Kamisama Kiss Volume 1

Kamisama Kiss Volume 1 by Julietta Suzuki

Karakuri Odette was such a pleasant surprise when I first started reading it, I have been eagerly waiting for another Suzuki series to be translated. I was excited to see that the Shojo Beat line was adding her series about yokai, Kamisama Kiss. Much like Karakuri Odette, Kamisama Kiss takes a premise that might initially seem to be a bit worn out and makes it absolutely charming.

Nanami is a fairly typical heroine. She’s bright and enthusiastic but she’s dealing with a horrible home life. Her father is a hopeless gambler, and in the first few pages of the manga he announces that they’re broke again and vanishes while leaving a terse note behind. The eviction people are knocking on the door and Nanami soon finds herself homeless, railing at her situation in a park. She’s distracted from her own grumbling when she sees that a dog has treed a strange man. Nanami chases off the dog and finds herself talking to a man who admits that he’s a runaway too. He says something about how she’ll be a better master for his house, kisses her on the forehead and hands her a map.

Nanami checks out her new home, which turns out to be a seemingly deserted shrine. She’s attacked by Tomoe, a fox spirit who initially mistakes her aura for his missing master. Nanami is now the god of the shrine, and she has to deal with two tiny spirit servants as well as figuring out how to make Tomoe help her with her new duties. Nanami soon finds out that being in charge of a shrine involves a backbreaking amount of work, and her human nature means that she isn’t very good at using her new mystical powers. Tomoe and Nanami quickly develop the “they are bickering because they are secretly attracted to each other” type of relationship that is fairly typical in shoujo manga. But as I expected from Suzuki, there are many quirky touches that make Kamisama Kiss interesting.

While drawing a human doesn’t necessarily give Suzuki the free range in expressing slightly strange body language that she exercises in Karakuri Odette, I’m still drawn in by the facial expressions of the characters. Suzuki seems to be able to create incredibly lively people with ease. None of her characters seem stiff or have dead eyes, which is quite an achievement when you consider that Nanami’s Onibi-warashi servant duo only appear with masks on their faces. Tomoe spends most of his time looking fiendish with occasional lapses into sympathy as he finds himself liking Nanami despite his professed intentions of not accepting her as his new master. Kamisama Kiss isn’t as purely episodic as Karakuri Odette, but it manages to cover plenty of ground for a first volume as Nanami settles in to her new life, attempts to practice magic, visits the spirit world, and attempts to help another local deity with her love life.

I enjoyed Suzuki’s character designs for her yokai, as she managed to make everyone look both creepy and cute. When a swamp goddess visits Nanami she’s drawn to look like a heavily-made up lizard with saucer eyes and tiny webbed structures taking the place of her ears. While plenty of manga show girls disappearing into a fantasy world, towards the end of the volume Nanami goes back to town and she’s struck by the contrast of the modern town with her new life. This was a detail I appreciated, since usually heroines of this type of manga don’t seem to be able to move between both worlds with ease. I also liked the way Nanami was able to stand up to Tomoe. While he kept declining to help her in order to prove a point, she managed to work around him due to the strength of her stubborn personality. I’m happy that as many of the series I’ve been following are winding down or stalled, there are some fun fantasy series like Kamisama Kiss starting up.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

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