DVD Review: Kamisama Dolls – The Complete Collection
28/01/2015 Leave a comment
What would you do with the power of a god? Well when it comes to Kyohei and Utao not a lot; but what did we think of MVM Entertainment’s latest DVD release of Kamisama Dolls? Find out in our review.
When Kyohei Kuga moves to Tokyo to escape the strictures of life in a small town, he thinks he’s left his old life behind. But when he discovers a bloody corpse, he also discovers that the past isn’t so easily left behind – especially when the past is as unusual as Kyohei’s. You see, back in his home town, Kyohei was a “seki”: an individual able to control “kakashi,” ancient wooden gods capable of incredible feats, with his mind. Now it seems that there’s a kakashi loose in Tokyo, and it just may be up to Kyohei to stop it and its seki.
They always say never judge a book by its cover and the same can be said for Kamisama Dolls; the front cover, its synopsis and the opening three minutes of episode one, suggest a story similar to From the New World – whereby characters are entangled in an age-old village tradition and attempt to understand the truth behind it. While this may be true there is actually a selection of more interesting storylines and character development processes taking place; so much so that you’ll be find yourself wondering what’s actually going on.
In reality Kamisama Dolls follows the events of multiple characters, but the emphasis of the story is focused on Kyohei Kuga, a university student who previously left his hometown in order to lead a normal life in Tokyo, and his interactions with other characters; most of which involve Hibino Shiba, a friend at his university. The infacturation between these two characters is obvious from the moment they appear on screen; but interestingly even this isn’t the main talking point as it’s actually past-events and the tradition of the village he once grew-up in that take center stage of the shows storyline. The tradition is that selective members of the Huga and Hyuga families are allowed to wield wooden-made gods known as a Kakashi. These Kakashi are not only few in number but they also feature unspeakable power, power which is defined by the person using it – some can use it for good, others can use it for evil.
Kyohei was one of these people, who are referred to as Seki; but after some deadly encounters he relinquished his power and moved to Tokyo; and this is where the series begins with Kyohei returning from a night-out in Tokyo to find his younger sister, Utao, along with her kakashi Kukuri, waiting for him at his apartment with news that Aki, a person who once went on a violent rampage in the village, had escaped. This news shocks Kyohei but soon enough Aki bursts onto the scene and causes mischief for them both before fleeing into the night. From here you’d be forgiven for thinking that the focus of the series would be for Kyohei to capture Aki and return him to the village; and while this does happen it ends within the space of an episode, so what about the remaining eleven episodes? Well it all gets pretty insane from here.
With Aki currently out of the picture the remaining episodes see Kyohei and Utao living with Hibino Shiba as they attempt to lead normal lives within Tokyo but soon enough strange things start to happen and more Kakashi appear within the city. At first its members of the Hyuga, a rival clan to the Huga, showing-up to locate Aki but as the episodes progress secrets are revealed and conflicts between kakashi start to take place at which point Aki re-appears onto the scene to cause even more mischief; but once again these are all short-lived.
This is what I potentially found disappointing of the series; there was no ‘objective’ or ‘goal’ it just swiftly moves along from one storyline to the next with no real care or attention for the viewer. Viewers are informed of everything, we learn about the disturbing past between Aki and Kyohei as well as some secrets surrounding Utao; but when the enemy itself isn’t a real enemy then you do tend to think to yourself – whats the point of me watching this?
The point? Well that would be the character personalities and relationships; especially between Utao, Kyohei and Hibino. The relationship between all three is not only interesting but comical to watch; for instance we have Kyohei who likes Hibino and is emberassed when things go wrong around her, while at the same time Utao has a ‘brotherly complex’ with Kyohei and hates it when he gets close with Hibino. The further you get into the series the more these character relationships evolve and when new characters are thrown into the fray a lot of unexpected twists and turns appear which result in the storyline once again shifting to a new perspective that brings the series to a rather disappointing, but climatic, end.
The selection of bonus features on offer is just as interesting and entertaining as the series itself as not only do we have a selection of ‘shorts’ but we also receive original Japanese promotional videos and an art gallery in addition to the usual selection of content.
For me the Six Shorts included in this set were easily the highlight of the bonus features as each animated short lasts around 2 minutes and sees the characters in alternate, almost fan-service-like, types of stories. For instance one particular short is treated as a dating-simulation game, whereby Kyohei goes out on a date with Utao around town, while another animated short sees Hibino dress-up Utao in various cosplay outfits. It’s not just Utao that gets the limelight either as other animated shorts see Hibino and Mahiru take centre stage with some comical results. Each story is independent and adds nothing to the overall storyline, but they are quite amusing to watch and reiterates the point I made earlier about showing off each characters evolving personality. There is a word of warning though, as these animated shorts are only available in Japanese with English subtitles.
Of course if Animated shorts aren’t your thing then there is the inclusion of original Japanese promotional videos, an art gallery and textless songs for the series. As you’d expect the Japanese promotional videos are various clips from when the series was being advertised on TV while the textless songs are the opening and closing segments of the series in textless form. The art gallery on the other hand, which is controlled by pressing the buttons on your remote, see various character artwork although disappointingly the artwork seems to be taken from the manga and not the anime so the character designs do look slightly different to what you may have come accustomed to while watching the series.
The final piece of bonus content is the inclusion of trailers for other MVM Entertainment released shows, namely Ikki Tousen: Xtreme Xecutor, Garden of Sinners and Blast of Tempest. The trailers themselves are Australian trailers, as the discs have been authored by Madman Entertainment, however that’s not the problem – the problem is with the picture quality of the trailers as you can easily see pixilation and distortion on them which suggests that a low quality video file was used or that the videos were compressed to fit them onto the disc. I should be clear that this ‘pixelation’ only effects the trailers (for other anime shows) and not the rest of the product itself.
Media: DVD 9 x2
Running Time: 2:41:49 (Disc 1), 2:18:40 (Disc 2)
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 224kbps (English & Japanese)
Subtitles: English (Yellow)
Resolution: 720 x 576 (576i)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen
Frame Rate: 25 fps
Kamisama Dolls is a series that should be watched not judged; although even after watching it to completion you may be left with false hopes due to its incomplete story. That’s right; despite sitting through tweleve satisfactory, and swiftly progressive, episodes you’ll find yourself at a cliffhanger that doesn’t have a conclusion – so I can only assume its left to the original manga to finish the story. Let’s be clear the storyline elements featured in this anime series are neatly wrapped up on the final episode its just a teaser at the end of the series promises a second season; but of course nothing has been delivered.
So with this being said was watching Kamisama Dolls a waste of time? Of course not; like I mentioned the storyline elements brought up in the series are fully disclosed, explained and concluded by the time the final episode credits roll-up and it’s not entirely a bad show either – it just moves too quickly and doesn’t have a firm grip on what story it should tell or where should it go. Kyohei Huga is the main protagonist, but it’s Utao Huga and her Kakashi which take the limelight during battles; but it’s the relationship between all three characters that makes the series such fun to watch and then finally there is all of the support characters in the background each having their own desires and interests. It’s simple to view and understand at the time, and potentially complicated to explain, but at the end of the day it’s a story which sees two old-friends trying to come to peace with the past and looking forward to the future; albeit with gods of mass destruction at their disposal.
In regards to this DVD release by MVM Entertainment, with discs authored by Madman Entertainment and an English Dub provided by Sentai Filmworks, then it’s pretty much business as usual. The picture and audio quality are consistent with previous DVD releases and I have no qualms with the subtitles; however once again the English Dub provided by Sentai Filmworks is lacking in enthusiasm and passion that Viz Media, FUNimation and Bang Zoom! Bring to their English dubs – it’s the same old sentai voice actors in different roles. It’s not all doom and gloom, some of the English Cast ain’t half bad; but for the more natural and fluent experience I’d suggest going for the Japanese audio track with English Subtitles.
Overall Kamisama Dolls is a pretty obscure title; it suggests a story then throws it back in your face for something different and the alternate tale is just as confusing as the suggested tale. For me the story didn’t matter, I just enjoyed watching the main characters interact with each other while trying to get to grips with the situation and by that time new scenarios were thrown into the mix to keep it fresh and entertaining. It’s an unusual series presented in a traditional method but basically if you liked the ideals of From the New World, people with the power of god, mixed with the emotional backdrop of relationships and bonds, then Kamisama Dolls has something to offer you.
Kamisama Dolls – The Complete Collection will be available on DVD from the 2nd February 2015.