Romantic comedy-dramas in anime are usually the same sort of game over and over again with different sort of gimmick each time, as a way to distinguish them when really they are just bland carbon copies. This was my fear with this series, especially when I saw Akitaro Daichi was directing, best known for his work on the much beloved Fruits Basket. I was prepared for the most saccharine anime I’ve seen to date. What I ended up viewing was actually pretty surprising.
Let’s take a look at Kamisama Kiss.
A review copy was provided by FUNimation Entertainment.
The story follows Nanami, a high school student whose jerk of a father drains their bank accounts and leaves her to deal with their house being repossessed. Young, poor, and down on her luck, she saves a man named Mikage from a roaming dog. In return, he kisses her forehead and tells her to stay at his house. Except he’s not a man, he’s a god, and his house is a shrine guarded by a fox demon named Tomeo, who is none too pleased with the new arrival baring his former master’s powers. From there, the duo take care of the shrine, interact with demons, and generally act out wacky situations.
I don’t really understand why the title change happened. The original Japanese one was Kamisama Hajimemashita, meaning “Begin/Beginning Life as a God,” which is a more apt description than God Kiss. There’s no reason for the translation of the title except for the cutesy sound nature of it. Otherwise, it doesn’t seem like much was altered in translation — the names remained the same, the jokes were as close as they could be and the explanations of Japanese culture and mythology wasn’t dumbed down.
The drama is honestly what drags the series down. If it were just a romantic comedy, the show would work great, but its attempts to bring weight in, especially during the last episode, fall flat because it’s so jarring compared to the rest of the show’s tone. Fruits Basket managed to pull it off but I do think that it’s a lot more difficult than it appears; the added drama either takes over the show which ruins the comedy or drags the show down kicking and screaming.
What makes this anime work are the two leads, Nanami and Tomoe, even if Nanami starts to waiver in and out of character every so often by being overly emotional. They play well off each other and are neither annoyingly stubborn nor quick to give in to the romance. It’s their relationship that drives the plot, and it’s one of the better written aspects of the show. The additional characters range from cute (the two little servants of the shrine) to kind of useless to the narrative but still okay (like one snake demon who appears a little too often for my taste).
The dub is very good, better than you see for most cutesy romantic comedies that make it across the ocean. I prefer the English Nanami and Tomoe (played by Tia Ballard and J. Michael Tatum respectively) over the Japanese ones because, to be honest, I think their chemistry is much better, something that is notoriously hard to pull off in voice overs. The entire English cast does a really great job, rivaling the original Japanese cast, and my preferences really boil down to some boring nit-picky stuff that’s really more personal than professional. Special mention goes to Sean O’Connor as the crow demon Kurama, who captures the pouty popstar act really well in spite of not having a ton of experience under his belt.
I find the opening and closing songs to be pretty awful. The singer, who does both, is Hanae, and it is her breathy, raspy voice that just kills the music (though, the lyrics are pretty cheesetastic as well). It’s as though she’s trying to be overly cutesy like a breathless woman in the face of love but honestly it was so terrible to listen to over and over again because of its fake-sounding quality. Worst of all, it was boring — nothing to highlight the fun and zany style of the show itself. If I had literally gone by the opening of the show, I would have never picked this show up.
My very big gripe with the anime is that it does what so many manga adaptations do and basically ends short without answering all the questions. Why does Nanami have the eye of the one demon when she gives it to someone else in the past? Why is this mysterious person important in the first place? Does Nanami ever stop being a god or will she get super powers? What about her school life? And her father? All of these are (probably) answered in the manga, but not in the show. A lot of manga-to-anime adaptations do this, but it’s really rather annoying. I have invested all this time in your show, can’t you just finish the story?
The Blu-Ray/DVD extras are pretty standard trailers, lyric-less songs (as if we needed to hear them again) and some commentary, which is never my cup of tea but wasn’t awful. The DVD copy had very clean animation, so I’m not sure the Blu-Ray added any quality to the imagery, though perhaps to the sound. Speaking of the animation, it looked good with few noticeable short cuts and a variety of over the top expressions and poses, which is something I always love seeing in shows like these.
Overall, I really enjoyed the show, more than I thought I would have. It’s true that the drama doesn’t really carry much of a punch but the comedy more than makes up for it, and the character interaction really works in its favor as well as the strong dub. If only it had better theme music, to avoid cringing every time an episode ended or began. I hope they dub the OVA as well!
– Strong English dub.
– Good overall plot and comedy.
– Good character interaction.
– Terrible theme music.
– Drama is poorly executed.