Kannazuki no Miko: A mixing of many genres

Kannazuki no Miko is a fourteen chapter manga created by Kaishaku, you may recall the duo’s name from when I reviewed Steel Angel Kurumi 2. In late 2004, TNK and Geneon collaborated on a twelve episode series. This may be Kaishaku’s most famous work. It’s generally pretty popular with yuri fans but it’s also controversial. I’ll keep this as spoiler free as I can, but I do need to address that. Just because I feel that it’s an important discussion topic. So, let’s delve into it and find out why the series managed to rile some people up and why it managed to endear itself to some others.

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Story:

Himeko is a high school student approaching her 16th birthday. At the same time, the school’s princess, and Himeko’s close friend, Chikane They’re planning to get together for a special party for the two of them when things go wrong. Destruction rains down on their city. Chikane goes to find Himeko, who is under attack by a giant robot piloted by her friend, Souma. Souma seems to be under the control of an outside force, repeating that he has to kill the shrine maiden. He manages to overcome the control due to his fondness for Himeko and fights against another giant robot, defeating it. The trio find out that Himeko and Chikane are destined shrine maidens of the sun & moon. An ancient evil, Orochi, named for the legendary eight-headed serpent, has resurrected and Himeko and Chikane need to awaken the strongest swordsman, Ame no Murakumo, in order to stop it. Souma is one of the eight heads of the Orochi. He vows to use his strength to protect Himeko from the other seven.

The biggest flaw with the series is that it’s pretty rushed. The series tries to combine a lot of different factors. The mecha battles, the duty of the maidens, the back story, the motivations for the seven loyal Orochi heads themes of destiny and the cycle thereof & the love triangle with Himeko, Chikane & Souma. All in a twelve episode series. There really isn’t adequate time to fully flesh out everything. Then there’s the love triangle. The issue with it is that it’s obvious just from the opening theme where it’s going to ultimately go. The way it gets there is quite interesting, but the drama of it still suffers quite a bit from knowing how it’s going to ultimately unravel.

To the series’ credit, it does have several really good ideas and the content is, as a whole, handled reasonably well. There’s a lot of really strong tension throughout the series and there are a lot of twists and turns that leave you legitimately guessing what’s coming next. Which does make for a very interesting series The ending wraps things up pretty nicely and has some really strong moments.

Now that we’ve discussed the other negative and positive aspects of the story, let’s move into the controversy. Which I’m sure everyone will be perfectly reasonable when discussing or when commenting on my discussion of. I’ll keep this as spoiler free as I possibly can, but it’s also not something that can really be talked about without giving away some major things. So, there will be spoilers.

This series has a rape scene and the controversy revolves around this scene and whether or not it’s acceptable. One of the major lines of argumentation is over whether the scene in question is using the horrific rape equals love trope. Basically, X rapes Y and, after some time passes Y and X come together as a couple. Fans of the series argue that its a subversion of the trope because of the motivation surrounding the rape. Basically, X wants Y to hate them. It ultimately fails, because Y has faith in X and won’t believe that X is a bad person even with everything that’s happened. The fans argue that, because the motivation is to elicit Y’s hatred for narrative reasons and not for sex and because X ultimately doesn’t get what they want, it’s more of a subversion than the trope played straight. Critics, in contrast, argue that its the trope played straight because they do ultimately become a couple and that the motivation is just an excuse to try and justify it.

So, what do I think? I think they’re having the wrong argument here. It’s illustrated quite strongly before the rape scene that Y is already in love with X, even if Y isn’t cognizant of that fact, and vice versa. Generally, the rape equals love trope involves the romance stemming from the rape or it has the couple getting together as a result of the rape. In this case, when the rape happens, it creates a conflict in the romantic dynamic between them that has to be overcome. Effectively, it’s being used as an obstacle for their already existent love. Which is neither a subversion of that trope nor a use of it. It’s in its own category.

I think the more relevant argument is over whether or not the series actually gains something from this being a rape scene that it couldn’t have gained through some other kind of obstacle coming between them. Honestly, I’m not sure if anything else would have done all of the things for the series that the rape scene does. Narratively, it creates a pretty large obstacle betwixt the two and, narratively, X needs to do something to Y directly as opposed to trying to get Y to hate them by doing something to someone else. That being said, the handling could certainly be better. Part of the issue is just the length. To reiterate, Kannazuki no Miko only has twelve episodes. So, when the rape happens more than halfway through, Y has to be able to emotionally recover from it unnaturally quickly for the progression of their relationship with X and the continuation of the plot. Maybe there’s more time devoted to the recovery in the manga, although it only has two volumes so that seems unlikely, but it’s certainly an issue in the anime. So, I’m a bit torn on the issue of whether the rape scene’s narrative purposes are balanced out by the handling of it. Whether or not it ultimately works is a highly contentious matter.

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Characters:

The biggest weakness with the characters comes from the antagonists. We have seven Orochi, not counting Souma and, though the series touches on the back stories for all of them, they really aren’t developed characters. As a group, their basic shtick can be summed up as “bad things happened in their lives that led them to resent the world.” Which is odd considering that Souma has very little reason to resent the world nor does he really seem to. So, is it just a coincidence that most of these people suffered significantly with the Orochi being pre-determined or does Souma actually hate most people & things but the series just doesn’t feel that that’s pertinent information?

Our three major characters, Himeko, Chikane & Souma are, in all fairness, quite interesting. They get fleshed out quite a bit and we see them develop over the course of the series. With the side characters, there are some good ones that possess verisimilitude and there are others that are more one-note, but there really aren’t any terribly written or annoying characters.

Art:

The art is good in this. The character designs are varied and interesting. The mecha look good and the animation is pretty smooth. The backgrounds are nicely detailed all around. My only major issue with it is that a lot of the mecha fights are kind of boring. Souma and his opponent will batter each other for thirty seconds. He’ll us a special attack and it’s all over or he’ll get ensnared by something, there’ll be some dialogue, he’ll break free and then end it really quickly. This is not how you do dynamic action sequences. Oddly enough, the non-mecha action sequences tend to be a lot more varied, fast-paced and visually interesting.

Sound:

The vocal cast in this is great. Kawasumi Ayako, Shitaya Noriko & Majima Junji particularly. Even the antagonistic characters are well acted. The music is really good Kubota Mina, who also worked on music in the Aria franchise & Sasameki Koto does a really good job.

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Ho-yay:

There is a lot. In addition to the major elements between Chikane and Himeko, which are mostly pretty strong, Chikane has fan girls and her maid, Otoha, is heavily implied to have romantic feelings for her.

Final Thoughts:

There’s a lot to admire about Kannazuki no Miko. It maintains a narrative that is, in many substantial ways, suspenseful from beginning to end. It has some strong major characters. Great art, acting and music. Its biggest flaw is that it really needed more time to develop its ideas and antagonists. The controversy is something I have mixed feelings to as well and, due to the content, it’s certainly not for everyone. Still, for me the factors that work are strong enough that I’ll give it a solid 8/10. Next week is Valentine’s, so I’m going to look at something romance focused. Gravitation.

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