Kamisama Dolls is an anime series based on the manga created by Hajime Yamamura. The show is distributed in the UK by MVM Entertainment who have released the cartoon’s thirteen episodes on a two-disc DVD set. The series follows a university student named Kyohei Kuga who is currently based in Tokyo. Kyohei moved into the big city to get away from the stifling village he was raised in, but try as he may he cannot escape from his past. When Kyohei’s former pal Aki Kuga turns up in town controlling a murderous automaton our hero is forced to confront his village’s dark secret – the mechanical gods known as Kakashi.
One thing you cannot accuse Kamisama Dolls of is lacking unique ideas. At first glance it may resemble your typical anime featuring mechs, but to Yamamura’s credit the series adds a unique spin to the genre’s usual conventions. The titular “dolls” are neither your sister’s kind of Barbie nor are they the oversized bots you would find in something like Gundam. The Kakashi are in fact floating golems fabricated using wood harvested from a mind reading forest. If that’s not novel enough for you, the Kakashi sing whenever they are in motion and are operated telepathically by gifted individuals known as Seki. They remind me a little of RahXephon’s Dolems – both in terms of their design and the manner in which they warble during combat.
The show revolves around Kyohei coaching Utao (his little sis) on how to control a powerful Kakashi named Kukuri. The siblings initially have to halt Aki’s homicidal rampage and afterwards have to tangle with other Seki who hail from a rival village. In terms of tone this anime is one of those shows that flip flops from downright silly to depressingly dark at the drop of a hat. There’s a lot of silly banter and ridiculous storylines (one of the villains for example is motivated to partake in kidnapping just because she has an unrequited crush on the protagonist) but when you least expect it the narrative will throw in some gruesome kills or a heart-wrenching tale featuring rape. The humour/drama dissonance may put off some viewers, but for me it worked (I do appreciate shows like Trigun and Code Geass after all.)
My rating for Kamisama Dolls is a four out of five. I went into the show with low expectations, after reading some lukewarm reviews, but after checking it out I have to say that I was impressed with what I watched. The series has some good production values and the confrontations between the Kakashi more than satisfied my action cravings. The interactions between the show’s characters are also amusing, even if the cast list is packed with anime clichés. Kyohei is the male lead no girl can resist, Aki is the silver haired bad guy with a tragic past, Utao has an incestuous lust for her oni-chan and Hibino Shiba is the well-endowed love interest that is regularly caught out wearing nada.
Given my admiration for the series it’s disappointing to see that episode thirteen ends with many plotlines left unresolved. The finale teases a second season, but I am not convinced that another series will ever see the light of day. Kamisama Dolls finished airing back in 2011 and since then I haven’t heard of any news about a potential follow-up getting green lit. Supposedly the Japanese DVDs didn’t sell in sufficient quantities to justify animating more episodes. That’s a shame, especially when you consider how many inferior programmes manage to run for multiple seasons. Fingers crossed that someone will licence the manga in the west so fans over here can at least see how the remaining story pans out.