Thursday, January 24, 2013

Comedy, Quality, and Synthesis With Kamisama Kiss

     There's this theory I've always held about visual media: comedy equals accessibility. Comedy is simply the universally appealing genre. Whether you're a horror buff, an action connoisseur, a psychological fan, someone who doesn't even watch things, or whatever else, chances are you still enjoy some kind of comedy, at least from time to time. You certainly don't like all comedy, no, but still; you like laughing. You know you do.

Turtle eating humor, truly the best kind.

     This is probably the main reason behind the success of RedLetterMedia's Plinkett Reviews and shows like Game Grumps. With the former, critical film analysis and nerd rage were made accessible to really any kind of audience (that could handle the language) due to the constant humor delivered alongside them. With the latter, consistent (and varied) comedy make what would otherwise be two guys discussing game theory, having small talk, and yelling at each other into a successful, entertaining show. Even with series like Baman Piderman, the hilariously lazy flopping around of the two main characters make the low-budget animation and sometimes strangely touching stories something everyone can enjoy.

     What does this have to do with Kamisama Hajimemashita (henceforth Kamisama Kiss), you ask? Everything, really.

     See, this is like the ultimate "anywhere, anytime" show. You can just watch and be entertained by it no matter what mood you're in, and humor is the primary reason why. There's a blanket of comedy and light-heartedness covering the entire show. It always throws in something to make you laugh or smile. Slapstick, self-aware, situational, setup-payoff, double act. . .Kamisama Kiss employs a lot of different kinds of comedy, integrating them all very fluidly and naturally. The result, as it was in the examples above, is approachability. That is the first half of why this series is such good shoujo material. Anyone can enjoy it. Anyone. We all like comedy, and that's what holds this show together. This isn't something that only shoujo reverse-harem maniacs will enjoy (looking at you, Hiiro no Kakera), but instead something that can appeal to a much greater audience.

     Accessibility has always been one of the great strengths of shoujo, especially romantic comedies. Unlike their shounen counterparts, shoujo series have a strong tendency to take place in realistic settings, or at least focus on the everyday life aspects more than anything else. The stories usually gravitate around character dynamics and interactions, around the humor in everyday life, around the emotional appeal of simple things like falling in love and making friends. These are pretty universally engaging concepts, so in theory, everyone can like them. Unfortunately, disproportionate use of these elements (e.g. too much drama) common in the genre alienate large amounts of viewers. That's why Kamisama Kiss is so exceptional; it spectacularly unlocks this potential to entertain and maintains it throughout, even though it has strong supernatural backdrops and stories. It's a shoujo series non-shoujo fans can easily enjoy, and that is worth commending.

     As I said, however, that's only half the reason this series is so good. I could say that the rest comes from it having a lot of really good show content in it, which it does. The main character goes through an arc that was set up in the very first minutes of the show. Episode topics range anywhere from the protagonists' love story to supernatural feuds and intrigue to Nanami fulfilling her duties as a god. The soundtrack is superb, and the animation is (usually) nothing to complain about. No matter what area you look in, Kamisama Kiss packs a lot of quality content into its 13 episodes, far more than you'd think it could. It's sort of like a shoujo Whitman's sampler, except without the chocolates no one eats.

     I could say that. But I think instead I'll attribute the series' success to the element that surprised me the most: synthesis. While comedy equals accessibility, accessibility does not necessarily equal quality. Similarly, a show with poor presentation will be inferior no matter how good its individual parts are. Kamisama Kiss has all the right pieces and that's worth mentioning, but the more important fact is that it fit them together exceptionally, then displays the resulting whole in a way everyone can enjoy. This is the first anime I've seen in a long time that was really a show - i.e. something made to entertain. While I suppose that could change depending on your definition of entertain, for me that's exactly what it was.

     Further Reading:

          Snippettee, viewing the show through a more artistic lens, wrote an intriguing piece on the mythology and alluring animal aspects of youkai that are both present in the show.


  1. When you think about it, a lot of anime these days are targeted towards certain groups...

    You seemed to love this show, which raises a question: you'd expect, say, an ardent mecha fan to love a good mecha show more than a random person likes a good show targeted towards everybody, but is that really true? Would make an interesting discussion topic...

    1. psst I'm mushy, it's dum. because I can't use my secondary google account without signing out of my 'primary' one (really a hotmail account for google docs use), so I tried replying as wordpress; wordpress says I don't own but forces you to enter [username] now for some reason so I can only do onewdesign. sigh, blogger

    2. Hmm. . .I'd never really thought about it that way. That's an interesting take on it!

      Also I kinda figured it was you since Redball comments with a different account and no one else on O-NEW even reads this blog, but whatever. And I totally understand the hassle of having to leave comments on blogger. Still can't say I regret choosing it since the post making window is a lot cleaner and easier to use, but. . .