Sunday, September 19, 2010
Kannazuki no Miko is not only a benchmark yuri title, it's one of the most hotly contested in its genre. It is the first yuri-centric series in which the main couple gets a happy ending together (in this case, the chance to "fall in love all over again"), but it isn't without its blemishes.
For the two people reading this blog who don't know, Kannazuki no Miko is about Kurusugawa Himeko, an average, guileless high school girl who has the two biggest stars in her school, rich ojousama Himemiya Chikane and childhood friend Oogami Souma, madly in love with her. On the 16th birthday that Chikane and Himeko share, one of the eight mecha-piloting followers of the evil god Orochi (in this case, a sexy "nun" in an itty-bitty outfit named Sister Miyako) attacks them because they're the reincarnations of the Sun and Moon priestesses who must serve the god of swords, Ame no Murakumo, and seal away Orochi- until Orochi breaks the seal and they have to put him away again.
Souma finds out that he's one of the Orochi (later, his long lost brother turns out to be one also- dun dun dun), but he rejects his fate and vows to protect Himeko. I still think that KnM has one of the best first episode endings ever- I love how the entire love triangle could have been resolved right then and there if Souma had looked down.
After Sister Miyako destroys Himeko's dorm, Himeko moves into Chikane's mansion, to the absolute delight of Chikane and the consternation of her lovestruck maid/childhood friend Otoha. (Not to mention Chikane's fans at school.) Chikane and Himeko keep trying to summon Murakumo, more Orochi followers attack (all of them more silly than threatening- catgirl nurse? Bored mangaka? Dull, muscleheaded thug? Snooty pop idol? Etc), Souma saves Himeko (and sometimes Chikane) again and again using his mech, Chikane despairs at having less power than Souma to protect Himeko, and Himeko doesn't have a freaking clue.
Where Souma is very open about his feelings but has limited contact with Himeko (i.e. they don't live/bathe/eat meals everyday together), Chikane keeps her feelings under a tight lid while constantly being around Himeko- even encouraging Himeko to go on dates with Souma. She's a pressure boiler waiting to explode, which Sister Miyako exploits after Chikane learns what happened in her and Himeko's previous incarnations. In episode 8, after Himeko buys coordinating pendants for her and Chikane, Chikane reveals that she is an Orochi follower...in a horribly gut-wrenching scene.
I understand that Chikane needed to make Himeko hate her, but there had to be another way to make the story work. If she had, for example, fallen down the stairs and broken one of her arms, then what would she have done?
This series manages to have a happy ending, if you watch past the ending credits.
Every reviewer is influenced by their past experiences when approaching any title. There is no such thing as an objective review. I have more of a bias towards KnM than most people.
Kannazuki no Miko is the series that made me a yuri fan. When I was a high school sophomore, the administration at the Catholic high school I attended told the students that we shouldn't join social networks because they were immoral, so I signed up for Myspace. While browsing AMVs on Myspace one day, I clicked on one that showed two miko standing in a field of yellow flowers. I looked up the show and began watching it on YouTube. It was addictive. I couldn't stop until I finished it, and by the end, I was happily crying over the ending. Kannazuki no Miko was described as a "yuri" title, so I started watching more shows recommended as yuri. KnM, Strawberry Panic (which I started watching about 10 episodes into its broadcast), Yamibou, Gokujou Seitokai, and Marimite were the shows that I cut my yuri fan teeth on, and Kannazuki no Miko, Strawberry Panic, and Marimite were "security blanket" shows when I was hyperventilating over what my sexual orientation must be.
How much do I enjoy KnM now?
Even though I knew what would happen, this series still tied my stomach in knots. All three of the lead characters torture themselves over their feelings and whether or not their feelings are requited, to varying extents. It's the worst for Chikane, who evokes the most pathos until episode 8, although Himeko and Souma have their own sad stories to make them sympathetic.
Unlike most KnM fans, I welcomed the Orochi and their silly mechs ("MEGATON KNUCKLE!!!") because they broke up the tense, emotionally fraught atmosphere. There are other humorous elements, like Himeko being a fan of Orochi villain Reiko-sensei's manga and Otoha's passive-aggressive behavior towards Himeko. I always especially like it when Himeko's roommate Mako rattles off the list of Chikane's suitors in the first episode.
Kannazuki no Miko is packed with anime stereotypes. The story set-up is pretty typical. Souma is the mech-piloting hero who saves the damsel in distress, Himeko, while a plethora of stereotypical villains attack under the leadership of a cackling baddie bent on destroying the world. The damsel in distress's (female) friend is in love with her, but she goes bananas, does something awful, and joins the Big Bad. Given this set-up and the year that KnM aired in, right on the coattails of Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito, there wasn't much cause to expect a yuri ending. But expectations were subverted. I just really wish that it had been done without rape. (Or after that, Himeko asking Chikane what she did wrong. Pissed me off.) Even before episode 8, Chikane's self-loathing, closeted angst is distressing, as well as the knowledge of what would happen in episode 8. I was still moved by the ending, especially when Chikane broke down and cried and when Himeko swore to find her no matter what she looked like in her next incarnation, as well as Himeko knowing that she needed to find "someone" after Chikane was erased from her memory. The epilogue was sweet also.
The fantasy window-dressing is pretty half-baked, but I like how it draws on Japanese legends. Orochi is based on the eight-headed serpent Yamata no Orochi who was slain by the storm god Susanoo after he was expelled from heaven. Ame no Murakumo is based on a sword that Susanoo found inside Yamata no Orochi's body after killing him. The title "Kannazuki no Miko" is a pun based on the lore associated with the tenth month of the traditional Japanese lunar calendar, when the gods are supposed to gather at Izumo Taisha. ("Kannazuki no Miko" can be translated as "Priestesses of the Godless Moon" or "Priestesses of the Godless Month.")
The character designs are appealing, even though the actual animation for them isn't very good. The soundtrack supports the show well, and it's pretty to listen to. (I usually don't pay attention to background music.) The voice acting is noteworthy for Noto Mamiko as Reiko-sensei and Ueda Kana as pop idol Corona, as well as Kawasumi Ayako's silky smooth performance as Chikane. (Which made me go doki-doki enough in high school to buy Kawasumi's "Primary" CD when I was studying abroad in Japan.)
Sentimental Value: A
Edit: Added two sentences to the end of the third to last paragraph about the ending of the series.