Sunday 1 May 2011

Anime REVIEW: Kannazuki No Miko

Kannazuki No Miko is a 12 episode anime series based on the manga of the same name by Kaishaku (a name derived from Kaishakunin, which by no coincidence is a key theme in Kannazuki No Miko). The story concerns Himeko and Chikane, two girls who are in fact the reincarnations of the Solar and Lunar Miko (maidens). When an ancient evil they once sealed rises again, they are thrust into their destinies in these roles to defend the world against the Orochi, the eight necks of the Yamata no Orochi. The first Orochi - Sōma Ōgami, a childhood friend who's also in love with Himeko, awakens and attacks them on their shared birthday. However after a blinding flash of light brings him to his senses, he rejects his fate and vows to defend Himeko against the other Orochi. The series not only deals with the girls destiny to awaken the Ame no Murakumo and their ultimate fates, but also the yuri relationship growing between the two girls conflicting with the relationship between Himeko and Chikane.

At 12 episodes, there’s a lot of plot to be covered, so the series takes things at a relatively speedy pace. Despite this, it’s not hard to follow and has a good few twists and turns to keep the audience interested. The ending is cleverly done, pulling at the heartstrings but at the same time having an epilogue which hints that there really might be a happy ending for everyone involved.

The characters in Kannazuki No Miko are a mixed bag. The protagonists are excellently portrayed and receive plenty of development and analysis (even if both romantic subplots are a little forced at times). This however comes at the expense of the Orochi, who seem to get none whatsoever. This is a shame, because they are a really bizarre bunch - including a manga artist, a pop idol, a sexy nun and a catgirl-nurse-child. Their backstory amounts to each one getting a 2 second flashback (which hints at pretty noteworthy backgrounds) towards the end of the series, and they spend most of the time sitting around rather than actually doing anything. Tsubasa and Sister Miyako are the only ones that get episodes where they play pivotal roles, and following Miyako’s they’re all disposed of. 12 episodes was nowhere near enough to play about with the characters it introduced, and while a few more episodes each reflecting a different neck of the Orochi and their mecha may have made the series a little more generic, it would have made it that much more enjoyable. There’s also some side characters I probably should mention, but they do even less than the villains.

On to the subject of the mecha, which I have mixed feelings on that go against my usual tastes. In all honesty, I think Kannazuki No Miko would have benefitted from not having mecha battles at all, because they feel incredibly detached for the story. The antagonists are bizarre on their own, but to suddenly have them pull out mecha with little to no explanation makes it even stranger. The designs themselves range from bland (Sōma’s is nothing more than an obvious Gundam rip off, and Tsubasa’s Take no Yasukunazuchi shares obvious traits with Gundam Wing Zero) to bizarre (Nekoko’s Meow Meow is a giant floating ball with cannons galore). The Ame No Murakumo is definitely the show stealer when it comes to the mecha – a huge transforming white angelic styled robot, and its arrival in the series climax leads on to an excellent pay off. It’s only at this stage do the mecha not feel completely tacked on, and otherwise the series may have benefitted from the antagonists fighting directly (not that half of them DID anything anyway).

Admittedly this isn't the usual kind of thing I'd watch, but the promise of both yuri and mecha was a pretty enticing draw. In the end, Kannazuki No Miko is a perfectly enjoyable series (that potentially could have been better if it were a bit longer) but doesn't really do anything that other series' haven't done better. The focus on a yuri relationship is an good alternate take on what otherwise is a rather generic story type and the final few episodes are both action packed and ultimately bittersweet, but to call the series anything more than average would be overselling it.

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