Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens

Kannagi: Crazy Shrine MaidensType: TV Series + DVD Special
Episode Count: 13 + 1
Genre: Fantasy / Comedy / Slice Of Life
Vintage: 2008

Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 18 Oct 2009

Grade: A

Virtually two separate shows in one, and both aspects of it are a joy to watch.

Plot Summary
Jin is a high school art student who is working on a sculpture project. Using wood from a tree from the local shrine, he is making a likeness of the Tree Goddess which he saw when he was little, since Jin possesses the gift of being able to see spirits. Unexpectedly, the goddess herself soon materializes from the statue, and she introduces herself as Nagi. Before he knows it, Jin is living with her. Nagi says that she has come to the mortal world to rid the region of impurities, and she needs Jin’s help to do it.

The Review
Kannagi is yet another series which I knew practically nothing about until I saw it. It is also one of the best shows that I have seen in recent years. It pulls off the feat of being two completely different kinds of shows – and good ones at that – within a mere fourteen episode run.

At first, Kannagi seems to be a sort of hybrid of Ah! My Goddess and KamiChu!. Jin lives alone, but is soon joined by Nagi, and his childhood friend and schoolmate Tsugumi watches over him since his father is away, as instructed by Jin’s father when they were little. Nagi spends most of her free time watching television at Jin’s house, but she also goes out to rid the area of whatever spiritual impurities she finds. In the meantime, Jin has to find a way to explain how he is all of a sudden living under the same roof with a girl that nobody has seen before. This is where Kannagi shows its second face.

Kannagi‘s alternate identity is that of a high school “otaku comedy” – in other words, the type of comedy that’s a nudge and a wink to anime fans. Jin and his group of friends at school go through several stereotypical “high school comedy” situations, but instead of feeling stale and derivative, it is remarkably fresh and just plain fun to watch. A seasoned anime fan will have seen all of these scenarios played out before, but it’s the knowledge and deconstruction of these tropes which make them so good in Kannagi‘s context. The brilliance of it is how it is tied into the original story of Nagi and her being a goddess.

I also found the character designs for Kannagi attractive, and the voice acting is excellent. This is a very recent show, whose third episode was airing on Japanese TV exactly one year ago from this writing! It is the quickest turnaround for any series in my collection, and is the closest to give me an idea of a part of the current anime climate in Japan.

Kannagi is a wonderful series which blends two completely different kinds of stories very well – no small feat considering its length. It’s got a great cast of characters, looks fantastic, and is fun to watch. Highly recommended for fans of contemporary fantasy and character-driven shows.

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