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Friday, 04 November 2011 00:00

Kamisama Dolls

One for filing in the 'wasted opportunities' file, is Kamisama Dolls, as there are so many things here that could lead inreally interesting directions - and then have nothing done with them. What it does have, though, is a top-class line in comical facial expressions, and the most fruitlooped character of recent memory - put them together, and it's almost enough to save the show...

Kyouhei Kuga, a college student who's just moved to Tokyo in search of a new life, is finding it a little hard to settle in - he's not the most outgoing of people, city life is busier than he expected - and he's already developed something of a crush on classmate Hibino Shiba. And his initial attempt to ask her out didn't go well. After passing out at a class party, he wakes to find that he's been sleeping on Hibino's lap, and she offers to walk him home - but on entering the elevator from the party room, they find a dismembered body. And that's just the start of his nightmare...

The killings seem to be connected to Aki, another boy from the same village as Kyouhei and who is a Seki - a controller of a Kukuri: a wooden 'doll', infused with spiritual power, that responds to the wishes of its Seki. They can be used for peaceful means, to make everyday life easier; or they can be used for darker means. Kyouhei gave up on being a Seki when he learnt about their darker uses - the temptation to use them for evil was just too strong - but Aki harbours a grudge against him that he'd very much like to settle. He'd been kept in confinement for some time, but now he's been released - and is here to settle that score.

Meanwhile, when Kyouhei gave up his Kakashi, it passed to his little sister Utao. She's still learning how to control her Kakashi to its full potential, but she follows Aki to Tokyo to help her brother deal with the threat that Aki poses. Predictable chaos ensues, with Hibino - who fortunately has ties to the same village and knows about the Kakashi - becoming entangled in the conflict between Aki and Kyouhei, which is itself a little microcosm of the larger battle that's been going on for years between the village's two major clans, the Kuga and and the Hyuga.

All of which makes for great background, and there are some particular plot segments and scenes that make great use of it, particularly when the show delves into the past and shows us just why Aki and Kyouhei came to have the dysfunctional relationship that they do. But the storyline sort of bumps along, never really feeling like it's the main event, and that feels rather strange.

Instead, other relationships come to the fore: Kyouhei and Hibino, and their are-they-or-aren't-they friendship (there are clearly feelings between them, but in typical anime fashion it takes a long time for them to do anything about it); the antics of the yound and innocent Utao (and her frankly amazing range of facial expressions that are comedy gold all on their own); and the appearances of a few other fringe characters who each threaten to steal the show from the leads.

Even when the main plot does finally kick into high gear, it brings with it another new character who doesn't just threaten to steal the show, she runs off with it and makes it her own: Miharu, Kyouhei's batshit insane stalker whose view of the world is so out of whack with how it realy is, and who so can't accept not getting her way, that she becomes simultaneously the villain of the piece - far more so than Aki - and the best piece of comedy that I've seen in a while, edging out Utao in that department. Sadly, she only appears in episode 10: up until then, Kamisama Dolls is okay but horribly unfocussed; after that, it becomes a far more entertaining affair.

So you have to sit through 9 episodes of "meh" to get to the fun stuff, and the jury's a bit out on whether that's worth it or not, the series is too much all over the place to be really entertaining. But Miharu is such a character that it's almost worth watching just for her, so on that point, it's worth a shot. But with all the background information that's given, you can see so many ways in which it could have been a far better series that frustration at the missed possibilities is never far away, and that balances out her appeal somewhat. Still worth a look, though, but be aware of its weaknesses.

Rating - ***