Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kamisama Kiss Volume 2

By Julietta Suzuki. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Viz.

I must admit that I feel this series suffers by being read after we've already been exposed to Karakuri Odette. I know this isn't the case, but it almost feels like Suzuki has been asked to dial it back a bit, to make something that's more the norm. Or maybe it's just that I don't find these characters as interesting. Nevertheless, I enjoy it a lot as I read it, so it's not exactly bad. I just have trouble recalling it afterward.

We get another new semi-regular introduced here with Kurama, an idol singer who transfers to Nanami's school. She had been avoiding school up to this point (remember, high school isn't quite as compulsory in Japan), but seeing the hotness of the new boy impels her to return. Of course, Tomoe insists she has duties to perform (even if no one's coming to the shrine), and demands she wear a silly looking disguise so that she's not attacked by yokai who want her power. Now, given the name 'Kurama', what are the odds that our idol turns out to actually be a yokai of some sort? That's right, 1 to 1. In fact, one of the cleverer things about this volume is managing to combine Kurama as both the 'evil yokai who wants to eat her heart, *and* the selfish bad boy who Nanami quickly starts arguing with once she sees his true self. Naturally, Tomoe comes to the rescue (the ostrich bit was cute, probably the funniest part of the volume), and just as naturally Kurama falls for Nanami for real.

A more serious story follows, featuring Narukami, a lightning goddess who's also a selfish, spoiled princess. She goes through servants like candy, exhausting and destroying them with her unreasonable demands. The servant she really wants is Tomoe, but he's far too sensible to get involved with the likes of her. So she decides to go after Nanami instead. She's far more successful in this than Kurama was, and actually succeeds in taking Nanami's power. She also shrinks Tomoe into a little boy using a divine squeaky mallet. Now Nanami can't see spirits, Tomoe is depowered, and they're both homeless again.

Things are not quite as simple as that, of course. Narukami finds that the shrine, without Tomoe to keep it in good shape, has fallen into a sad state of disrepair, making her even angrier. Worse, Nanami and Tomoe are forced to take shelter at Kurama's fancy idol singer apartment, and Tomoe is sick because the little child's body can't hold his powers well... and also as he feels hel,pless. As does Nanami. Tomoe, being your basic guy, decides to go back to Narutaki, trying to be rude and cruel to Nanami in order to 'protect' her. This hasn't worked in manga since Tezuka's day, and it doesn't work now. Luckily, she shows up at the shrine (where Tomoe has concealed himself), and a frustrated Narukami gives up, realizing that she doesn't want Tomoe by coercion.

There's nothing precisely wrong with this volume, except that the characters still feel a bit like they were taken from Shoujo Stereotypes 101. Suzuki is talented enough that she can mix things up enough to keep our interest, but I do hope that in future volumes things move up to the next level.

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