Impressions on Kamichu!: Needed More Miyazaki Merging

This post about how Dennou Coil evokes Hayao Miyazaki (which raises interesting points) reminded me of when I watched another anime that some have said also reminded them of the renowned director. The premise of a middle-school girl suddenly becoming a god and all that followed (attempting to discover what her ablities were, using them for good and for awesome, and balancing that with normal school life) was interesting. It was slow-paced and nice slice-of-life, two things that I really like (friends noted this, calling Kamichu! “my type of show” before I watched it).  And a couple of friends stated that for some reason, he just felt happy for a while after finishing the series.  So Kamichu! piqued my interest, and it helped that my college anime club was showing it this past spring semester.  When we completed it, I did like what I saw, but something nagged me.  Despite many nice ingredients, the series didn’t push the right buttons for me to consider it as something really great instead of only a pretty good show. As if that’s a bad thing though. 😛

Cherry blossoms always make things better.

In my opinion, the main annoyance was how the god world and the normal world fit (or to be more accurate, didn’t really fit) together.  Watching, we see that gods do appear in Kamichu’s world and that Yurie (and Miko) can seem them regularly and all that jazz. And we also observe that the two realms as decidedly separate, such as when our heroine made her trips to the other side to introduce herself/learn how to become a better god/etc.  Only Yurie can regularly traverse the two and we get to see how she acts as something of a medium for both sides. But what I think Kamichu! in 16 episodes failed at that Dennou Coil is succeeding at so far (only two episodes in for me :P) is in the connection of the two worlds.

Coil shows, in a way that I can find believeable within the presentation of their world, that the digital world and reality, though different in many ways, can be seamlessly interwoven with each other. Seeing Densuke do his thing and still have characters interact with him in the real world despite him being a cyber dor is pretty cool. To me, Kamichu! attemps to do the same thing, but it doesn’t work quite as well. Everything still seems disjointed, even as we get to know that both of the realms have many similarites with each other.  Unlike in Coil where it seems as if everyone with AR visors can interact with the digital, in the scope of Yurie’s world, she’s the only one we see with freedom to normally travel and interact with gods.  It seems very isolated even when she brings her friends into the act, and even if a point of Kamichu! is about highlighting how special Yurie’s position is, the isolation creates a disconnect that was offputting to me.  I can only see all this stuff happening to her, and not to anyone else. The worlds are seamless only to her, and so I annoyingly can’t believe that it can’t happen to anyone else, which takes the fun out of it for me.

One thing I believe that Miyazaki succeeds well at is blending the surreal and the real, regardless of how much there is of the two elements, and no matter the number involved; somehow, these events could seemingly still happen to others even if it’s just a one time thing. That creates a state of believeablity, making movies along a range from Porco Rosso to Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke work well, though some work better than others (BTW, I favor Porco Rosso and Kiki’s Delivery Service of the director’s works, probably because there’s no really really important world-saving goal involved :P).  Kamichu!‘s disconnect (or maybe misconnect) made me feel like a passive watcher, when I much prefer to feel involved with what I watch, and Miyazaki’s movies were often the latter for me. While Kamichu! had a great premise and good execution of that premise, I never felt like I wanted to know more about the world of the gods and how it worked with Yurie and crew (granted, Yurie feeling the same way sometimes helped with that IMO).  While that’s not a problem, it did kill some of the enjoyment I had for it, and it probably also says a little bit about myself as an anime fan. 😛

After watching The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, I can’t help but wonder where she’ll leap to.

Otherwise, it’s an enjoyable watch if you sit back and let it just happen (which I think that’s how it’s supposed to be done in the first place :P).  Most characters, though one-dimensional, have their own eccentricities and traits that make them endearing (my faves are the common-sensical and bored(?) Mitsue and the overbearing and strongminded/willed Matsuri). While some episodes felt really out there to me (the ones with the alien and the ol’ battleship), most were enjoyable, and some were amazing to me (the runaway episode and the episode of Yurie’s quest to remain under the kotatsu the whole time; that was admirable). And while off sometimes, you couldn’t really have major complaints about the animation, art, and music. Despite all of that though, my feeling after watching Kamichu! wasn’t one of pure happiness, but a sense of longing in thinking that more could be done. :3

I think it covers their main attitudes perfectly.

6 Responses to “Impressions on Kamichu!: Needed More Miyazaki Merging”

  1. 1 Author June 25, 2007 at 1:03 am

    Animation was bad in a number of sequences. I have a few screenshots from the Christmas episode where it looks like concept art inked with a bucket fill tool. The low quality spots were common, in fact. And even when high-line-count and properly inked, it still failed sometimes. In the transfer episode, the welcome back sequence was outsourced to someone who blew the art. Not only the welcoming party didn’t adhere to the standard, the art was simply ugly. There were instances of excellent art and animation, but overall, very uneven.

  2. 2 r3dking June 25, 2007 at 2:39 am

    I think you overstate the separation between the mundane world and the god-world in Kamichu! Yes, of the main characters only Yurie herself can perceive both worlds easily. But the god-world leaks into the mundane, and the effects are there for everyone to see if they look. The gift that Yurie has, and the mikos to a lesser extent, is to bridge the gap so that more of the extraordinary is seen. An extended example of this is the episode in which her parents are pulled back to the sea-side resort of their youth. And people certainly see the effects of the magic bubbling around Yurie, even if they don’t see the cause.

    I agree with you about “Kiki’s Delivery Service”. But consider… the people who smile at Kiki are not thinking “hey, I could do magic too!”, they are just smiling that Kiki herself is adding a bit of magic to their lives. The same is true in Kamichu!, except that the animators have let you peek behind the scene a bit to see where the magic comes from.

  3. 3 omo June 25, 2007 at 9:33 am

    Hmm. You might be onto something with that disjoint talk between Kamichu and DC.

    But I also think it’s cultural. It’s easy to handle something like VR for our generation globally. OTOH Japanese Shinto best practices…remains distinctly Japanese. And more seriously, there are some big problems with how Denno Coil merge the virtual and the real that is, lack of a better term, plot-holey. Kamichu gets away with it because they’re gods and stuff.

  4. 4 TheBigN June 26, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    Author: Was this the DVD version, since that’s what I watched, and I didn’t really notice that many problems. But I don’t really tend to focus on that thing anyway. 😛

    r3dking: Regarding Kiki, there are other witches, and it’s such that interacting with witches is an ordinary thing. In Kamichu, it’s obviously not an ordinary thing, which makes it special. That’s not the problem. The “surreal” and the real presented just don’t merge well to me.

    omo: In Kamichu’s case it seems too simple. But again, that might be the point. I would think that despite it’s Japanese feel, it speaks to people in a larger sense. If only I could find out what that is. :3

  5. 5 whentitsgosideways June 29, 2007 at 10:33 am

    wow..yr blog is pretty cool man! hope u could write more..will be reading indefinitely

  6. 6 Erik July 14, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    I’m a pretty big Kamichu fan… but I do agree with some of your points. 🙂 The alien episode was just jarring (although I was amused at how they referred back to it in later episodes by having the PM send Yurie a New Years card and also a romance question on Valentine’s Day), fortunately, that was the only time that I felt they really mis-stepped badly.

    The battleship Yamato, though, was for me one of the strongest episodes (my other favorites are the beach house, the one where Miko runs away, the one where Yurie is sick and goes “astral traveling”, and – like you – the New Years/kotatsu show). These episodes highlight what I think the series does best – evoking a feeling of wistfulness and a sense of time passing too quickly, and showing up everybody’s need for connection and relationships (even, or perhaps especially, kami). It’s the same feeling I get from Kondo Yoshifumi’s “Whisper of the Heart”.

    And yes, I did feel happy after watching Kamichu; mostly because I was rooting so strongly for Yurie. I felt great hope from the very last scene, where she woke up before everyone else, that this meant she was going to really start getting her feet under her and integrating her kami and human aspects.

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