This week I’ll be reviewing Kamichu!. It’s a slice of life series that aired from June to September of 2005, for a run of twelve episodes. Following this there were four more episodes on DVD. I’ll be covering the full sixteen episode series in this review. Now, Kamichu! is a title I really like, and I guess that’s kind of telling on my overall tastes in anime, since Kamichu! and Aria rank among my favorite anime (I’ll probably cover Aria next week). Before I get into the real meat of the show (.. what little there is, I suppose) there are some important facts to consider before watching a show like this.
First off, this is a slice of life show. By that I mean the prevailing genre here is slice of life. It’s not like some other shows I covered, like maybe Nichijou (literally means daily life) which is party slice of life but mostly gag comedy. Nor is it on the same level as something like Ano Natsu de Matteru or Papa no Iukoto wo Kikanasai! which have slice of life elements as a backdrop to the drama (Ano Natsu) or comedy (Papakiki). Kamichu! is more a slice of life in the most traditional sense, more similar to something like Natsume Yuujinchou (they share strong Japanese cultural themes). As such, Kamichu!, like Aria, is boring.
That doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable to watch, but if you’re expecting to be falling out of your seat at the humor, or swooning at the romance, or crying at the drama, or on the edge of your seat at the suspense, this is not the show for you. It’s a normal show about a normal girl (… kinda. We’ll get to that) who does things that a girl her age and in her position would do. The setting may be a bit fantastical, but by and large it’s just her daily life. With that in mind, let’s get down to business.
Being a fairly traditional slice of life show, Kamichu! does not have much of an overarching plot to it. There is a small romance subplot between the main character, Hitotsubashi Yurie and her classmate, Ninomiya Kenji, but beyond that there isn’t much. As such, the stories in this show are mostly episodic, similar to something like Mushishi or Natsume Yuujinchou. So instead of referring to various episodic plots, which wouldn’t help much, I’ll speak on the setting of the show and then touch on the episodes more generally.
To begin with, the name “Kamichu” is a portmanteau of “kami” and “chuugakusei”, which are god and middle school student, respectively. This essentially describes the main character. The show tells the story of one Hitotsubashi Yurie and her life as a goddess. Basically, in the very first episode, she tells her best friend, Shijou Mitsue that overnight she became a goddess. The story never goes any deeper than that into the how or why of the matter, just that she had. It’s just something you have to accept, which I enjoyed. The plot doesn’t really get bogged down in the hows or whys of anything, and instead you’re just taken along for the ensuing journey.
Anyway, the news breaks out in the town (though no one is all that surprised) and another classmate, Saegusa Matsuri, decides to “manage” Yurie. As she runs a nearby shrine that doesn’t get enough visitors, she sees Yurie as an opportunity to drum up some business. And honestly, that’s about it for setting. One day, Yurie is a goddess. After that, she has adventures. Sure, there are some side characters brought up. Ninomiya Kenji, a boy in Yurie’s class that she’s infatuated with. Yurie’s little brother, Shoukichi is romantically interested in Matsuri’s little sister, Miko. Additionally, the god of the Raifuku Shrine (the shrine Matsuri manages), Yashima-sama, shows up fairly often.
The plots of the episodes themselves are generally lighthearted affairs. It’ll range from an adventure or a problem Yurie has to fix or something more for the side characters, but by and large they are low-tension situations. It makes it easier to sit back and enjoy the show, I feel. I don’t get too invested or exhibit any crazy string of emotions while watching events unfold, I just take them as they happen and enjoy the ride. That’s kind of how the episode structure is for this show.
Moving on to the characters, I’ll cover the three main ones. One thing to note is that due to the nature of the show, there isn’t a whole lot of development that goes into these characters. They don’t have any deep epiphanies that totally change the way they act and for the most part aren’t much deeper than their first impression would suggest.
That being said, it’s hard to count that as a point against the show, since that’s kind of how the show is set up. I suppose it’s true that maybe the characters could have been a little deeper, but I’m hard-pressed to think of a situation where that would be shown and still feel natural with the rest of the series.
But anyway, let’s start with Hitotsubashi Yurie. She comes into school one morning, and tells her best friend that she became a goddess overnight. And so it happened. No one really questions it, and that’s fine. Now Yurie herself isn’t really what one would think when one thinks “goddess”. She’s not particularly regal or mature; she’s just a middle school student after all. It’s not as if she’s a beautiful girl, or possesses some singular talent either. She’s just a normal girl after all. And she has normal girl problems. Those are just a little bit compounded by the fact that she is now a goddess.
Going into her personality a little bit, it’s not particularly deep. Yurie is an earnest, simple-minded girl. She’s not the most intelligent girl out there, nor is she particularly good at any one activity. She’s just average. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but I enjoy the dichotomy of her supposedly being some sort of all-powerful goddess and her actual self being, well, kind of lame.
Moving on to her best friend, Shijou Mitsue. She’s the most down-to-earth character of the cast. She comes across as a fairly restrained character at first, and for the most part she is, though you do learn that she does yearn for a more exciting life. Eventually the god Yashima-sama takes to possessing Mitsue when he wants to hang out in the real world, so in a way her dream gets fulfilled.
The last character I’ll cover is the third friend of their little group, Saegusa Matsuri. Matsuri is easily the most energetic of the three, fairly proactive and always wanting to do something. She tries to commercialize Yurie (though it doesn’t work out too well) several times in order to get some more visitors for her shrine. Besides being energetic, though, there’s not much else to her. I think the three of them play roles that work well off of each other in the show, but besides being kind of flat, there’s not too much more to say about them.
For the art, I’m going to try and make a difference between the art styles and art direction here (or at least what I perceive to be the difference between the two). The art style of the show is fairly simple, and while it does well enough to characterize the show, it’s not particularly stunning. However, I love the art direction of the show. That is, the deciding of what’s in the show to illustrate. Particularly I think the background settings are gorgeous (Yurie lives in one of those stereotypical rural Japanese towns that has great scenery and I’m sure doesn’t actually exist), and I really enjoyed the colors and designs when it came to drawing some of the gods and goddesses up in their own world.
As I won’t separate these two at the end of my review, for now I’ll average them and say the art as a whole is a bit above average. As a short aside, while I’m not really covering this, the manga’s art is actually really good. I find it kind of funny that the author for the manga does mostly hentai manga, but for some reason also did this cute innocent story about a middle school girl being a goddess. Despite the subject material, however, his art is quite good.
The animation is actually quite good. I haven’t watched the series in a good long while, but one of the things that stuck with me was some of the animation, particularly in the first episode where Yurie saves Kenji during a fierce storm. If I had to draw a comparison, the animation reminds me of Miyazaki’s stuff. I don’t have any concrete basis to say something like that, but that’s the impression I got while watching the show. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many places where the Kamichu! can show off this kind of animation, so I would say it loses a little bit there. I understand that the story unfolds in such a way that this is the case, but I think there could’ve been a little bit more work done there.
I absolutely adore the music for the series. Well, I’m not a huge fan of the opening and ending themes. The opening is Hare Nochi Hare by Tomita Maho, whom I’ve never heard of. The song isn’t particularly good anyway, and though the opening video isn’t bad, it’s not really incredible. The ending theme is done by Yurie’s voice actress, MAKO, and is called Ice Candy. This song isn’t that great either, and the accompanying video is super boring to boot. However, that all being said and done with, the background music for this show is stellar; I totally love the OST. It’s done by Ike Yorihiro whom I’ve never heard of to do anything else, but his work on Kamichu! was fantastic. There’s a wealth of really calming songs that just make me melt and I think the soundtrack for the show is a big part for setting the peaceful and slightly whimsical but never serious attitude of the show, and I love it for that.
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