Say “I Love You” VS. Kamisama Kiss

Say "I Love You" vs. Kamisama Kiss

Say “I Love You” VS. Kamisama Kiss

Watched via Crunchyroll/Funimation



PLOT: It’s not too often that we are graced with many shoujo series, and as such we are dedicating this versus review to two shoujo series that aired within the last year. While I absolutely refused to watch Kamisama Kiss after the first episode, I managed to forge completely through the utter disaster that is Say “I Love You.”

Say “I Love You” has no original aspects. The entire plot is a ripoff of every banal quality of every single shoujo series to come before it. The drama of the show revolves around typical misunderstandings and stunted emotional development. Main characters Mei Tachibana and Yamato Kurosawa are constantly out to one up each other in stupidity. Say “I Love You” focuses solely on the long painful process of these two learning how to date. The arcs are typical, focusing on matters like: modeling, best friend rivals, cheating misunderstandings, lack of physical development due to shyness, etc. Watching each arc slowly unfold was like torture each week. The characters are unoriginal and insipid. None of them are worth empathizing with, and the “humor,” if you can even call it such, is painfully obvious and unmoving.

+1 point to Kamisama Kiss, which has real humor! The director, Akitaro Daichi (who did Kodocha and Fruits Basket), has a great sense of comic timing.

PLOT: Like Say “I Love You,” Kamisama Kiss follows shoujo series guidelines very well. The main character, Nanami Monozono, is incredibly poor with a dead mother. When her deadbeat dad skips town to avoid his debts, Nanami becomes homeless. Wandering the streets and bemoaning her fate, Nanami meets Mikage, the land god of Mikage Shrine, who decides to let her become the land god in his place. Nanami’s first duty as new land god is to regain the allegiance of Mikage’s familiar, the fox demon Tomoe. How does she go about that? Kissing him on the lips, of course! It wouldn’t be shoujo manga without some pretty-boy-kissing fan service, after all.

As the series progresses, Nanami meets other pretty boys, who all conveniently show up in the ending animation. There’s Kurama, a crow tengu who’s also an idol (every time he shows up, his ridiculous pop song plays in the background!) that goes to Nanami’s school. Mizuki, a snake ex-familiar of another god, at one point decides he’s going to marry Nanami, and eventually he becomes the second familiar at the Mikage Shrine. These characters at first threaten that the series will become even more stereotypical and devolve into a reverse harem, but fortunately Kurama and Mizuki seem to respect Nanami and her lack of interest in them, allowing most of the series to focus on Nanami’s feelings for Tomoe and whether or not they’re requited (because we all knew she was going to fall in love with him as soon as he appeared).

The series also spends a good amount of time on Nanami learning how to be a proper land god and slowly building confidence in her abilities. She encounters several supernatural creatures, and this side of the series definitely appeals to the part of me that loves Japanese folklore. The romance between Nanami and Tomoe is just unconventional enough in its development to keep me interested, but the series’ supernatural elements also kept me coming back for more. Additionally, the series is helmed by an old pro at shoujo, so it has good timing and a nice kind of off-beat comedy. Coming into this show, I already knew I’d like it, so it’s like trying on a new pair of comfy slippers for me.

I sure hope this series gets more interesting after the first couple of episodes, because it was such a yawn I couldn’t bother to finish it. The fox demon Tomoe, the main love interest, is your stereotypical effeminate tsundere. It kills me knowing that they’ll most likely end up together, as he is completely devoid of any masculine charm. Also the idea of a shrine/demon shoujo series just completely bores me to tears. Japanese folklore is nice and all, but we’ve seen it a hundred times, and it just gets more and more cliché.

SETTING: Mei Tachibana and Yamato Kurosawa meet each other at high school, when she accidentally blames him for lifting up her skirt, and kicks him. Yamato is strangely taken with her, and hands her his number. The rest of the series follows them “falling in love” and dating while at school. Most of the drama of the series is emphasized by location. The two face many problems with misunderstandings of “cheating” with fellow classmates, and the two go through horribly dramatic angst as they suffer the horror of not walking home from school together.

Most shoujo series highlight the wonders of teenage romance and the highs and lows that come with it. Honestly the genre is meant as escapist entertainment. In comparison, Say “I Love You” makes mundane high school life look like a dream come true. I’ve never seen a high school drama fail so badly to make high school life seem appealing.

SETTING: Because Nanami’s a land god, a lot of the series takes place at the Mikage Shrine and at other supernatural locales, which is welcome variety when so much shoujo focuses on high school. I appreciate the amount of attention to shrines that the series shows, and I’m also very interested in the many different places where the characters interact with supernatural beings. Do humans just not see all of the stuff gods have built down in the ocean? Maybe not.

However! Fear not that Kamisama Kiss completely avoids high school! Nanami, being a good girl, still has to go to high school regularly (kind of like Kagome in Inuyasha), even though she’s set as far as careers go by being a land god. Of course Kurama goes there, and Tomoe decides to join Nanami at school in order to protect her. This all means some standard high school hijinks ensue in this series, but it’s a fairly low amount compared to other shoujo series, and it was never enough to make me do more than roll my eyes a little.

CHARACTERS: Mei is an emotionally-stunted, hollow shell of a being, who is incapable of speaking her mind to any extent. She is in large part the cause of all the misunderstandings with Yamato. She constantly brushes off his advances and gives him the cold shoulder. The only time she shows emotion is when she is constantly whining about how horrible her life is and how she wants Yamato just for herself.

Yamato is equally bad at empathy. He fails time and time again to realize that his flirting with other girls, and hanging out with them alone, could possibly make his girlfriend worry. Not only that, but he’s a complete misogynist. The two barely start dating and he already starts to treat Mei as if she’s a dog and incapable of thinking for herself.

These two single-handedly ruin the idea of dating for a whole new generation. Yamato ends up giving up his future career opportunity as a model because their “true love” outweighs working. Mei practically throws a fit when she can’t walk home with Yamato every day after school. How are these two ever supposed to make it in the world if they can’t trust each other? And this is supposed to be a romance that young girls should want to emulate? Seriously? It’s two pathetic people being immature in every sense of the word.

Shoujo series don’t really do a good job of depicting healthy relationships, but this one sounds bad even by shoujo standards. Maybe it’s supposed to make all of the insecure girls feel better for not trusting their boyfriends out of their sights?

I think the author just couldn’t come up with a legit plot, so they dragged everything out. There’s even a scene where their matching dating bracelets get broken and there’s an angsty non-talking moment. Seriously, who cares? Fix it, buy a new one, apologize, but get over it. What is this, middle school? Who wears dating bracelets anyways? If it’s that cheap, why worry so much when it someday breaks? My god! These children!

CHARACTERS: Nanami, being a shoujo heroine, is: earnest, kind, stubborn, optimistic, and foolhardy when it comes to love. She has her brief angst about her parents, but it doesn’t come up much because she’s mostly busy worrying about Tomoe. Really, you could’ve stuck any other shoujo heroine in the series and had about the same result. Yes, Nanami’s likable, but when she was designed that way, it’s not really surprising.

And as your shoujo love interest, Tomoe is: mean on the outside, but a softy on the inside, with a dark past that we don’t talk about much to make him mysterious. As a fox demon, he’s also a LOT older than Nanami, which gets creepy real fast if you think about it too much. Instead of developing why Tomoe’s in love with Nanami (because you knew that was going to happen, too, even though it’s forbidden), the series just assumes that a man that close to a woman who has to take care of her will naturally fall in love with her shoujo heroine goodness. If you’re willing to forgive this for a quick shoujo fix like I was, the series works, but otherwise its logic falls apart pretty fast.

The other characters are all pleasant and easily likable. The anime parodies Kurama’s idol status, which made me like him more, though the series also sensationalizes the obligatory drag queen character more than I remember the manga doing. My favorite characters are the will-o’-the-wisp shrine attendants, Onikiri and Kotetsu, who are even more entertaining in the anime than in the manga. Somehow they’re both comic and seriously devoted to the shrine at the same time, along with being ridiculously adorable.

I never got far enough into the series to meet anyone really, but just from reading your description it sounds a lot like Twilight, with the older mysterious supernatural character and the average Mary Sue. Doesn’t sound as riveting as other shoujo series, but it sounds like it would have a great mass appeal to American audiences.

I bet this series could appeal to the girls who were in love with Inuyasha back when it aired on Adult Swim. Come to think of it, Inuyasha has the same kinda-creepy romantic pairing as Kamisama Kiss. Why are fangirls so jazzed about the idea of dating a guy with emotional problems who’s hundreds of years older than them?!

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Say “I Love You” did an excellent job of spreading banality to every aspect of the series. The character designs are uninspired. I think the only refreshing quality would be Yamato’s ridiculous haircut and his ex-friend, Kai Takemura’s, random tough guy mohawk.

The animation may be average, or at times decent enough, but it does nothing to surpass the set back it encounters from the plot. In fact I’d say that the plot is so boring and slow that it actually hinders the potential of the animation. Really I had to go back and recheck to see what the animation was like as I spaced out so much while watching the series that I couldn’t recall if it was any good. The plot forces there to be a lot of simplified movements in simplified areas. Then to make up for these un-dynamic moments, we see close up shots of mundane items like food on a table.

I’m surprised that this series doesn’t look better, since I always assumed it was going for the same high-quality look as Kimi ni Todoke, especially since the Series Director also worked on both seasons of Kimi ni Todoke. Guess he failed to reproduce both the engaging romance and visual appeal.

Even the “toki doki” moments are lacking, as you can tell from the image used for the header. While Kamisama Kiss on the right looks wonderfully waffy, the image on the left just leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: If you want to know what low-budget anime looks like, watch Kamisama Kiss. It has the sheen of a medium-budget show due to the slick character designs, but it’s cheaply made to the core. Recycled animation and long shots of still images are standard, even to the point where a series of drawings that could be storyboards are used to depict a scene with a lot of action instead of actually animating anything. Granted, this series isn’t as cheaply made as The Wallflower, but that’s not saying much.

Surprisingly, the anime manages better character design consistency than the original manga. The characters all look a little less cherub-faced and therefore appear older, which makes it easier to take Tomoe and his past badassery seriously. There aren’t any real surprises here as far as character designs go, though I’m endlessly entertained by Mizuki’s white eyelashes. The series’ manga-ka seems to have a thing for guys with thick lower eyelashes, and it just looks kinda weird when animated.

OVERALL: I’m interested to see if Kamisama Kiss can top Say “I Love You” for worst shoujo series of the last year (or of all time). Really I don’t think it gets any worse than this series. The anime doesn’t even do well as a series to mock. It’s just straight up horrible. I can’t imagine why on earth this series would ever be turned into an animated series. How in the world did this do well enough as a manga to warrant that? Are we really that desperate for shoujo that just anything can make it to the market? Really I’d like to be fair and mention the few good things Say “I Love You” does, but I honestly can’t think of any. I suppose if you’re hard up for shoujo you can give this series a shot, but I can think of hundreds better things to watch.

First of all, I’m glad to say that Kamisama Kiss isn’t even in the running for worst shoujo series of the last year! Secondly, I’m pretty sure Say “I Love You” was made purely to ride on the coattails of Kimi ni Todoke’s success. It seems Say “I Love You” didn’t see close to the same level of success, but when you have a hit like Kimi ni Todoke, why not go for it when there’s a pre-existing clone of the series? Also, increased manga sales. I’m sure someone fell for this series, somewhere, and bought more volumes of the manga.

OVERALL: Though Kamisama Kiss isn’t the worst shoujo anime by far, it’s also not that great. The best way to describe it is “competently made.” The director knows how to make good shoujo, and that’s what he did. It’s not groundbreaking in any way, and it’ll surely be tiresome if you’re over shoujo and its tropes. Despite that, I enjoyed watching it and actively keep up with the manga because I’m in the market for a well-made shoujo series that won’t fall into mediocrity like Say “I Love You.” The anime’s best aspect is its humor, so if you’re hard up for something to follow a viewing of Kodocha, give it a try. Kamisama Kiss won’t blow you away with its spin on old tropes, but if you want a nice, reliable way to pass the time, it’s there for shoujo lovers. Given the sea of anime that fails to deliver on its initial promise, I think consistency is a huge point in Kamisama Kiss’s favor.

I think I’m going to read the manga you lent me, and then see if it’s worth another shot. It sounds a heck of a lot less scarring than the time I spent with Say “I Love You.”


3 thoughts on “Say “I Love You” VS. Kamisama Kiss

  1. I love the “Say I Love You” manga so much. The anime was alright as a recap but not much compared to what I’ve read. I’m 100% positive that once you read the manga you’ll gain so much more understanding of the characters and their thoughts. It’s still ongoing and the updates take a while but it’s really worth the read.

    • Thank you so much for this insight! I often love the manga of series more than the anime. I feel that manga can often illuminate the characters and feelings a lot better than anime can, and be a lot less awkward in the process, so I’m not shocked to hear you found this to be the case with “Say I Love You”.

      Shoujo manga in particular seems to be a very hard genre to adapt into anime, either due to budget restraints or the nature of the series. Some of my favorite manga series are shoujo, and while I want to love their anime counterparts, often I find them merely good, and hardly ever amazing.

      I’ll definitely have to check out the manga. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. :D


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