Yuri Anime: Kannazuki no Miko, Volume 1

June 13th, 2006

There’s a reason why fairy tales take place in places far, far away and a long, long time ago. It puts them in a space-time that isn’t real. In this not-real space, we can be free to enjoy not-real happenings without having to justify anything.

In a place called “Magic Place”, a beautiful place, with a little bit of everything – sea, mountains, plains, this fairy tale about two girls and their involvement with the gods takes place over and over, repated through time – a destiny that can’t be avoided – takes place.

In this particular version of the story, the protagonists are blonde Himeko and the black-haired star of their exclusive school, Chikane. (A pair-type that is quite common in Yuri, as many people have pointed out.)

Chikane is hyper-competent, of course, because she is a brunette. Himeko is sweet and naive and slightly doofus-y, as befits a stereotypical blonde. ^_^

As one expects with a destiny-laden anime tale, the story starts on the day of Himeko’s and Chikane’s shared 16th birthday. The sky is dark, the mountains move, and from out of nowhere, the “Orochi” speaks. Orochi, by the way, is the Japanese version of the Hydra – an eight-headed serpent. In this case, the heads or, necks (kubi) are represented by eight people with darkness in their hearts. Whether they are also dealing with a destiny, or they have chosen their roles, is never made clear.

One of the Orochi’s kubi is the other star of the school – Oogami Souma – whose name speaks of a huge, horrible destiny. So, we’ll call it destiny, then,nature, not nurture makes a kubi. :-) Souma, despite his fate to be one of the bad guys, manages to overwrite his programming and when Himeko is threatened by the Orochi, fights to protect her.

Chikane, who clearly has a thing for Himeko, tries to protect her, but pretty much doesn’t have the stuff. Souma does the fighting, while Chikane is busy getting the girl. She starts right in with kisses and a few well-placed gropes.

Chikane and Himeko learn that they share a fate to be the priestesses of Ame-no-Murakumo, a god of swordsman. (Incidentally, and not at all related to anime, Ame no Murakumo was one of the personal deities of the founder of Aikido.) Together they are supposed to re-seal the Orochi in the prison that t/he/y have escaped.

In the first attack, Himeko’s dorm is trashed, so Chikane takes her home to live with her – something that makes Chikane obviously very, very happy. But not the other kids in the school. Which brings me to a question I keep asking as I watch this volume: the two absolute massive, super-popular stars of the school constantly obsess over Himeko, and are there constantly to protect her. So…how is that no one in the entire school other than her ex-roommate has a clue who Himeko is? Okay, forget it. Fairy tale, right.

Himeko is worried that she is a burden and a trouble to Chikane and Souma – which she is, but you can’t fight fate like this, can you? Souma and Chikane both vow to protect her and at least one of them is successful in this. One at a time, the Orochi’s kubi attack and are defeated by Souma in his spiffy new giant mecha. This causes Chikane to desire more power, because she can’t actually protect Himeko as a miko. (Remember this, because it’s one of the things that sets her off on the wrong thinking path.)

The volume ends on a darkish note: Himeko is troubled that her abilities as a miko are falling short of the mark, she isn’t sure of her feelings for either Souma or Chikane and she has some nasty bad memories to work past. Chikane is fighting off serious jealousy of Himeko’s feelings for Souma, and Souma is torn between his desire to protect Himeko and his destiny as an Orochi. It’s a typical love triangle and, despite Chikane having gotten the kisses, at this point in the anime Souma takes the lead, slightly because of Himeko’s persistent blondeness.

In terms of packaging the DVD offers 4 epsiodes (assumably with three on the following three DVDs); a coupon for $3 off Volume 2 or 3, a mini-poster of art by the manga artist, Kaishaku, and a double sided mini-pencil board. So it’s pretty fair value for the money. No extras to speak of, just the usual clean opening/ending and Geneon credits.

One last thing – lots o’fanservice. I’d forgotten how much. It really makes the Strawberry Panic anime seem very staid in comparison.

Ratings:

Art – 7
Characters – 6
Story – 6
Yuri – 9
Service – 7

Overall – 7

It’s a fairy tale with a *lot* of fanservice, giant robots and a dark undertow. I do wish we’d get to know anything about the kubi – who they are, why they are kubi, etc. It’s a big hand-wave to just accept a little girl who dresses like a nurse and carries a giant hypodermic having enough evil in her to qualify for a god of evil’s hench-neck. ^_^ Or the driven mangaka. The rest of them, I could make up decent enough backstories for. lol But I quite like Miyako, the evil nun. Just because.

I also wish Himeko was less of a non-entity. It would so be like being in love with a person that had had a frontal lobotomy…oh well, not everyone finds intelligence and competence attractive. Obviously, not Souma or Chikane, anyway. ;-)

 

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12 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    My pet peeve about the fansub of Kannazuki no Miko: kubi=severed head(s). NOT NECKS. The reason that it makes sense for Orochi to have eight severed heads is that when Susano-O killed the dragon Orochi, he cut off Orochi’s eight heads (and found a sword in one of them, which became part of the imperial regalia until it sank with the Emperor Antoku in the battle of Dan-no-Ura, but I digress).

    Sincerely,
    A Japanese Language Nerd

  2. Congrastulations on being even more pedantic than I am. :-)

    I think kubi, which along with commonly meaning neck also means to be fired, which can easily be understood as “cut off at the neck.” As you say, severed head. :-)

    But until the kubi are actually kubi-ed, if you get my drift, then either neck or head is fine, IMHO. I mean – it’d be a tad depressing to be referred to as “Hey, you severed head! Get over here!” Before your head was actually severed, wouldn’t it? LOL

    I always assumed that the Orochi was connected to Ame-no-Murakamo by the legendary sword. Not that this is explicated at all in the anime or manga, just that when you watch and read loads of anime, manga, Japanese folklore and literature, you’re bound to run into the mirror, sword and gem…repeatedly. lol

  3. Anonymous says:

    Personally, one of the best moments of KnM was in one of the last few episodes, where we see brief flashes of the traumatic pasts that led the Kubi to becoming Kubi. The one for the catgirl-nurse in particular was great, and in two seconds changed your view of her from a ridiculous fanservice cliche into a seriously warped, disturbing, and issue ridden… fanservice cliche. At least it gives her a bit of weight if you’ve managed to hang on that long.

  4. Anonymous says:

    How are you supposed to make a serious villain out of a disembodied swirly vortex? Especially when his henchmen make Bebop and Rocksteady look like The True Noir by comparison. Loli-nurse was a particular peeve of mine. And the Dancer; honest to god, it was like being asked to take Brittney Spears as a serious threat to anything other than the music industry. And the mecha designs were all silly. Dear god, why didn’t they just leave out the Mecha? It could have been tolerable as a melodramatic highschool love triangle. Chikane and Souma could have resolved their rivalry on the tennis court, Chikane could have (le gasp) joined the cheerleading squad who had previously bullied Himeko, but then be revealed to merely have been taking them down from the inside! I would have LOVED that show. Dammit, what a wasted opportunity.

  5. Philip72 says:

    I actually thought Kannazuki sucked until the last two episodes, which totally made up for the rest of the show.
    Great ending, very, very romantic stuff.
    In fact I would recommend most Yuri fans just watch the last two as a OAV and ignore the rest of the series.

  6. Anonymous says:

    “Neck” is the correct translation for “kubi” when the head is still attached to the body, but when the neck is severed, “kubi” then refers to the whole head. The “Kubi Jikken” scene in Kabuki isn’t the inspection of a severed neck, it’s the inspection of a severed head.
    And as I mentioned, Susano-O made sure that Orochi’s heads were definitively separated, so since the henchmen are Orochi-related their name should be translated as “severed head” or “head,” not “neck.

    (Yes, yes, I’m a pedant. A whiny pedant, at that. And this has nothing to do with Yuri. I apologize. But to heck with relavant topics, I’ve got an axe to grind!)

  7. Steve says:

    My own pet theory was that the mecha aspect of the show was never seriously meant to be anything but comic relief.

    The original manga was one of the worst trainwrecks I’ve ever seen, and I can’t help but imagine the anime planning staff leafing through it in horror and wondering what they could salvage from Kaishaku’s demented imagination.

    To my mind, they did a good job: anime Chikane was pretty much de-creepified; Himeko actually got to do something; the love triangle/someone-must-die-to-save-the-world plotline, though not a great work of art, was certainly very entertaining with its Angst and Drama and Strong Emotions; the ending, for its faults, was a million times better than the original (‘I have a great idea! Lets have them be reborn as incestuous sisters!’. Classy, guys. Real classy.).

    When it came to the mechs and the Kubi, I guess it was too much effort to re-write the story without them, yet also impossible to get make the cat-girl, the manga-ka etc into serious characters, so they tried to humourize them instead. From the moment in Ep.2 where the priest gives his speech about the Kubi being “evil people with true darkness in their souls” right before the scene cuts to the catgirl sitting about in the Orochi HQ making ‘nya-nya’ noises, I couldn’t take anything about them seriously. Apart from Miyako and Tsubasa, none of them seemed remotely threatening (viz. Souma swatting them away like flies), and they were treated as jokes more or less throughout. It jarred horribly with the seriousness of the main storyline, and contributed a lot to the whole “this makes NO SENSE AT ALL” factor, but given the source material, I can’t see a better way to handle it.

    One other thing – something I really did like KnM for was Himeko’s attitude in the last few eps. After 9 episodes of standing about being a stereotype useless anime heroine whose only power is powering up the hero, Himeko realises that standing around being delicately feminine isn’t actually helping anyone, so she gets a sword, does the ceremony by herself, and goes off to save the world. Even if she remains as dense as ever. I thought that made a nice break from cliche.

  8. > (Yes, yes, I’m a pedant. A whiny pedant, at that. And this has nothing to do with Yuri. I apologize. But to heck with relavant topics, I’ve got an axe to grind!)

    Nothing wrong with being a pedant. And I can assure you that you are not in the least little whiny. It’s a damn sight more interesting to me to discuss the proper translation of “kubi” in this contezxt than it is to talk about why KnM is or is not a good story.

    I don’t disagree with your interpretation, but I do wonder if we need to see the kubi as having been previous severed, in that case. In which case it makes sense that their actions are unfocused and random, doesn’t it? If they were still attached to the Orochi proper, he’d have a body an they’d have a brain. :-)

  9. Anonymous says:

    My own pet theory was that the mecha aspect of the show was never seriously meant to be anything but comic relief.

    That is pretty much why I can stand this anime. I might be a delusional female loser fanboy(how does that work, do I need UFOS crashing into me so I turn into a proper fanboy?), but I saw the entire mecha part as a joke. From the attack names, gundam attacks(the flying fists), to the villains themselves. I saw it as a mecha parody, in an attempt to cancel that part from the manga out. Since the manga is indeed garbage from hell.

    By the way, I like this review a lot more. Not much Kannaduki fan bashing, yay, thanks miss Friedman :)

  10. Anonymous says:

    Evil Chikane should have come sooner to kick Souma’s ass to kingdom come so he’d stop screaming Himeko’s name almost all his screen time and his incessant roaring. Chikane is like Paris of Troy, she was the lover but later not only she’s the warrior but also the strategist.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Chikane having gotten the kisses, at this point in the anime Souma takes the lead, slightly because of Himeko’s persistent blondeness.

    Himeko is insecure, although she kissed Souma they still don’t have a relationship because she doesn’t know her worth until she revived Ame no Murakumo and that she confirmed that Chikane is attracted to her.

  12. Anonymous says:

    So…how is that no one in the entire school other than her ex-roommate has a clue who Himeko is?

    It’s the same thing in the manga, Himeko is only Chikane’s replacement that Chikane’s grandfather (he doesn’t have a name?!) is searching for to be sacrificed to the Orochi god.

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