Great Chain of Being, Kamisama Hajimemashita, Kamisama Kiss, kitsune, Kurama, Mizuki, myth, mythical creatures, mythology, Nanami, Tomoe, youkai
Kamisama Kiss fancifully showcases the recurring theme of human/yokai relationship. For hundreds of years, folktales about mythical creatures cohabiting with human have been a subject of interest for people. I particularly find the otherworldly tales interesting because it mirrors how our thoughts deviate away from the realm and reflect an altered world that contains humanity’s inmost desires. Plus of course as a shoujo fan, it’s always amusing to see how the romance and tension build between two different characters.
Aside from that, it is also interesting how the sense of hierarchal structure is profoundly embedded in myths—the gaps between gods, spirits, and humans are constantly being portrayed. It was said that the principle of the Great Chain of Being interconnects nature and governs all life forms. In this hierarchy, humans are less noble than spirits because of the desires of our flesh. Ironically, these desires could actually move us up in the ladder.
For instance, Tomoe, a kitsune, sees Nanami as a lowly human despite the fact that Mikage turned her into a deity. Fascinatingly through a kiss, Nanami sealed a contract, and made Tomoe as her familiar. This kiss could be construed as a sensationalized strategic sexual play. In many mythologies, humanity indulged in sexual activities with heavenly beings to rapidly climb the ladder of spiritual evolution and achieve divinity. Apparently and coincidentally, this kind of ideology is integral to so many religions.
Another thing that I noticed in Kamisama Kiss is that the animal attributes embodied by the familiars add exotic impressions to their characters—especially on how they interact with Nanami—which seemed out of the ordinary yet still convincing. Tomoe, just like any fox, is presented as a graceful and handsome kitsune; he’s extremely malevolent to everyone but exceptionally benevolent to his master. The sleek white snake persona of Mizuki could easily render a calm and aloof character. And because of Kurama’s dark crow tengu feature, viewers are easily compelled by his shady “fallen angel” pop idol gimmick.
I think in so many ways, yokais—part-human/part-animal mythical hybrids—could be pretty much seen as representation or outlet of human’s intense internalized desire. I find that in romance or shoujo, mythic creatures are often tied to human fetishes; appetites, eroticism and yearnings are perceived and ritualized as ceremony of transfiguration wherein humans envision themselves in animals—men and women make love as foxes, snakes, lions, etc… but come to think of it, no animal sees its animalistic nature in humans.
Hence, it’s really fascinating how these mythic creatures came into life. Retelling folktales and myths ponders the richness of our imagination, which bring us to a whole new different world. Stories like Kamisama Kiss exist because once in a while we want to be just like Nanami. Our magical thinking signals a desire to look at the world from fresh perspective and wish to unbound ourselves from human nature to experience something freer and bigger than us.
- I really liked Kamisama Kiss’ artsy fancy animation.
- It’s been a while since I blogged. Going back to my regular posting schedule is still impossible… but I’m still going to post something when time permits.
At the risk of coming across as some weird guy…
I like women (may seem obvious, but it needs stated). Give a woman supernatural characteristics and she’ll have my undivided attention. Give her wings and…
sorry, I’m back. Anyway, I continue to be surprised by what I find I like in anime, and Kamisama Kiss is a good example. At the end of each episode I’m left wondering what it is that I like about it, and your post above goes a long way to possibly answering that question for me.
I’m glad a guy likes it! I’ve been following the manga ever since it was first scanlated, and it is indescribable how it feels to have KH animated.
I agree with you that I like Nanami having supernatural powers. At the same time, I like her personality. I love that she’s an ordinary girl, but she’s the kind of ordinary girl that’s rarely seen in anime. But really, I love the rest of the characters too. Their dynamics is really splendid.
What a great composition snip!(Sorry, can I call you that? >.<) Now that I think about it, the kinds of youkai of the characters in KH do resemble their animal kinds. Tomoe is as sly as a fox. Mizuki is as sneaky (and "creep"y) as a snake. Kurama is as showy as a crow.
I'd never heard of the principle…but is that equivalent/related to the six dimensions according to Buddhism?
I love learning myths and folklore, and I think that KH has an allure that's nowadays quite…extinct. There's a rich interplay of genre that I often see in old anime, and it saddens me to know that it'll only have 13 eps. There's too much adventure in the manga that will be left out—more exciting than what we've seen so far—and the development…Oh god the anime has done well in showing the changes of expressions, and the manga is super expressive too. Without talking you feel what each character feels with how greatly careful the mangaka is in drawing the expressions. The plot is very interwoven too, and there's an underlying whole story hinted at every arc. Lol…I really praise it so much…I guess this is what happens when I love a manga for 4 years now (which rarely happens because I'm picky even with shoujo—can't take those who are damsels in distress).
Hello Mai. I think this is the first time I’d seen you commented on my blog. Welcome aboard! And yes, you can call me Snip, actually some friends do. ^^
I have a friend in the aniblogoshphere who follows the manga as well. She even recommended me the to read it before it got animated… and she said that the anime is very loyal to the manga. So yes, I can understand your enthusiasm with the anime as a manga reader. ;)
I also like Nanami’s character. Although she portrays a damsel in distress, she’s not that kind of a heroine who requires full a support. There are times that she’s the one saving Tomoe and the other guys. Her bubbly character is alluring as well.
I’d never heard of the principle…but is that equivalent/related to the six dimensions according to Buddhism?
The principle of the great chain of being is a western concept. I took mostly western philosophy as my elective that’s why I’m a bit familiar about it. Basically, it tells us that we have a hierarchy; the one on top is God, followed by the spirits, then humans, animals… and lastly the inanimate life forms such as coral reefs and rocks. In KH, a good way to look at it is Mikage being the God, followed by Tomoe, and Nanami, However, there’s a complication with Nanami because she was turned into a deity. Since she’s now a goddess part-human she’s now higher than Tomoe who’s a spirit part-animal. And of course, their kiss cemented her status and established their contract.
I’m not really familiar with Buddhism that’s why I couldn’t spot and relate right away the different parallels that it has with the show, but if you don’t mind, please do tell your thoughts about it. I find ideas like that really interesting. ^^
Thanks for the welcome! ^^ I find it really hilarious that Tomoe thinks Nanami is crying when she gets in trouble (e.g. kidnapped or chased by a youkai). Yes, she portrays a damsel in distress, but she’s hardly in distress lol.
The six dimensions or realms in Buddhism are actually existences one may be reborn into. The first dimension, I believe, is the dimension of the gods. Deva, as they are called, can become old and die. It’s said that they can’t fully comprehend suffering, and they therefore lack compassion. (Having read way ahead in the manga, the gods have indeed these qualities. They know what is suffering is, but their kind of suffering is…somehow different.) The fifth dimension is that of animal beings. Tomoe and the other youkai somehow belongs to this realm. The qualities of the animal beings though are not manifested in Tomoe and others (animal beings are said to be stupid).
Nanami is in the sixth dimension, the human realm.
We can say figuratively that Nanami turning into a deity is a kind of rebirth to the Deva realm. But, she still have the qualities of a human. In the West, she is what you’ll call a demigod, although not a “biological” one. Nanami has the privileges of a god, but at the same time, she has the privileges of being human. Interestingly, as a human, Nanami is the only one who can and cannot be reborn. The creatures in other realms are reborn all the time depending on their karma. I think Narukami portrays the kind of Deva I was talking about before (as you can see that she feels no worry when electrocuting her servants or Tomoe).
I like the development in the show. It’s gradual, but it’s moving; the characters are evolving. If you get tempted to read the manga after this season, you’ll find that those simple arcs are actually meant as a large buildup. They seem episodic now, but there is something left unanswered in every arc. It doesn’t leave much thought because I myself think the unanswered bits aren’t that domineering within these five episodes. But the main plot is already taking off in the recent chapters in the manga, and even the simplest details/hints have become very complex now. I think this is the allure that I find in KH. 80+ chapters after, I’m still hooked. The characters grew on me. Even the “villains” are shown to be multi-dimensional.
I wish they’ll make a second season. Because the hints about Yukiji or Tomoe’s past are being answered in later arcs…gradually but not fully. ^^
And just to add: Nanami’s past is also shown, so I wish they’ll make a second season because we get to understand Nanami’s character deeper. ^^
That’s interesting. Thank you for sharing. Come to think of it, a lot of anime follows the pattern of Buddhism because it’s one of the major religion in Japan and Asia in particular.
I will be tempted to read the manga if S2 will take forever to be announced. And yeah, I heard from my friend that Nanami has a back story, that perhaps she’s not really human… And yes I might be tempted to read the manga. if they won’t be having a S2 next year.
Also since you’ve read the manga, I think it’s safe to say that I’m also intrigued on how Mizuki is going to become Nanami’s familiar. I’m actually interested with the dimensions of kissing and how it drives shoujo genre particularly KH.
Whoa never thought about Nanami not being human haha ^^ Oh Mizuki…The development in Mizuki is very interesting too. That’s all I can say in order not to spoil others who haven’t read the manga. I think the scene you’re saying will occur in episode 8. :)
I actually have a theory about the kissing aspect in KH. Mikage kissed Nanami on the forehead to make her a deity, and it’s somehow like an implication that she’ll be the “head” of the shrine. Nanami kissing Tomoe on the lips somehow implies she binds him “by word of mouth” or kotodama. These are the only explanations I can think of, but I think they’re reasonable. Hehe :D
Nanami being not human is just a speculation, ^^
Wow, I’m also thinking the same implications about the kisses that Nanami received. ;)
I thought that sounded like Giovanni Pico Della Mirandola. “Whatever seeds each man cultivates will grow to maturity and bear in him their own fruit.”
@Cratex. Thanks for your nice words. Perhaps that’s what culture and fandom bring–a unified thought on certain things, so it’s not unlikely that we have similar thoughts and tastes about Kamisama Kiss and other anime. ^^
At the risk of coming across as some weird guy…
P.S. In most ancient mythologies that are passed through time are said to cater the male gender. ;)
Foxy Lady Ayame said:
Reblogged this on compass on my field trip.
Foxy Lady Ayame said:
Always coming up with such interesting interpretations! I hadn’t ever thought of these stories as cover-ups for fetishes or as testaments of climbing the social ladder.
I was only aware of the following interpretations:
a. Stories where people got together with spirits were used to explain/cover abductions and unexpected pregnancies (the notion of ‘spirited away’ that came up in the same-titled movie and in Otome Youkai Zakuro).
b. Youkai-human unions could fit in the animal bridegroom trope, especially since youkai bear animal features. Such tales were either used as a lesson for women to accept and ‘tame’ the husbands with whom they got married. These usually had happy endings- see Beauty and the Beast. When the ending was a tragic one, folklorists believe that the epimyth was that different people shouldn’t try to mate/fall in love etc.
Thank you Ayame. I just happen to think about this post because KH’s animation and characters are engaging so it made me wander… :)
I think a story has different sides. Mai, just mentioned how she can relate KH to six realms of Buddhism. And now that you’re mentioning the animal bridegroom trope and it’s possible endings, I believe myths are telling some lessons or warning us about the consequences of our choices… as if these stories have deep historicity but told in a mystical way.
Great to see you posting again.
I could understand the allusions to different types of mythical creatures, especially in the case of Kurama. For Tomoe and Mizuki it was a little more confusing, though. I always associated foxes and snakes with tricksters and deceivers, but that doesn’t appear to be the case here, especially with Mizuki.
Thanks Yerocha. :)
Same here. When I was writing this post, I was so tempted to mention how foxes and snakes are considered as tricksters and deceivers but it’s just that I couldn’t support that and I’m going to be out of line with Kamisama Kiss. I guess it’s mainly because we’re leaning more towards the Western beliefs… That’s why I find it interesting knowing the variation between Western and Asian myths.
silver price said:
The Gist: Nanami Momozono finds herself homeless when she is evicted from her apartment after her gambling addict father runs off without paying his debts. She “rescues” a man from a barking dog and in return he offers to let her stay at his “home”. He draws her a map to the location, kisses her forehead, and leaves. With no other place to go, Nanami follows the map to arrive at an old shrine. There she is almost destroyed by Tomoe, a fox spirit believing her to be his old master Mikage finally returning after 20 years. The zashiki-warashi spirits Onikiri and Kotetsu greet her as the new land god, or Kami. Disgusted, Tomoe deserts the shrine for the otherworld, and the building reverts back to its run-down state. After following the zashiki warashi into the otherworld, Nanami uses a dangerous situation to save herself and force Tomoe into a contract as her familiar. From that point on Nanami must learn to maneuver the spirit world as well as its intrusion on her school life, all the while fighting her growing feelings for Tomoe.
So I’m guessing Kamisama Kiss succeeds where Inu x Boku fails, actually utilizing the humanxdemon romance gimmick to its full potential. That’s cool and all but it fell off my radar and I have A LOT of backtracking and posting to do…which will probably happen when my “gaming recovery” phase dims down a bit.
Anyway, I’ll take the show into consideration someday.
Darn it, Chihayafuru 2 is probably coming this Winter and I still haven’t written a review…the problem is finding the right words to praise an incredible show like CF.
This is a very light comedic and easy to watch anime. I understand it might fall within your radar. But do give it a try, you might like Nanami.
And yes…. I’m also so excited to see Chihayafuru 2. I believe you already have an idea how much I miss that lovely show. Hopefully, you have already recovered with your gaming OCD once it airs.
So many great games came out this Fall season that I just HAD to make them my top free time priority when I’m not busy with other things. But yes, Chihayafuru 2 is a must watch, along with Saki 2+more Side-A, Railgun 2 and Neptunia TV.
Very well, perhaps it’ll be another show whose hetero romance is…oh, I dunno, interesting? Again, I trust your judgment Snippy-chan.
Aww, thank you OG for trusting me! The chances that you might like this hetero show is slim… but hey you liked Chihayafuru!
I’m not really updated with the gaming world because of school and work. Hopefully next year will be better so that I can keep up with Shin Sekai Yori, Chihayafuru and Saki.
I did say you’re my favorite blogger. Well, I also liked Inu x Boku so this one should be good too.
No need to worry about games since you mentioned not liking them much. Anyhoo, lots to look forward to next year in terms of anime.