Sometimes there’s just no substitute for experience.
Kamisama Hajimemashita certainly isn’t doing anything radical, or truth be told even anything different. This is a very tried and true formula, but it all comes down to execution. I’m sure the manga is charming, but I think the reason this is succeeding as an anime primarily comes down to one simple factor – Daichi Akitaro. He’s writing and directing, and this is a man who knows his way around a good shoujo. Whether doing something dark and profound like Fruits Basket or a three-minute exercise in whimsy about the charms of cats like Poyopoyo, Akitaro-san is a master, one of the best in the business – and it shows.
The formula for Kamisama Kiss is very straightforward. The likably plucky and somewhat clumsy heroine, the tsundere bishounen male lead, wonderfully expressive visuals and perfect timing. The series is paced such that every moment flows seamlessly into the next with no dead spots, the jokes are of the quick job and weave variety and it’s obviously the sort of story that’s short on real villains and long on misunderstood lonely souls who just want to be loved. In other words, a classic shoujo that in lesser hands might be stale and boring, if mildly amusing. Here is feels bright and fresh despite not offering anything really new. Akitaro could do this in his sleep, probably – but clearly, he’s too much of a professional to even consider it.
The subplots in these two episodes feature a catfish princess played by Horie Yui, a megane-boy with a Rubik's Cube played by Kimura Ryouhei and a snake shrine familiar played by Okamoto Nobuhiko. We also had a cameo by Noto Mamiko as a doomed water deity, the master of Okamoto’s Mizuki in the darker of the two stories. In some ways this series reminds me of a flashier version of Nekogami Yaoyorazu, another unassuming and highly professional comedy with a brilliant cast and Shinto themes. I’m a sucker for a good Shinto story – there’s something elemental in the loneliness of an ancient deity forgotten by its followers and a dedicated servant trying to keep memories of the past alive.
As for the relationship at the heart of the story, nowhere more so than here do we have a case of something “familiar” that works because of execution. Tomoe is pretty old hat, but his character brings a lot of humor (like reading “Beverly Hills High School Diary” to prep for posing as a student) and his hard edges are left sharp enough to make his character interesting. Nanami is likewise a bit of a likable cliché but she performs her function admirably. I also like the miscellaneous characters like her goofy classmates and especially the shrine sprites, both at her shrine and Mizuki’s, None of it is especially challenging, but it’s all good fun and even manages to be emotionally involving at times.
As for a few other Fall shows, I did watch the third episode of Magi and I’m still on the fence – frankly, it was fairly boring and not nearly as entertaining as the first two for me. Ixion Saga is fun, but I can’t see myself blogging about ball-busting jokes every week – even if they are good ones. Gyrozetter is likewise fun, but already two weeks behind on subs and another one that might be tough to blog in any case. I love the manic energy of the first two episodes – it just gets right to the point, exactly what a good kids’ series should do – but there’s not a whole lot of subtext there. Code Breaker isn’t making enough of an impression on me to seriously consider regular coverage. And sadly, it’s looking like most of the subbers are holding off on Seitokai no Ichizon until the TV airing next season, which is when I’ll probably blog it.