Kamichu! — Anime Review

3.5 Stars
Suppose, just for the sake of argument, that you woke up one morning and discovered that you had become a god. It might be great–perhaps you could solve all of your problems with a snap of your fingers! Or (if you have a fantasy writer’s imagination) it might be awful. Gods might have powerful enemies and worse problems than you will ever have to face. But perhaps the worst outcome would be if it actually didn’t make much difference in your life.

  • Title
    Kamichu!
  • Genres
    Fantasy, Comedy, Slice of Life, Magical Girl
  • Demographic
  • Contents
    16 episodes on 4 DVDs
  • Languages
    English, Japanese with subtitles
  • Based on
    A manga by Hanaharu Naruko
  • Series Director
    Koji Masunari
  • Screenplay
    Hideyuki Kurata
  • Animation Studio
    Animax
  • Broadcast
    TV Asahi, 2005
  • Region 1 Publisher
    Geneon

This is a charming little show, gentle, whimsical and low-key. Perhaps a bit too low key for some tastes.

If you want to see a fantasy about a brave and dynamic girl who overcomes formidable challenges in order to achieve her full potential, you probably should watch Cardcaptor Sakura instead. This show is about a girl who, even when granted divine powers, still has difficulty dealing with the ordinary challenges of everyday life.

The quality of the animation is very good even by Japanese standards. The story is set in the small city of Onomichi, and as this video shows, the exterior shots closely mirror the actual appearance of the city.

Parental Advisory

While this is not primarily written for young children, it is one of the most child-friendly animes that I have ever seen. It is a bright, upbeat and non-threatening fantasy, with little that is likely to disturb either children or their parents.

DVD Notes

The translation seems accurate but sometimes just a bit too literal and unidiomatic. Occasionally a joke gets squashed as a result. In particular, it would have been better to translate the first kanji charm in Episode 4 as “delaying tactic”.

Characters and Premise

YurieYurie Hitotsubashi is a second year middle school student, which means that she is 13 or 14 years old, but she looks about 10. She is small, awkward, painfully shy, and a below-average student.

One day she announces that she has become a god. Oddly, nobody really questions this, which is a good thing since she turns out to be right. But she has no idea what a god is supposed to do.

As it turns out, being a god is interesting, but not as much fun as you might think. It’s a lot of work with no direct personal benefits other than the potential satisfaction of a job well done. And even though everyone accepts that she is a god, she is still shy and awkward and people still tend not to take her seriously.

MitsueEven though they are the same age, Yurie’s best friend Mitsue Shijou has always felt protective of her. Now she is worried. Yurie is clearly in a situation where Mitsue can’t protect her any more.
MatsuriMuch to Mitsue’s annoyance, the moment that Matsuri Saegusa hears Yurie say that she has become a god, she announces that she is Yurie’s new best friend. As Mitsue suspects, Matsuri has an ulterior motive.

Matsuri in miko costumeMatsuri is a miko, the daughter of the priest who runs the local Shinto shrine. But her father is an incompetent priest with no real calling; the shrine has not been attracting many visitors; and her family is on the verge of bankruptcy. It seems to Matsuri that a god who is also a human being, one that people can actually see and hear, would be just the thing to revive the shrine’s fortunes.

MikoMiko Saegusa is Matsuri’s younger sister, a quiet girl who can see the spirit world. (Apparently Matsuri could also do this when she was little, but she has since lost the ability.)
KenjiKenji Ninomiya is the president and sole member of the Calligraphy Club, and Yurie has a big crush on him. It must be his looks; it can’t be his personality. He is a calligraphy geek and seems aware of nothing else. He can’t even remember Yurie’s name.
KenkichiKenkichi Hitotsubashi is Yurie’s father. He is a cheerful, easy-going fellow and pretty much imperturbable, which is probably a good thing under the circumstances.
AkaneYurie’s mother Akane Hitotsubashi is a sweet woman but a bit spacey, and so gullible that Kenkichi can’t resist teasing her sometimes.
ShoukichiShoukichi Hitotsubashi is Yurie’s younger brother (though people often mistake her for his younger sister.) He is the only member of the family who pays attention to the strange things that keep happening around Yurie, and he is frustrated that he is the only one who seems to find them odd.
YashimaYashima is a local deity. He is not a very impressive god, but perhaps he is the best that a small town can afford. He is bit scatterbrained and even slow-witted. He dreams of moving to the big city and becoming a rock star, but it is clear that he has neither the gumption to try nor the talent to succeed.

However he and Yurie hit it off right away. To her he is a mentor. He understands what she is going through in a way the others cannot, and at least he has some idea of what a god is supposed to do.

Akikan KorogashiThe various spirits who inhabit the town, invisible to most of the humans, add a great deal to the story’s charm. Here an akikan korogashi, a spirit that loves empty cans, pursues a runaway treasure.
Shark Brother and associatesThis gang can usually be found fishing off the wharf by the ferry landing.
Fried SpritSomehow Akene has managed to catch one in her frying pan. She can’t see it, but her expression suggests that she knows something is amiss.

Links

Wikipedia entry.
Anime News Network listing.

3 thoughts on “Kamichu! — Anime Review

  1. I’ve got a question and a few nits to pick, or even bones.

    The question is, where is it mentioned that Matsuri was able to see the spirit world when little? Actually, “to interact” would be a better word. Yashima, for example, manipulates the physical world directly.

    The animation quality is, frankly, suspect in my view. It is made to resemble that of an expensive turn-of-the-century show, but actually it’s not. Faces are often flat, this is masked with highlights. The poster child is the girl who became Yurie’s love rival in the calligraphy club episode. Because of her unusually pale skin color, defects of this technique are especially striking. But everything bears the damage, even Yurie. Miko’s character design is dubious, and is animated to make it downright creepy.

    As far as I know, the manga is only a part of the franchise, designed by the group of animation directors. It does not exist separately of the anime, and the anime is in no way based on the manga. Naruko Hanaharu is a hired help who drew the manga, but she is not the creator.

  2. Matsuri’s former ability to see (or interact with) the spirit world is spelled out pretty clearly in Episode 2:

    “How do you know that?”
    “I used to talk to him when I was a kid.”
    “Even now Yashima-sama still thinks about you.”

    Also note that she knows exactly what to expect when using the “see clearly” charm.

    Matsuri’s lost relationship with Yashima adds a poignant subtext to this episode and some of the later ones.

    As for the animation quality, I guess this is a matter of taste, and I freely admit that yours may be better educated than mine. The style of the artwork appeals to me and I like the attention that they pay to the small details of movement. But you are right that (like most animated television shows) they take some shortcuts.

  3. Thanks for the hint. I keep forgetting that I saw the first few episodes raw and missed 2/3 of everything. Of course my mental picture is all screwy as a result.

    I don’t know about the context though. Matsuri treats Yashima as a doormat, perhaps especially so since Yurie has came into the picture. At one point it was even made explicit, when she was ordering something unsuitable as an offering and Miko had to apologize. I didn’t see much depth in that relationship, but perhaps I wasn’t looking well enough.

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