What am I watching again? Kamisama Dolls has definitely shown some signs of having fairly traumatic events in some of the characters’ backstories, but damn. Things switched gears right quick this episode, into a gear I didn’t know this show had in it. I’ll admit that I lap up sweet, delicious tragedy like a cat at a saucer full of milk, so I enjoyed the hell out of this one.
The entire episode starts and ends with Kyouhei telling Hibino what happened between him and Aki years ago. You don’t normally expect an episode comprised entirely of flashbacks to be very good; they tend to have a poor track record and often are an excuse for recap or partial-recap episodes. But there was the conspicuous absence of the OP sequence. It’s something I tweeted about as I started watching the episode, and I shall codify it into Anime Law here:
When there’s no opening sequence like usual, you know shit is about to go down.
Things start off with the basics of what was going on back when Aki and Kyouhei were in high school. Aki had his Seki status and Kuromitsuha taken away for killing animals, and he had stopped going to school as well. Back then he wasn’t exactly the most trouble-free kid either and it seems that he was taken in by a branch of the Kuga family. The Kugas are shown to be just as bad as most of the Hyuga that we’ve seen so far, both to Aki and to the newly arrived elementary school teacher, Senou Chihaya. Atsushi, a member of the Kuga family, starts harassing her from the start, being very aggressive about asking her out and then harassing her. He’s also a Seki, and in the village they usually get their way. Atsushi isn’t a very compelling villain himself, but it’s not as if every lowlife in the world has an interesting story or motivation. But he does stand in well as a symbol of what’s wrong with the village as a whole. Like knights in medieval Europe, the few with the special privilege and martial strength of the Seki often turn into barely more than thugs and bullies. When he doesn’t get his way the first times Senou comes in to find graffiti on her chalkboard about her having slept with a student’s son. Kyouhei seems smitten by her already and says that he’ll try and protect her, but going to his father about what to do gets him nowhere. He’s not willing to break the rule that Seki can only tell each other what to do when it concerns kakashi. His lack of willingness to ignore tradition to do the right thing sidelines him from everything that happens later.
Aki was quite the accomplished troll even back then, though Atsushi deserves it. He can barely make Kuramitsuha move around without wobbling.
It starts off moe…
Room for some jokes at the start of this thing. Not so much later on.
Senou gave a stray dog to Aki and he seems to be taking care of it well. He seemed to be on the right track back then and Moyako obviously saw something in him.
Aki’s description of the village as a “shithole” sounds increasingly true and resonates more with Senou after the treatment she’s been getting.
Senou keeps getting harassed with increasing force by Atsushi and feeling ever more isolated and anxious. Aki seems to fascinate her in some strange way, and they also hold some common ground as outcasts in the village. It’s weird but it’s an understandable sort of desperate the way Senou is drawn to him. Though she isn’t exactly just a mistreated outsider. One evening she’s walking home and Atsushi shows up again, this time trying to drag her off when Aki and his dog show up to stop him, forcefully. He gets a bite on the leg and a nice smack with a stick to the head before the teacher and Aki run off together. That night she admits to him that the story about her sleeping with a student’s father was true. He was a single parent and things seemed ok until the child walked in on them and ran out into the street, where he got he by a car. Key-ishness aside from the car bit, it did establish what her position is. After the word got out about the circumstances surrounding the incident she couldn’t get hired anywhere…anywhere but the village. Which makes me wonder exactly how they recruit outsiders to come in, if they purposefully look for down-and-out people that they can either control or dispose of easily without questions being asked. Given how corrupt and shady the village ruling families seem to be I wouldn’t put it past them at this point. But beyond the incident that brought Senou here she’s definitely got some rather large issues. She starts getting closer to Aki and sleeps with him, admitting that it’s a sort of misplaced revenge on the kid who ruined things for her. Sure, I might have expected death or Aki’s imprisonment to be a big factor in their backstory, but I certainly wasn’t expecting this! It’s kind of messed up but I can’t help feeling sympathetic to Senou’s desperation and hangups. But it gets worse and brings us to the culmination of the flashback and the reason for Aki and Kyouhei’s enmity.
The principle and townspeople aren’t helping the situation either. As well as the harassment, now they’re repeating the (non) rumor and keeping away from her, as well as the principle criticizing her for getting in a fight with Atsushi. All because he’s a Seki and a Kuga.
So it looked weird, and I’d have expected some sort of obsession or complex from her, but I didn’t think this show would take it where it went.
Aki definitely comes out of this looking a lot better. At least he did something instead of being paralyzed by tradition like Kyouhei. Though that goes nicely with why Kyouhei reacts so strongly to Aki’s trolling in the present.
Senou, Moyako, Kuuko: Aki gets all the girls! (Except Hibino, but no one cares about her.)
The desperation, the wanting to get away. It’s been done before and you know how it will end but I can’t help but get into the tragedy of it.
Someone seems to have gotten pictures of the teacher and her student together and brought them to the principle. It’s unknown at this point who, or how, other than they seemed to have taken them by crawling through the ceiling and taking them from above judging by the angle. But this gets Senou dismissed from the school and made Aki even more of an outcast. Even Moyako isn’t sure what to think of him now.
And then things get even worse.
Senou is at her house that night when Atsushi kidnaps her (with the assistance of Kuramitsuha, which he uses to kill Aki’s dog so it can’t alert anyone), takes her to a building somewhere, and rapes her. Then leaves a note telling Aki where to find them. When he gets there things obviously don’t go well and he tries to kill Aki. Senou jumps in front of him, Atsushi’s friends are no longer so cool with things (so rape is ok, but not murder?), and Aki keeps taunting him, resigned to die. Or not. Kuramitsuha is no longer his but in a moment of resolution he yells out “no!” in his mind and the kakashi stops. Aki’s latent ability and a remaining connection to his old kakashi turn Kuramitsuha back to his control. More villagers burst in and start questioning what’s going on when Aki decides to go all “Satsugai” on them. He kills everyone in the room in a whirl of Kuramitsuha’s blades and when Kyouhei arrives Senou’s corpse looks like all the others that Aki created. Aki has lost it by this point, talking to Kyouhei about how things can now be like they’re supposed to be, with him and Kyouhei together as Seki. Kyouhei hated him for a time before later finding out that Aki wasn’t the one who killed Senou. But in that time Aki had been imprisoned, Moyako was devastated, and Kyouhei gave up his position as Seki and left.
Inappropriate, and the school would be right to fire a teacher for what she did, but it’s still tough not to feel for her after what she’s been through.
I’m ok with their deaths. It’s a pity that Kuramitsuha kills in such a clean manner.
Fuck yeah, Aki! Don’t just dither about the evils of the village, do something about it.
Faster Aki, kill, kill!
And then Kyouhei shows up, hence the Macross Plus comparison I made in the opening shot. Though in this series the animosity continues even after all parties are aware of the truth of what happened.
And we’re brought back to Aki’s imprisonment, the status quo before the series begins.
Final Thoughts: - As I mentioned, I love me some tragedy, and since I was absolutely not expecting Kamisama Dolls to do something quite like this, it felt like delicious, hearty serving of it. While Shinmaru disagrees strongly, I didn’t feel this crossed the line into artificial Key drama territory. I could get into it, I felt for the characters, it nicely illustrated some flaws and virtues of different characters, and was satisfying. I can’t really ask for more from melodrama. No masterpiece but very enjoyable, made moreso by it being unexpectedly strong.
- With this episode there’s an interesting mix to Kyouhei’s problems with the village and anger at Aki. He left to get away from the place and the system people live by, but he didn’t just walk away exactly. He failed to do anything to prevent it from acting the way it does and couldn’t protect Senou, and in a way, Aki, from being chewed up and spit out by it. And he failed because of inaction. He played such a minor role in things as to be irrelevant, despite being of equal privilege and superior ability to Atsushi. That has to eat away at him even more than if he’d tried and failed. And it feeds into his anger with Aki. If it was just a simpler case of one guy gets the girl and the other doesn’t he’d probably be over it. But here Aki was shown actually trying to do something to help Senou when she was threatened while Kyouhei was too timid to stand up against Atsushi. That’s got to sting.
- Aki on the other hand, is nicely shown to have been a bit messed up before any of this happened. The reasons his kakashi was taken from him was definitely legitimate and it doesn’t make him into the standard ‘good kid gone bad.’ He wasn’t exactly stable before, though he was getting onto something of the right track raising the dog and interacting normally with Kyouhei and Moyako. It’s his version of the interest that Kyouhei has, being the protagonist good guy but also being capable of being brutal and having a short temper.