I’m a big fan of Julietta Suzuki. I hosted the Manga Moveable Feast for Karikuri Odette, so it isn’t a surprise that I’m finding her latest series Kamisama Kiss absolutely delightful. In some ways Karakuri Odette, with its android protagonist and the way it explored romance without leading to a typical shoujo manga conclusion, was an anti-shoujo shoujo manga. Kamisama Kiss is a little more typical as Nanami, the human girl turned shrine goddess struggles with her feelings towards her shrine’s protector, the fox spirit Tomoe. While the storyline may be a bit more expected, Suzuki seems to be stretching her artistic skills a little bit more in this series. The characters are cute, with a bit of an edge. The opportunities to portray spirits attached to different types of landscapes allows for some refreshing character designs from Suzuki.
The third volume shows Nanami struggling with the realization of her feelings for Tomoe. They have to go on a visit to see swamp goddess Himeneko, but Nanami opts to attend in her school uniform instead of taking fashion advice from Tomoe. Himeneko’s underwater palace is bright and luxurious, with fish swimming by as Nanami admires the decor. Three bitchy carp princesses immediately attach themselves to Tomoe, while Himeneko takes Nanami aside for a bit of a makeover. Tomoe tells Nanami that she’s beautiful and she’s overcome with emotion. He keeps vowing to never fall in love with a human, so Nanami continues to suffer. A rival for Nanami soon appears when she gets rid of a white snake at her shrine. It leaves a mark around her wrist which is the equivalent of a snake engagement ring. Mizuki is a lonely snake spirit, and he’s selected Nanami as his new companion. There’s a hilarious story later in this volume, as Tomoe uses his powers of disguise to attend school as Nanami when she’s back at the shrine nursing a cold. Tomoe-Nanami has some interesting encounters with Nanami’s school friends, and Nanami’s hair starts whipping around almost like tentacles when Tomoe’s temper accidentally shows through his disguise.
Nanami continues to struggle with her feelings for Tomoe in somewhat superficial ways, testing his devotion to her and trying to get him to go out on a date with her. But when she asks Tomoe to go into the sea even when it is forbidden to him in order to rescue one of her friends, she starts displaying her feelings for him in a very substantial way. When Tomoe enters the sea he alerts a vengeful god who he tangled with years ago. The sea god promptly kidnaps Tomoe as payment for past wrongdoings, but agrees to a bargain with Nanami. If she can find the eye that Tomoe stole from him long ago, he will restore Tomoe to her. Mizuki the snake comes along on Nanami’s quest and she shows how far she’s willing to go to protect Tomoe. It seems like Mizuki is going to be sticking around for some time, so I’ll be looking forward to Tomoe’s reaction to that in the next volume.
The textiles of the yokai outfits and the undersea backgrounds in this volume were very detailed. When combined with Suzuki’s charming knack of rendering her facial expressions just exaggerated enough for humor but still realistic enough to inspire sympathy from the reader, Kamisama Kiss provides great summer escape reading.
Review copy of volume 4 provided by the publisher.