A Ray of Light in Kamisama Hajimemashita
I really enjoy anime that get me thinking, or bring up really interesting ideas, or take me by surprise with unique concepts. But sometimes I just feel like watching something cute, funny, and heartwarming, and that’s where Kamisama Hajimemashita (AKA Kamisama Kiss) comes in.
I read the first volume of the manga to give me an idea for how this series would be, and to be honest I didn’t think this would be much more than a watered-down Natsume Yuujinchou with a sort of silly romance plot tacked on. But as it turned out, the anime was an extremely good adaptation. The art, music, voice acting, pacing, and directing all worked together to create a yokai-themed shoujo that was an absolute treat to watch every week. Sure, the actual plot isn’t going to earn high marks, but the characters are amusing and easy to like, and just watching them all interact with each other is more than enough for me. To make a short review shorter, I’ll just say if you like lighthearted romcom at all you should give this anime a try.
I’d like to focus on the final episode a bit now though, mainly because there was one scene there that has really stuck with me. This would be when Nanami has left the shrine and she’s given up on herself. She can’t help but think it was a complete mistake for her to have ever tried at all to be the goddess of a shrine. Given all the failures she had faced, particularly the ones that were most recent and most discouraging, it’s easy to see why she was so depressed. It was a moment I was able to really relate to. I imagine this is nothing terribly unusual, but there have been periods of time where I’ve been depressed, sitting on a bench or going for a walk, and I would just wonder what in the world I was doing with my life. It’s easy to get in this state of mind when it seems every single thing you try to do falls through, and there isn’t anyone around to help you out or even care. Fortunately it’s possible to pull yourself out of a funk like this, and I liked how this was portrayed in Kamisama Hajimemashita.
While sitting on the bench, Nanami recalls all the things she experienced after she was suddenly made a goddess. Her encounter with the shrine’s previous god happened at another really low point in her life, and there was no preparing her for the trials that were to come. But like the protagonists of many traditional folktales, Nanami had to learn to make the best of the hand that was dealt to her. She didn’t know anything about being a deity, but she gradually managed to learn the skills she needed in order to help her shrine’s visitors. She started off on the wrong foot with Tomoe, to put it lightly, but that relationship certainly improved over the course of the series–again, bit by bit. And pretty much every yokai she encountered was hostile to her at first, but she ultimately managed to befriend each one of them (to some degree). No person is an island, and Nanami recognized that there was still more she could do to try to solve the problems at hand–she needed to look past herself and see there were people who needed her help.
Of course, everything works out swimmingly in the end. It’s not like that all the time in real life of course, but this is a lighthearted, positive anime, and the message is still a good one. When Nanami pulls herself out of her funk, the smile she briefly shares with us is clearly a genuine one. It’s not a generic smile at all; it’s actually a little silly-looking, but it still manages to get across the feeling that Nanami is putting on a brave face. It doesn’t help matters when you give up on yourself and wallow in self-pity. Obviously there will be times when we need to feel sadness, but sometimes there’s still something we can do to make things better, even if we feel there’s no point in trying. It’s a difficult thing, and I’m not sure how well I’ve learned to handle moments of depression like this over the years–but perhaps it’d be worth trying to take after Nanami a bit more.
Somehow, it seems I can connect more with a protagonist like her, than I can with the real people of “inspirational stories” (think Reader’s Digest miracle narratives). I guess it comes down to how I have seen the things she has gone through over the course of the series, and can really empathize with her when the climactic dilemma strikes.