothered by the contract kiss myself, although I also know it isn’t completely unproblematic. As you said, she poses no threat to Tomoe, and Tomoe had been like “lol, Puny little human with no power to save yourself” prior to that, so admittedly for me it was a “lol, Table’s turned on you, buddy” moment. ^_^;

    Ohhh, I want to try the manga, but I want to see how the overall show holds up without my having read it. And I thought the OP was pretty nifty also.

    • Vincent says:

      Having watched it now, I completely agree. It was amusing to see Tomoe lose his position of power, but yeah, it isn’t entirely unproblematic as the show still romanticizes a kiss that had no consent with Nanami’s blushing, etc. after the act.

      I also really found the OP interesting with its message and I even really enjoyed listening to it, although I probably wouldn’t admit to the latter in real life.

      • A Day Without Me says:

        Well, as I said before, I loved the OP so much in part due to the lyrics. I also liked the slight enka flavor it had – fit really well with the youkai and kami theme at work in the show.

    • A Day Without Me says:

      In the manga, too, Nanami’s contract forcing moment comes off as less pre-meditated – she slips and falls from the tree instead of letting go, so her action is much more in the moment.

      Might be a better idea to just watch the show and then pick up the manga, or slowly buy the manga as you watch. There are a lot of volumes out in the US, so, yeah.

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