Friday, April 12, 2013

New Femdom Anime: Red Data Girl

So, there is this new anime called Red Data Girl or RDG. It looks like it's going to pan out to be a femdom, 'reverse harem' anime--or, in other words, my favorite thing ever! It's like they knew I was coming! I found the first episode on up on, so I watched it. (It's being simulcast over at Funimation.)

Thoughts on the episode follow. SPOILERY thoughts.

English Title: Red Data Girl
Japanese Title: Red Data Girl (spelled out phonetically in katakana)
Author (of the original novel series): Noriko Ogiwara
Anime Producer: P.A. Works
English-language Distributor: Funimation
Novels?: Yes [not available in English]
Manga?: Yes [not available in English]
Anime?: Yes

Fifteen-year-old Suzuhara Izumiko is cutting her hair as the episode begins. It is highly symbolic. She spends the first chunk of the episode getting up the courage to tell her father she does not want to go to school in Tokyo, but would rather stay at her current school. Cutting her hair and stating which school she would prefer to go to are apparently the first things she has done on her own behalf, ever. Her haircut is a symbolic representation of her determination to improve herself, presumably so that she can be more open and assertive. (Those seem to be her goals, anyway, though it's not entirely clear.) Her haircut may also have awakened some kind of magical power, though that is also not explained.

Unbeknownst to Izumiko, the adults in her life--most notably Sagara Yukimasa, a helicopter-flying man only identified as a friend of Izumiko's father--had A Plan for her, which involved her going to a particular school in Tokyo where she would meet Sagara's son, Miyuki. Miyuki is apparently destined and/or obligated to serve Izumiko, whether either of them like it or not. (Why is not explained. When Izumiko asks Sagara for an explanation, he refuses to give one.) Once Izumiko establishes she would rather stay at her current school and her current home, Miyuki's father uproots him and has him transfer to Izumiko's school and move in with her at the shrine where she lives. Miyuki expresses his displeasure at this decision by running off into the woods and Sagara follows him. When they are next seen, Miyuki looks pretty beaten up, and Sagara tells Izumiko and her guardians that his son "fell off a cliff" because he was unfamiliar with the environment. Sagara is not terribly convincing.

Throughout the episode, Miyuki is pleasant and accommodating with Izumiko's guardians (Sagara not included), but glares daggers at Izumiko when they are not looking. He also verbally berates her whenever they 're alone together--which is, by the way, a stupid hobby.

The episode ends with Miyuki passive-aggressively introducing himself to Izumiko's class while she cringes in fear at her desk.

Obviously, they are destined to be together.

Miyuki is so, so clearly Izumiko's destined one true love. He's easy to spot. Our first clue is how he's forced into Isumiko's life by circumstances outside of her (or his) control. Our second clue is that they first met as children. That means, even when other boys are introduced (and we know they will be, as they fill up a large portion of the opening credits), Miyuki will have still met her first, giving him a kind of prior claim. Our third clue is that Izumiko and Miyuki hate each other. This means that them learning to not hate each other will qualify as the development of their relationship. (If they start at hate and end at love, that journey is longer than if they start at like and end up at love. It's simple math, guys!) Our fourth clue--and this is the important one, this is the clincher--is that Miyuki is an insufferable asshole.

So, Miyuki's terrible to Izumiko when he shows up, calling her ugly and hick and just generally doing everything in his power to make her feel worthless. And it works, because Izumiko has cripplingly low self-esteem! Good job, Miyuki!

But wait, there's more! Miyuki was apparently also terrible to Izumiko in the past, when they were kids together. At one point, Miyuki tells her to "go ahead and tattle" on him if she wants to, and this line triggers a flashback to a time when he said the exact same thing to her when they were little. (Apparently Miyuki hasn't come up with any original lines since then.) In the flashback, Miyuki throws balls at the back of Izumiko's head and yells at her while she hugs herself on the ground and cries. Good job, Miyuki, again!

But wait, there's more! Earlier in the episode, one of Izumiko's classmates accidentally brains her with a ball in gym class. He gets all offended by someone getting hit in the face by a ball he threw (because even minor characters can be assholes!) and defensively states that Izumiko could have dodged the ball. One of Izumiko's surprisingly awesome female friends tells him to apologize before criticizing, and reminds him that he should have known better, because apparently Izumiko has Issues with balls. And then later we get the aforementioned flashback to Izumiko's until-that-moment repressed memory of being hit in the head with balls by Miyuki.

Congratulations, Miyuki! You get extra points for being the source of Izumiko's childhood trauma.

But wait, there's still more! More than scarring her for life, you ask? Of course! When Izumiko tells present-day Miyuki about her traumatic memory, he says something along the lines of, "That sounds like me. I saw this weak little worthless girl and wanted to toughen her up. I wouldn't even bother with that now, though."

He was just bullying her for her own good, you see. Because bullies are always concerned about the well-being of others. But apparently the life lessons he lovingly tried to instill in her with his playground-variety verbal and physical abuse didn't take, and she ended up a hopeless case. Not even worth it anymore.

Miyuki, it's only been one episode and I hate you already.

In spite all of that, Miyuki is not entirely unsympathetic. He was forced to give up on his own plans and come live in "the boonies" with Izumiko, just because she didn't want to move. She didn't know that her decision would change his life when she made it, of course; she didn't even know he existed when she made it. And I get how that makes it worse. And the fact that no one even considers asking her to change her plans, because she is so important (for some as-of-yet undisclosed reason) that his feelings do not come into the equation at all? Yeah, that's pretty terrible. And let's not forget Miyuki's own trauma in the form of his father, who I'm pretty sure just beat him up for resisting a life of involuntary servitude. (I found that particular moment to be both creepy and unexpected.) Nevertheless, having abuse in one's own life is not a valid excuse for inflicting it on others. Because there is no excuse for that.

So far, however, Miyuki is turning out to be one of my favorite anime bullies, because his bullying of Izumiko seems realistic. Bullies really are as unapologetic and oblivious as Miyuki seems to be, and I totally believe that this guy exists. The bullying itself isn't played for laughs, which I appreciate, and is also shown to have long-term repercussions to Izumiko's psyche, which I very much appreciate, because bullying has long-term repercussions, and I like it when shows don't just write it off as "kids will be kids." Now, in part because this bullying is so realistic, I hope that Miyuki's character arc will involve learning to become not-an-asshole; as-is, he makes for a pretty unpleasant male lead. I also hope that Izumiko's arc will NOT involve deciding that Miyuki was right to bully her all along, and her trauma was totally her own fault for not 'toughening up' enough. Unfortunately, anime relationship arcs often go the victim-blaming route when it comes to dealing with bullying behavior, so we'll see.

As things stand at the end of the first episode, Izumiko is living together under the same roof with her two-faced childhood bully who has good reason to resent her. This seems like an unsafe environment and I am concerned for Izumiko's welfare.

Technically, everything looked good and sounded good in this premiere. The voice acting was strong enough that I forgot to evaluate it, and just kind of sat back and enjoyed the story. Same for the music and animation.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the episode. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Some random thoughts on Kamisama Kiss Episode 1: "Nanami Becomes a God"


So, this is the pilot . . . and it shows.

This episode has that kind of incomplete feeling that a lot of anime pilots have. Everything looks a little bit rushed, a little bit choppy. There are scenes with no backgrounds or with minimal backgrounds that don't really seem like they should have no and/or minimal backgrounds. I spent a lot of my time while watching this episode thinking "Hey, where's the set?"

Of course, the animators may be trying to emulate the style of the manga, which is not exactly background-heavy, but what works in a black-and-white comic does not necessarily work as well once you add color and motion into the equation.

And speaking of backgrounds: In all 3 of the first 3 episodes of this series, there is a serious overuse of backgrounds constituted entirely by bubbles. I don't mind bubbles and sparkles and roses--oh my--in shoujo titles, generally speaking, but there is a tipping point. Seriously. Too many bubbles.

The character designs look good, and the animators were obviously conscientious about matching Julietta Suzuki's style. As I was watching, I remember thinking that there was something a little odd about the way the characters' mouths were drawn--and then I remembered thinking the exact same thing while reading the manga. So that's neat.

Voice Acting:

It's good. Not many characters are introduced in the first episode, but the male and female leads (Shinnosuke Tachibana and Suzuko Mimori) have really nice energy, and as a fan of the comic, I was pleased. (I never had that "Hey, that's not my Tomoe [or whomever]!" moment.) Tomoe comes off as both vulnerable and arrogant, and Nanami's voice actress manages an innocent enthusiasm and a sense of humor that helps to carry the more unlikely moments of the show. Both sound appropriate for their roles, and I enjoyed their performances. Unfortunately for me, I have seen just enough Sekirei to find Minato's voice actor a bit jarring as Tomoe, but I'll get over it.

Adaptation from the manga:

I think I wanted more. Like, literally, more. More content. Sometimes anime adaptations go out of their way to fill in what could be considered the "gaps" in manga: the stuff that happens between pages, between panels, between chapters and so forth. Sometimes they try to adhere strictly to the source material, adding and subtracting as little as possible. "Nanami Becomes a God" fits more in the second category than the first, but I think I would have been happier if the anime's creators had taken more creative license. Maybe added more detail, more backgrounds, more scenes. More little bits of business with the characters. If anything, this episode is less detailed than the equivalent plot arc in the manga.

The Opening Credits:

Song: "Kamisama Hajimemashita" by Hanae

Oh my. What is this song? Why is it here? Why does it sound like it's being performed by grown women pretending to be elementary-school girls? And why does it include lines like (according to the subtitles on Funimation and Hulu), "I want to be a bad girl / But I'll be a good girl" and "So I beg you / Let me keep doing sneaky things"? And why are most of the opening images just Nanami in various outfits? Boring, everyday, non-god-related outfits, at that? And what's with all the sensual focus on her mouth? And where are the men? I thought this was a reverse-harem title. Oh, wait, there they are. Lining up like the potential love interests in an otome game. There has to be a more interesting way to show them off.

Huh. I think these Opening Credits missed a really great opportunity to make use of the demons and other supernatural elements that are integral to this universe, but oh well. At least we've got inappropriate sexual innuendo. And clips of Nanami wearing clothes. Well, mostly. There are a couple of dubious images in which it's not exactly clear how much in the way of clothes she is actually wearing. And one in which she's posing with fruit. I don't know what to make of the overt sexualization of the overtly childlike Nanami in these opening credits.

The song itself is catchy, and kind of fun if you can get over or get into the 'little-girl' delivery. At first I thought it was just ridiculous, but to be honest, the more I listen to it, the more I like it. That's jpop for you, I guess.

On a side note, you can see Hanae's music video to the song on her youtube channel:

Closing Credits:

Song: "Kamisama Onegai" by Hanae

So what's in the closing credits? The following:

A song that's fairly similar in tone to the opening song (which makes sense, since both songs are by the same artist, and both seem to have been made specifically for this anime), though less upbeat.

Still images of two male harem members who don't even make an appearance in the first episode, followed by a still image of Tomoe from his good ol'days, with more hair and more evil. All while silent "film clips" from the episode we just watched play in the upper right-hand corner. This is actually more forgettable than the opening credits sequence.

Overall Impression:

Um . . . undecided? I like the manga better so far, but I'm still really happy this exists. Since I plan to keep watching this series as it comes out, I may start doing episode recaps. Maybe I'll get a better grasp on how I feel about the show then.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Kamisama Kiss has an anime!

Obviously, I am completely behind on my following of manga- and anime-related updates on the Internet, or else I would have already known that Kamisama Kiss, which I blogged on here, has been adapted into an anime.

I was just doing one of the things I do, which is to say browsing through's "Recently Added in Anime" category, and hey-presto, there it was like Christmas and my birthday. Right here:

I had been thinking for quite some time now that Kamisama Kiss, with its appealingly designed spirits and its unapologetic ::cough:: reverse-harem ::cough:: approach, would be quite well-suited to an anime adaptation, but who knew that the universe was listening?

Will watch.

Will blog.

We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Armchair Feminist Returns: Dark Knight Rises

So, I just saw Dark Knight Rises, and I thought I'd share a few quick thoughts about the presentation of women in the latest installment of Chris Nolan's bat-trilogy.

The below will contain SPOILERS for Dark Knight Rises. Seriously. SPOILERS! Do not read if you do not want to be SPOILED.

The Good:

There are two whole, important, prominent female characters in this movie! Count them! Two! That's one more than one. That's fully twice the number dictated by strict adherence to the Smurfette Principle!

These women have plans. These women have motivations. They have their own agendas, and they do stuff. And the stuff that they do? It moves the plot forward! This is, seriously, a triumph of superhero cinema.

It is perhaps a little sad that this is a triumph of superhero cinema, but still . . .

The Bad Not-So-Good:

Both of these lovely ladies are romantic interests for the male lead. They are even, more or less, girlfriends for the respective sides of Bruce Wayne's/Batman's split personality. Talia, in her guise as the ethically responsible Ms. Tate, is the 'good' woman who can attend social events with Bruce, and help him use his parents' legacy to save the world. Selina is the dangerous, 'bad' woman who can hold her own with the goddamn Batman in his illicit vigilanteism, and look hot straddling his big, long, wide, powerful . . . completely unFreudian bat-cycle. Yeah, that's it. Bat. Cycle.

Having a girlfriend for each personality sounds like a pretty cool way to do a Batman character study, actually. Until you think about how these are the only prominent female characters in the movie, and their presence is largely useful for what it tells us about the goddamn Batman. Until you think about how Bruce/Batman is so complex that he needs two whole girlfriends to explore two different sides of his psyche, but these girlfriends only get half a man each. What does that say about their complexity? Their characterization?

It helps a little that both women are misdirects, that the 'bad' one becomes the useful ally while the 'good' one is revealed as criminal mastermind. The movie nonetheless still feels firmly entrenched in Noir-esque femme fatale/woman-as-redeemer female stereotypes, even if they do get to play swapsies at the end.

The Ugly:

Catwoman's pose in the promotional poster. I know, I know; it's not part of the movie proper. But it vexes me. Even while watching the movie, I kept remembering the silly thing, and it did impact my reaction to Anne Hathaway's character (though her performance itself was actually quite solid, and one of the more pleasant aspects of the movie). For an awesome rant about the poses that women are posed into in the media, see Emily Asher-Perrin's quite excellent "Hey, Everyone--Stop Taking This Picture".

My verdict (because this is a subjective space for the sharing of my own subjective opinions):

Flaws aside, this movie is eminently watchable as well as trying its damnedest to give us some kickass female characters. And you know what? It doesn't do too bad a job. Though it's not exactly the highest bar in the world, this is probably the Batmovie with the best girls women in it.

Satisfactory, Archie. Cookies all 'round.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Spotlight #8: Jiu Jiu

Well, I've already covered Kamisama Kiss, and chances are good that, in the not-so-distant future, I'll be blogging on Her Majesty's Dog and Inu X Boku Secret Service / Youko x Boku SS (now that the English-licensed anime's out and most of it is even up on Hulu), so I think I'll be declaring "Girls and Their Dog-Boys" an official subcategory of femdom manga+anime. Come to think of it, Tramps Like Us / Kimi wa Petto would also fit more-or-less into this category, and even Inuyasha would get an honorable mention--though I don't think it really fits the 'femdom' criteria (magic necklace aside).

So, anyway. On to discussion of the femdom dog-boy manga to end all femdom dog-boy manga: the recently-licensed Jiu Jiu, volume one.

English Title: Jiu Jiu
Japanese Title: Jiu Jiu
Author: Touya Tobina
English Publisher: Viz Media
Manga?: Yes
Novels?: No
Anime?: No
Volumes out in English: 1

Technically, Night and Snow aren't dog-boys, but wolf-boys. Not to be confused with werewolves, which are a different monster in this universe. Nope, the two male leads are just domesticated demon/human hybrid wolves who can transform into boys. Naked boys, because this isn't a White Wolf role-playing game and they can't take "whole cloth." There is a predictable amount of the boys turning into naked humans and cuddling the heroine inappropriately, but it all plays out as quite innocent, mostly because the motivation on the wolves' part seems to be dog-like loyalty combined with an equally dog-like desire for attention rather than anything hormonal.

Takamichi, our heroine, is a demon slayer, and Night and Snow are her "Jiu Jiu," or demon-hybrid servants, who assist her in hunting the more dangerous, wild varieties of demon. When they're on the job, that is. In their day-to-day life, the wolf-boys are her pets while they're at home and her classmates while they're at school, making the trio's relationship a bit odd, to say the least. (They have a cage to sleep in--as dogs--but consistently end up sneaking into Takamichi's bed--as naked boys--in the night. Oh, running nudity gags.)

The story is . . . surprisingly affecting. (Warning: There be SPOILERS ahead.) At the beginning of the manga, we get a flashback scene in which Takamichi is having a hard time getting over the death of her twin brother. Her father, the demon-slaying clan head, gives her two demon wolf puppies to raise. (Time then jumps ahead three years to the manga's current continuity.) The emotional core of the manga is Takamichi learning to care for her pets, even while the trauma of her brother's death makes her want to push away those people she most loves. This setup offers some real internal conflict for the character, and it's also quite the refreshing change-of-pace to see the girl, for once, be the tortured/emo/angsty hero worried about sullying the ones closest to her.

The art is cute, if not especially intricate, with the requisite amount of bubbly shoujo backgrounds counterpointed by blood-splattered action scenes. The character designs are quite stylish, and the heroine has a particularly distinctive, little-girl-meets-angular-tomboy look to her, which ramps up the coolness factor quite a bit--and makes me want to figure out how to work a cap and sword into my own wardrobe.

It's a good look for her.
Takamichi, I want your hat.

Some of the panels, especially those which focus on shape and color more than detail, are actually quite beautifully composed, and really enhance the mood in a few key dramatic moments.

The weird: the male leads are three years old. Not that there's anything technically romantic about their relationship with the heroine in the first volume. And no real reason, aside from shoujo convention, to assume that their three-way relationship will blossom into romance. But they are three years old. And dogs. Which would make them, as dogs, approximately twenty-one years old. While Takamichi is sixteen. Which inverses the problem without really solving it. And some of the scenes look like this:

She sleeps with her puppies even though she's a cat person.

And this:

Why are they blushing so hard? Because Night's mistress just got up the courage to call him a "good dog." Aw, that's adorable. And a little messed up. I love manga.

Ultimately, I quite like this title. It has action, demonic puppies and a nontraditional female lead, along with hefty doses of squee-worthy cuteness and angst in equal measure. I also count it as a plus that the canine characters act a lot like you'd imagine dogs would if they could walk, talk, and demand extra Frisbee time. I'm looking forward to seeing how Takamichi's (hopefully platonic) relationship with her pups unfolds in future volumes.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Spotlight #7: The Flowers of Evil

This post could just as easily be entitled "What just happened to me while I was standing in the manga aisle at Books-A-Million?" Or perhaps "What the frell just happened to me while I was standing in the manga aisle at Books-A-Million?" Because fictional curse words convey a sense of out-of-one's-element confusion that real ones just can't.

Without further to-do:

English Title: The Flowers of Evil
Japanese Title: Aku no Hana
Author: Shuzo Oshimi
English Publisher: Vertical
Manga?: Yes
Novels?: No
Anime?: No
Volumes out in English: 1

So, this middle-school kid, Takao, is kind of a loner and really likes reading Baudelaire. He has a prized copy of the poetry collection The Flowers of Evil that he carries around with him. It has an awesomely creepy eyeflower on it. His schoolmates get on his case for being so unutterably bizarre as to read stuff (which, as I recall, is exactly what middle school kids do when they see someone having the audacity to read in public) so he's already got a reputation for weirdness at the beginning of the book. He's head-over-heels for the cute, smart honor student Saeki, so much so that when he happens to find a bag with her gym clothes in it, he steals the gym clothes. Naturally. (Baudelaire made him do it.)

And that's how the manga starts. SPOILERS ahead--because there is so little plot here that I have to talk about a lot of it to talk about any of it:

Unfortunately for Takao, Weird Girl Nakamura saw him steal Cute Girl Saeki's clothes, and from that point on, Takao pretty much becomes Nakamura's bitch. (In this volume, anyway. Not sure what will happen later.) What does Nakamura want from Takao? Well, more perversion. She's very excited to have found her very own real-life pervert to mess with, and she wants him to reveal all his perverted thoughts about Saeki to her. Actually, what she says is that she wants to "strip" Takao bare of all the "skin" his perverted self is hiding behind, so . . . that's interesting. (Especially as that moment nicely represents what I assume will be the emotional core of the series.)

I have no idea what to make of this. I saw the premise as laid out in blurb-form on the back of the book, thought "hey this fits in the femdom category as I describe it; maybe I should check it out" and then read a little of the volume to see if I liked it enough to buy it and bring it home with me. I ended up finishing the volume before I could decide whether I liked, hated or was completely indifferent to it. I just don't know. I read it yesterday and today I still don't know.

Was it interesting? Yes, more or less, though it sounds more interesting than it is. This manga has a pretty slow, thoughtful pace, and very little actually happens in Volume 1.

Did it make me think about sexual awakening, and what it means that (in both America and Japan) kids generally experience the emergence of their own sexual selves before a repressed society is willing to give them the tools with which to understand their newfound urges and realizations? Of course.

Did it make me think about perversion and what it means? A little. Not as much as you might think. In one of the author pages, Shuzo Oshimi states that he hopes that this manga will get people to think about perversion. Which got me contemplating perversion more than I otherwise would have. Of course, this is only volume one, and there's lots of room for further development of this topic.

It's marketed as for kids 13+, which is nice, since it means that some kids still in puberty will be encouraged to read a manga actually about puberty. But hey, it's (as my own experience attests!) not bound in plastic wrap, so probably whomever wants to can gain access to it.

Is it good? No clue. Is it bad? Again: no clue.

It's well-dawn, anyway, though the art has that unnervingly solid look to it that a lot of horror, seinen and shounen manga use, and that style isn't particularly to my taste. Fits the tone of the book, though.

Are the characters sympathetic? Honestly, I found Nakamura more sympathetic than the whiny protagonist or the innocent, virginal, untouchable object of his 'shameful' desires. Perhaps because she was trying to be honest about her own socially unacceptable desires. Then again, if I found out at the end of the series that she was a projection of Takao's psyche, I would not be exactly surprised, in spite of the fact that she interacts with other characters. So, this indicates to me that she is not (yet, anyway) fully developed as a character in her own right.

Does it support the whole virgin/whore dichotomy thing? Oh boy oh boy yes.

Does it interrogate the same? A little. Mostly in that Takao's pedestal-worship of the virginal Saeki is so obviously something he does arbitrarily, for himself, without learning anything about the girl one way or the other. There's room for later volumes to shatter his dichotomous mode of thinking about women, and I think the series as a whole may get a lot more interesting if it goes in this direction.

Concluding remarks: At this point, the manga has the potential to become 1) brilliantly insightful, 2) disgustingly offensive or 3) unutterably boring. It also has the (approximately equal) potential to become all three at once.

In other words: What the frell was that?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spotlight #6: Kamisama Kiss

English Title: Kamisama Kiss
Japanese Title: Kamisama Hajimemashita
Author: Julietta Suzuki
English Publisher: Viz Media
Manga?: Yes.
Novels?: No.
Anime?: No.
Volumes out in English: 8

Wow, it's been a looong time since I posted anything here. I guess I could talk about my work, my life and why I've let this blog lie fallow for so long, but I think I'd rather just jump back in with a new 'femdom manga' spotlight.

Like many a manga hero/heroine, Kamisama Kiss's Nanami Momozoni has a useless parental unit (in this case, her father) whose bad habits with money eventually lead her to become broke, homeless and alone. As we all know, broke, homeless and alone is an excellent jumping-off point for the hero/heroine in a shoujo or shounen manga. (See: Hayate the Combat Butler, Fruits Basket, Ultimate Venus and oh so many more . . . ) Sometimes, being broke, homeless and alone means that a manga protagonist will stumble their way into working as a maid/butler/housekeeper/groundskeeper in a live-in job at a new home, which is usually occupied by attractive members of the opposite sex. At other times, being broke, homeless and alone will directly precede the hero or heroine's discovery that they are the long-lost heir or some other form of successor to a new home, also frequently populated by attractive members of the opposite sex.

Summary (minor SPOILERS for Volume I): So, broke and homeless Nanami, who is all alone, is busy being broke and homeless and alone when she comes across a strange man who has been treed by a small dog. Nanami 'rescues' said man from said dog. After a short conversation, the man kisses Nanami on the forehead and tells her he is giving her his home. Our heroine thinks this is weird, but takes him up on it, as then at least she will no longer be homeless and alone (she will still be broke, but hey, you can't have everything). When she gets to her new home, she finds out that it is a shrine and that she is the new god of the shrine. She also meets Tomoe, the attractive-member-of-the-opposite-sex who will become her fox-spirit shinshi (meaning, in this manga at least, her spirit-beast servant). Tomoe is kind of a jerk and Nanami is kind of a ditz (this is shoujo manga, and it would honestly be more noteworthy if Tomoe were nice and Nanami were competent), but as the manga progresses, they slowly develop feelings for one another. One at a time, other attractive-members-of-the-opposite-sex start cropping up, giving the manga that "harem" feel we all know and love.

This goes on the femdom list, obviously, on account of the "shinshi contract" that Nanami enters into with Tomoe, which means that, not only is he bound to serve her, but he is magically bound to obey any command she gives him.

Nanami's reaction upon learning that Tomoe, who is kind of a jerk, will be loyal to her if she enters into the contract (Volume I, Chapter 2, page 64):

Nanami's reaction upon learning that Tomoe, who is kind of a jerk, is magically bound to obey her (Volume I, Chapter 5, page 144):

Nanami's not going to be breaking the shoujo manga heroine mold anytime soon, but I kind of love her for the two moments illustrated above. They're small, but they're important to me as a reader simply because it's rare to see a shoujo manga heroine express desire for any kind of power. In a lot of what I describe as 'femdom' manga and anime (not that there is all that much of it around to begin with), heroines luck into or back into power. They don't get it because they want it; it's just forced upon them. Because these characters are 'good' girls, and in many cases 'good' is expanded to mean 'passive', especially when we are talking about women of any age. (While this equivalence may be more prevalent in Japanese media, it's certainly to be found in American-made products as well.) It's refreshing to see Nanami, who is positively portrayed, gleefully anticipate having and using power, even if only for a few moments.

Of course, whatever authority Nanami has is largely subverted by the fact that Tomoe, who is kind of a jerk, spends a good portion of the series 'training' his master to become a better god, thus flipping the female-dominated master/servant relationship and turning it into a male-dominated teacher/student relationship, which is a pretty common trick for shoujo manga to play. Still, Nanami manages to retain some authority when it counts--in spite of her shinshi's sadistic streak--and she frequently manages to get her own way. This sometimes leads to her getting into trouble and realizing that she should have listened to the male lead, but again, this is shoujo manga. These things happen.

In many ways, Kamisama Kiss is a paint-by-numbers brand of shoujo title. The main characters, though ultimately sympathetic, are somewhat annoying and the supporting cast members (with one or two exceptions) are not particularly memorable. The art is pretty (and almost unbearably cute at times) and it does what it is supposed to do, but it rarely goes beyond that.

I love this series anyway. I really, really enjoy reading Kamisama Kiss. (So much so that when I cannot find the latest volume on the shelf at my local bookstore, I actually ask for it by name at the customer service desk. I know that doesn't sound like much, but it takes me a certain amount of courage to admit to a fellow adult that I want to read something with "Kiss" in the title. The cover art and graphics are usually in pastel tones, too . . . ) It's a cute, frivolous, wish-fulfillment title, with some adventure, some magic and lots of pretty animal-boys for the heterosexual preteen/early teen girl gaze (because they deserve eye-candy too!). Kamisama Kiss doesn't have a lot of surprises or even a lot of plot, but it makes for a fun, relaxing break from reality. And sometimes that's all you need.