This is review number seventy four. It’s part of the Summer 2011 line up. The Summer 2012 line up soon to close its doors so I’m trying to watch all of those anime in Summer 2011 I haven’t seen yet. Today I’ll be reviewing Kamisama Dolls. It’s a thirteen episode anime about magical robots being controlled by priests from this village. There’s more to the story though that I explained in my review so let’s read on.
So the anime opens with Kyouhei Kuga, a college student who moved from his village to escape its old and traditional customs. He has a huge crush on this girl named Hibino Shiba whose dad happens to be from the same village. Kyouhei is a shy guy and a bit cowardly but he was able to talk to Hibino thanks to some luck. They went home together and they discovered a man dead on the elevator with his blood painted all over the walls. Naturally, the two was shaken up and they were brought in by the police for questioning. Kyouhei had a suspicion though that this was connected to the “thing” that he wanted to escape from back in his village. After the questioning, he comes home and he discovers her sister is there to visit. His sister, Utao Kuga, is a Seki. Seki is a name given to those that can control a kakashi. Kakashi is a mechanical robot with exterior made of wood that a Seki controls by communicating with it using his/her mind. They are also considered gods in the village Kyouhei is from. Utao actually came to tell her brother that his close friend named Aki, who was imprisoned in the village because of a horrendous crime, escaped and possibly fled in the city. This shocked Kyouhei as he realizes that Aki is the one who killed the dude from the elevator. It wasn’t long until Aki, who is also a Seki, clashed with Utao and ended up destroying Kyouhei’s apartment. One thing was clear though: it seems that Kyouhei cannot escape his village.
Taking the Pants Off
Kamisama Dolls isn’t really the anime I was expecting it would be. I was more leaned on the idea of moe girls piloting a mecha of some sorts judging by the picture I saw on MAL. It’s not. Kamisama Dolls is a character driven story about the people who lives in an isolated village deep in the mountains going to the city and basically raising some hell. Ok, the story of this anime is complex as hell that I can’t explain it all without spoiling the anime. I had a lot of plot points about certain characters in the anime. It was messy at first but you gradually get the idea after a few watching. The complex character driven story of this anime can be compared to Durarara’s style of story presentation. It was told through the views of a certain character. Durarara had three different plots though. Kamisama had one major plot and a lot of sub plots that was used to move the main story along. Let me slow down a bit and collect my thoughts for a second.
Those plot points I mentioned above is just in episode one. Yes, the first episode had all of those things along with the basic premise . The first episode is where the viewers are still on the feeling out process so it was pretty daunting. After episode one, there was a lot of plot points that was carried throughout the entire show. Plot one, Kyouhei’s past which made him decide to leave the village. Plot two, Aki’s horrendous crime and his connection to Kyouhei. Plot three, Utao trying to control her kakashi and her child-like innocence serving some comic relief for the anime. Plot four, Kyouhei and Hibino’s slow blossoming romance. That was all told in episode one and the anime carried all of those in the first half.
At first the anime was a bit out of sync. There was no major plot to focus on. Durarara was able to establish three major plots for the viewers to focus on. All the characters move along the already established plots. Kamisama Dolls has a lot of plot points that often competes with each other. For example, Kyouhei was helping his sister train with Hibino watching on the sidelines which is serious but then the anime would shift to Utao’s clumsiness and it becomes comedic then it had Kyouhei and Hibino talk serious about his past. So there are three plot points is one scene competing with each other. If you think the anime stopped there then you’re mistaken. As new characters are introduced, new plot points are established. An occult junky finding out about the existence of the kakashi’s trying to discover if it’s an alien or something. There’s one about a detective trying to quell his suspicion with Kyouhei regarding his involvement with the strange sightings in the city. Utao learning new things about the city she normally wouldn’t see on the village. All of these plot points was slowly incorporated to the mix and you might think it would get confusing. That’s the strange beauty of the anime. All the plot points were clearly told and executed flawlessly.
The story is simple. It’s easy to follow and it never gets confusing. I know it’s a bit shocking, how can a story be good with so many plot points? It does. It’s a bit hard to explain but each plot point was given enough time to develop and the characters are all easily likeable. It’s thanks to some simple storytelling and nice execution of the anime. There is a right time for each plot point to surface. When the characters are fighting then there is no contrasting plot point that comes afterwards. There is a time to be romantic, a time to be dramatic, a time to be comedic and a time to be cute. There is cohesion which is surprising since I know some anime that fumbles attempting to do what Kamisama Dolls tries to do. There is also some interesting character development here that lends some strength to the story. There is this sort of playful genre execution so when the characters interact, you can see their personalities compliments each other and makes some scenes stand out. Like the example before, Kyouhei is training Utao; the story is serious. Utao gets complimented and made her kakashi crash into some trees; the story is now comedic. Kyouhei and Hibino eats lunch together and Kyouhei is blushing; the story is now romantic. Ok, you understand now? It’s really hard to explain the anime’s complex story yet simple execution unless you’ve seen it yourself. So just go watch the damn anime.
The characters are also nicely done here in the anime. They were all unique and adds something new to the story. They are also very complex which I was gladly surprised with because the anime is only twelve episodes long. I’ve seen a lot of anime that couldn’t do a complex character development in twenty four episodes. The characters in Kamisama Dolls start out a bit generic dancing to the flow of the story. One good example is Aki. He’s a douche and a maniac at first but then after some flashbacks and fleshing out, he transforms into this troubled soul that needs some mending. The story really complements the character developments in the anime. All of them got a bit of fleshing out which due in part to each of them providing a plot point for the story. The character’s past is also used to make them more rounded and it also makes them more intriguing. There is also a nice balance in the character interaction that really makes the anime fresh and fun. It’s not long before you like each character and you wonder what they’ll do when the anime reaches its end.
The anime has some downside though. The anime has a story about different Sekis and kakashis meeting each other in the city and fighting. There is not a lot of fighting in the anime which kind of blows because the action scenes in the anime are really good. Since the anime has a lot of genre, the action is just a piece of the pie but it’s a genre I wish the anime could build the story on. Let’s see more dolls beating each other up as bystanders are shocked seeing two giant monsters fighting in the city. I wanted more of it but the anime gave us just enough to progress the story.
Kamisama Dolls is a great anime. I wish I could break it down some more but I would be spoiling the anime. I don’t like spoilers. I used to do it but I am trying not be a know it all who spoils the anime. The story is simple yet deep and the characters are intriguing enough that you’ll be sucked in by the anime. If I can summarize the anime’s story (and I am really trying hard to think of its premise), I think the anime is about the people in the village and their stories. The characters all share one thing in common which is being bound by the village and its law. All the tension seems to start from the village. It’s not just about Kyouhei or Utao. It’s all the people in the city that used to be in the village. It doesn’t really matter. I just couldn’t let the anime’s complexity overwhelm me.
Sight and Sound
The character design is oddly simple. Brain Base seems to have chosen a more simplistic approach to the character design. I suppose it’s to go along with the characters being normal citizens despite having superpower robots. It’s a simple restrained look but it is great to look at. The character’s charm easily stands out because of the character design and it easily accentuates a character’s asset. I’m talking about Hibino’s boobs. It’s not overly big but it also seems to stare at you. Utao’s cuteness also shines without being moe which is surprising because moe seems to be a shoe in nowadays but Utao isn’t. I also like Aki’s bishoujo appeal. Seeing him shirtless and tied up makes him less intimidating but it also delivers his “he’s not so bad after all” personality wonderfully.
The action scenes have no CG. I know it’s weird, right? The kakashi’s aren’t the stiff computer generated monsters you’d expect to see. They were created like the characters which I like because I don’t like stiff CG and I was able to enjoy the fights some more. It does have some problems though. It wasn’t grand. I understand that CG is often stiff but it also makes a robot more cool or menacing. I want it to be an epic encounter like the ones in Aquarion Evol but it comes off as simple. It’s simple but the animation is still great.
The puppets doing the previews are a nice touch. It was weird but in a good way. The overly energetic voice of Utao doing the preview and some tidbits about the anime is oddly hypnotic. I happily looked forward to all of them.
The background is also nice. The village was nicely made with paint to canvas appeal on the trees and the tall grass. I believe the anime got inspiration from an actual place in Japan and I give them props for capturing the rural appeal of the place. It feels like a backwater town like the ones in Shiki or Higurashi Naku Koro Ni. The urban setting was nicely made as well. The places are crowded and the tall buildings are great eyesores. The anime also captured the urban feel to a tee. The addition of bystanders watching the kakashis fight adds a lot of realism to the scene.
The opening, “Fukanzen Nenshou” by Chiaki Ishikawa, is a great opening. It captured the anime’s appeal and reflects its entire genre. The song has a nice beat to it and Chiaki’s voice stands out pretty nicely. The opening sequence is really great with a flashy double scene separated by some layers. There were some spoilers though especially since one of the characters in it appears very later on in the anime but there she is on the OP. The ED song is the same with a more melancholic appeal to it. It’s also done Chiaki and her voice is really nice.
5/10 “A simple but complex story told in twelve episode. It’s executed pretty amazingly.”
The anime is great, no doubt about that. I don’t see a lot of people liking its complicated storytelling. Some people like it straight forward. If you’re someone who loves something new and unique in his anime but not going over the top then this anime is for you.