Kamisama Kiss, Vol 20

Kamisama Kiss Volume 20 by Julietta Suzuki

This volume starts dealing more with the issues that inevitably arise when a human and an immortal start developing romantic feelings for each other. It starts out with a conclusion of the class trip storyline, as Tomoe is able to observe what Nanami is like when hanging out with other human girls. When he goes on an errand to an island where he met a human kami many years before, he gets a vivid reminder of how short Nanami’s lifespan is.

Tomoe decides that he has to become human, and he wants that transformation to happen immediately. Nanami thinks that it is good that Tomoe is trying to get closer to humanity through some excessive studying, but she thinks that it won’t happen for several more years. When Tomoe gets his hands on some medicine that might have the power to transform him, she’s worried that he’ll die in a normal human lifespan, but he doesn’t want to remain immortal and watch her age and die. They fight a bit about this, and Tomoe goes off with his usual impulsive nature and takes the medicine, only to turn into a fox instead of a human.

This funny and sad situation brought on by mystical forces is the type of plot that Kamisama Kiss excels at, because it is hilarious to see Tomoe’s body language and cranky attitude manifest while in the form of an adorable fox, but it is also quite distressing that Nanami and Tomoe are being kept apart again. The appearance of Kirihito towards the end of the volume points out that there are going to be even more struggles ahead for the couple.

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One of the things I like most about this series are the quiet moments of character interactions, when Tomoe contrasts his memories the human kami he met as a little girl with the old woman she’s become, she mentions that the day she spent with him was one of her fondest memories. Nanami can’t help herself from hugging Tomoe when he’s in fox form, but she’s struck by his body language showing that he’s incredibly unhappy with his unexpected transformation. These types of moments give Kamisama Kiss more depth than the typical shoujo series, and have me happily reading every volume.

Kamisama Kiss, Vol. 12

It seems like most volumes of Kamisama Kiss involve human kami Nanami traveling to a new land or meeting some strange yokai. Fortunately this is a plotline that Julietta Suzuki executes so well with both art and story, I don’t mind a bit. I would happily look at a Suzuki art book because I find her character designs so entertaining. I’ve noticed that her underwater characters are often particularly inspired, so there is a lot to like about this volume, which features some major romantic happenings not for Nanami but for her yokai acquaintance Himemiko of the Tatara swamp and her human boyfriend Kotaro.

Himemiko has only appeared to Kotaro in human form, but her secret is going to be tested when her childhood fiance arrives to cause problems. Nishiki is a prince of a neighboring swamp who has grown up arrogant and cut off from contact from most creatures. His solution to his upcoming wedding is to kidnap both Nanami and her shrine, leaving her cut off from Tomoe. Nishiki has a formal way of dressing, accessorized by a scaly headband and fins at the side of his head. When he finds Himemiko in human form she pretends to not know what he’s talking about because she still doesn’t want to reveal her non-human nature to Kotaro. Kotaro gets injured during a confrontation and the god of the sea Ryu-Oh appears again, with his toothy grin, eye patch, and attitude problem.

Nanami struggles with her shrine being trapped at the bottom of a swamp and attempts to get through to Nishiki. Her utter disregard for high court yokai etiquette starts to wear the arrogant Nishiki down towards the end of the volume. His royal mannerism have even cut himself off from his own people, who boggle when they are shown the slightest amount of regard from their ruler. Himemiko and Kotaro start dealing with the true nature of their relationship, even as Nishiki starts to thaw a little bit and begin to understand that he doesn’t know much about the nature of love. Nishiki’s character evolves throughout the volume, and it is always good to see Nanami cause change just simply by being herself.

Even if Nanami and Tomoe’s relationship isn’t resolved yet, it is nice to see things moving forward for the other human/yokai couple in the book. I’m going to look forward to see what happens next at the conclusion of this arc, and if there’s a happy ending for the swamp Princess and her human it will be very interesting to see how Tomoe and Nanami react to that development.

Kamisama Kiss Volume 10

Kamisama Kiss volume 10 by Julietta Suzuki

Kamisama Kiss continues to be one of the most consistently charming shojo manga being published today. I need to fill in the gaps in my collection, because I tend to read random volumes here and there, but it is very fun to read. I was delighted to discover that shrine goddess in training Nananmi and cynical fox spirit Tomoe’s relationship has progressed somewhat. Of course in shoujo manga land, relationship progression means making overtures of affection or declarations of love when the object of one’s affection is unconscious, but I’ll take whatever I can get.

Nanami finds herself entangled in a rengu succession battle, as she has to sneak into Mount Kuruma and determine what is happening to the hapless Tengu under the rule of the overly strict heir Jiro. She also needs to track down the reasons behind the mysterious disappearance of the ruler of Mount Kuruma, Sojobo. Nanami gleefully comes up with a reckless infiltration plan involving a variety of disguises and the aid of the youngest and most vulnerable tengu. The interaction between the characters in Kamisama Kiss is always fun to see, and it was interesting to see Nanami’s newfound confidence as she dons the disguise of a male tengu and then proceeds to boldly run through the entire hall inorder to set up her own magical shield. Tomoe detects Jiro’s fascination with Nanami and assumes her form in order to provide a necessary distraction, and Tomoe’s version of Nanami is hilarious to watch in action because his body language of languid flirtation stands in such contrast to Nanami’s usual open enthusiasm. Not many artists could pull off a scene like that very well, and I always put down each issue of Kamisama Kiss with renewed appreciation for Suzuki’s illustration skills.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Kamisama Kiss Volume 7 by Julietta Suzuki

Kamisama Kiss Volume 7 by Julietta Suzuki

One volume of Kamisama Kiss is pretty similar to the rest, but that doesn’t really matter because Suzuki’s series is so cute and well-executed. One thing that I was excited to see is a bit of a trend to longer storylines, with a chapter that will be continued in the next volume! This doesn’t happen all too often in Suzuki’s manga as many of the chapters in her books are remarkably self-contained.

This volume starts out with a cute story about new Snake Shinsei Mizuki, who is feeling left out because he has to stay back at the shrine while Nanami and Tomoe go to school in the human world. Mizuki is spectacularly unsuited to the modern world, managing to get conned into buying a goofy looking protection sticker that he wears on his head as soon as he steps foot in the outside world. The next story shows Nanami and Tomoe visiting an amusement park together. Nanami is feeling suspicious and jealous when she finds out that Tomoe has been keeping a woman’s hairpin in his room. Tomoe is still loudly proclaiming that he’ll never fall in love with a human woman, while basically going on a date with Nanami. Nanami’s jealously almost ends up derailing their day, but they end up having a relatively peaceful ride on the ferris wheel.

The larger issue everybody has to deal with is Nanami’s attendance at a gathering called the Kamu-Hakari in Izumo. Mizuki informs Nanami that taking a fox shinshi along will result in Tomoe being harassed. Nanami ends up attending the gathering with Mizuki, but her naivete and expectations that other Kami are going to be nice are about to be tested horribly. One of the most enjoyable parts of Kamisama Kiss is seeing the unique character designs Suzuki develops for the otherworldly beings who Nanami meets, and the Kamu-Hakari gathering is full of new, slightly menacing gods who are not amused at the idea of welcoming a human in their group. Nanami finds herself cut off from any support and encounters Kirihito, a mysterious human with something extra going on. Nanami is promptly sent on a dangerous mission to the land of the dead, while Tomoe tries to live it up since his mistress has left him behind.

While there were a couple of fun stories that focused on individual characters, I was happy to see the turn towards more narrative complexity. It will be interesting to see if Nanami comes away from the Kamu-Hakari with more godlike abilities, or if her human perceptions and emotions will continue to be her best weapons in dealing with other kamisama. Tomoe continues to protest far to much about his emotions and Nanami continues to pine, but after seven volumes I’m still not tired of reading their story.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Kamisama Kiss Volume 5

Kamisama Kiss 5 by Julietta Suzuki

I’m having a bit of a stressful week so I was happy when the fifth volume of Kamisama Kiss arrived at my house. This manga blends a mystical fish out of water story about a human girl taking on the role of shrine deity with whimsical character designs, producing a perfect comfort reading manga. Nanami is having trouble dealing with her fox spirit helper Tomoe and his new rival the white snake Mizuki. They all attend a summer festival at another shrine and Nanami gets so frustrated at the constant bickering that she squeezes the bickering spirits’ hands together and says that they have to hold hands forever unless they make up. Mizuki and Tomoe are now forced to have an actual conversation, and it is clear that Mizuki’s obnoxiousness stems from his loneliness after being stuck at an abandoned shrine for so long.

The festival at the neighboring shrine makes Nanami think that she has to do something to bring visitors to her own shrine. It has the reputation of being creepy, but she’s determined to put on her own festival to bring the worshipers back. Since it is unusual for a human to be a shrine deity, Nanami has to learn how to do the proper festival dances the hard way. Tomoe is initially discouraging of her efforts, but ultimately comes around to support her. One of things I enjoy about this manga is that minor characters keep reappearing in later chapters, making it easy to picture the odd new social circle Nanami now has surrounding her. Nanami gets help from the swamp deity Himeneko and even the tengu disguised as human idol singer Kurama stops by. Kurama is amazed to see how Nanami’s power as a shrine deity has grown even though she isn’t really aware of it. Tomoe comments to him “she doesn’t realize it herself…but she’s not an ‘ordinary girl’ anymore.”

Suzuki’s manga are always a visual treat and blending the world of shrines and modern day life give plenty of room for her to showcase wonderful costumes and quirky character designs. I liked Karakuri Odette so much that I didn’t think I’d be captured in the same way, but Kamisama Kiss is really growing on me. This manga has all the easily read episodic charm of her other series, but I’m hoping for a bit more of a romantic payoff at the end.

Review copy provided by the publisher