Kamisama Dolls - Reviews

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Archaeon's avatar
Dec 2, 2011

Since time immemorial the worship of higher powers has been a cornerstone of human civilization, but as mankind's understanding of the universe grew, so did his technology, and many ancient beliefs were gradually replaced or discarded by one means or another. Not all of them fell by the wayside though, and while some religions adapted their rituals and practices in order to survive in the ever-changing world, others were carefully hidden to keep the old ways alive, or to protect their secrets from being misused by humanity.

Originally a manga by Yamamura Hajime, Kamisama Dolls begins with a rather nightmarish scene in which three children are being chased by a strange creature that can fire beams of energy from its mouth. The kids appear to have some kind of "robot" that tries to protect them while the brown-haired boy tries to carry the little girl and his friend to safety. Unfortunately the creature is too strong, but before it can land the final blow the brown-haired boy and the "robot" somehow manage to destroy it.

Years later, Kuga Kyouhei moves to Tokyo to attend college, and to escape his traumatic past.

It all sounds very exciting, but while the rather dramatic opening suggests that Kamisama Dolls is an action series, that isn't actually the case. Although combat does play an important role, it's often incidental to the main thrust of the narrative, and the plot is geared more towards character drama than anything else. In addition to this the series is refreshingly straightforward, but alongside this simplicity is a surprising degree of depth as the personal histories of the leading characters and the politics of the three priestly families play a major part in the story.

That said, while the simplistic approach makes everything easy to understand, it also exposes the fact that Kamisama Dolls can sometimes have difficulty deciding what it should be. This is mainly due to the rather slipshod manner in which the action and drama are meshed together, but the addition of some rather inane comedy and the inability to maintain a steady narrative progression don't help the show at all. To further compound matters there are several scenes that don't actually fit anywhere in the story, and because these all seem to include Shiba Hibino in some kind of compromising position, it's more than likely that they're only designed to promote merchandise involving her.

There's a surprising mundanity to the visuals that may cause some viewers to assume that Brains Base simply didn't care care enough about the series to make it look good, but it should be pointed out that a part of this is due to the limitations that come with any adaptation. The characters, background imagery and settings are decidedly "average", and there's a startling lack of anyone who is truly outlandish or flamboyant. In addition to this the animation is rather utilitarian, and while the basic ranges of movement are handled well, it's the combat between the Kakashi (the "dolls" that are considered gods), that really steals the show.

Which brings up an interesting point.

For many viewers it can often seem as though all of the creativity and imagination has been applied to the Kakashi, but Kamisama Dolls has a surprisingly subtle visual contrast at work that suggests that the somewhat bland designs and the straightforward animation are purposeful measures. Many studios feel an almost habitual need to exaggerate the characters in some way, but in order to promote the idea that everyone in the series is an average human being (including the Seki - the "priests" who control the Kakashi), Brains Base have approached the design with normality in mind. Sadly, they went a bit too far with the everyday look, and without anything extravagant to balance things, many people may find this a visually dull series.

Thankfully the same can't be said of the acting.

At first glance it may seem as though much of the dialogue is rather bland, but in truth this is nothing more than a continuation of the drive to depict the characters as normal, if flawed, human beings, and in a very real sense it works. The script is filled with conversations that only peripherally include the viewer, and although explanations about past events can sometimes become a little heavy handed, there's a logic to the serious parts of the dialogue that is missing in many other shows. The seiyuu are thus able to deliver some good performances, and the usual elements of cheese and ham have been toned down in favour of "normal" reactions.

That said, the slightly banal comedy does cause a few problem, and some of the actors seem to have difficulty coping with the rapid change from seriousness to humour.

One of the surprising things about Kamisama Dolls is the musical choreography, even though the majority of the series is free of any instrumental accompaniment. The few tracks on offer are usually reserved for tense scenes, comedic moments or action sequences, and their usage is generally rather subtle - by necessity. The haunting, ethereal songs of the Kakashi add an extra dimension to the background music that, at times, is almost religious in its effect, and the inclusion of these strange little pieces adds a completely different element to certain scenes. While the timing of all of these different audio strands isn't perfect, it's clear that attention has been paid as it would be all too easy for everything to degenerate into a cacophonous mess.

The introductory song, "Fukanzen Nenshou" by Ishikawa Chiaki, has a decidedly Latin flavour that fits rather well with the stylized character montage used to open the show. In contrast to this the ending theme, "Switch ga Haittara" (by the same artist), is a bittersweet yet melodic piece that plays out alongside a rather interesting take on the traditional closing sequence. While the ED does feature images of the more prominent character, some of them are merely patterned silhouettes until they appear in the series proper. In addition to this a few of the more important scenes from the episode are recapped in the "eyes" of the Kakashi, which may be a metaphor about how the "gods" view the actions of man, or it may just be a case of aesthetics.

At first glance many of the characters may appear to be nothing more than bland variations of certain stereotypes, but while there's an element of truth to that perception, it only really applies at the beginning of the series. There's actually a decent amount of characterisation from the outset, especially where the lead roles are concerned, yet while these do make a reasonable platform upon which a character can be "grown", many anime fail when it comes to the underlying logic of this process. In that respect Kamisama Dolls deserves a little praise, in particular for the manner in which Kyouhei's apathy and Aki's desire for revenge are justified as both mesh with a few small, but important, threads in the plot. In addition to this the supporting characters offer a nice mixture of personality types, and there are occasions where they are used to cleverly foreshadow some event that will happen at a later time in the storyline.

That said, certain developmental aspects fall on the shallow side because the show has difficulty getting to the point, and more importantly, sticking to it. More often than not a scene will offer some insight into the reasons for a person's actions or behaviour, but this is quickly ruined by unnecessary fanservice and bland comedy. While these moments do visibly decrease towards the end of the series, they do a lot of damage to the viewer's perception of the characters.

Kamisama Dolls is one of those anime that tries to give the audience a little bit of everything, and because of that it fails to deliver on some of the more important aspects of the story. As a concept, the series has a lot to recommend it, but at a mere twelve episodes there's simply not enough time to develop the plot or the characters to the degree necessary to make the narrative work. In addition to this the emphasis on "normality" may cause people to assume that the show is nothing more than a healthy dose of tedium.

Patience is a virtue though, and the rewards can sometimes be surprising. The series really does take things up a few notches towards the end of the show, and the clarifications and justifications begin to make much more sense.  It also becomes clear that the first twelve episodes are merely the first portion of a larger story, and in all honesty if the follow up maintains the pace and progression that occurs at the end of the first series, then the second season could well be one to watch.

While this anime does have many flaws, unlike many other shows it can also redeem itself, but only if the next installment lives up to the true potential of the concept.

6/10 story
7/10 animation
7/10 sound
6/10 characters
7/10 overall
kidkonseptual's avatar
Sep 30, 2011

This was originally a blog post found on my blog, Moe Monster.

神様ドォルズ, Kamisama Dolls
神様ドォルズ, Kamisama Dolls

I’ve just danced my last samba to the opening of Kamisama Dolls. As the saying goes, all mediocre things must come to an end–or at the very least, “To be next story.” Like other finales, some thoughts on the final episode before thoughts relating to the series.

Hi friends. Welcome to Kamisama Dolls, the show with incredibly conflicting moments. One minute there’ll be a cute little girl breaking dishes and in the next minute there’ll be a dozen bloody bodies strewn across the floor. Over thirteen episodes, the large cast of characters are fairly well-developed, but for no apparent reason as nothing happens. Nor is there any real conclusion to the show.

In E03 I finally got to see Utao wait tables.
In E03 I finally got to see Utao wait tables.

There is a main storyline. Kyouhei Kuga leaves his village for the big city to escape his past. A past riddled with supernatural stuff, which he had somehow been a part of. That sounds pretty good, right? Also there’s the antagonist, Aki, also introduced in the first episode. He’s also from the village, an escaped convict and apparent psychopath. He has some sort of history with Kyouhei and most strikingly, controls a supernatural based robot thing. That sounds even more interesting, right? Well I sure thought so. However over the course of the 13 episodes the show seems to try its hardest to ignore these two main characters and their story.

Nothing wrong with the show’s animation, music or any production values. The show had a slightly retro look and feel, even down to the muted colors. The opening song, while certainly catchy and Brazilian, confused me on a weekly basis. They could have done something more befitting a Japanese folk-song, similar to the sounds the robots or kakashi make throughout the show.

The main kakashi, Kukuri.
The main kakashi, Kukuri.

Again, it’s the story and the execution that’s the problem in my mind. Regardless of the source material, if the anime had stayed with the main thread of Aki, Kyouhei & Utao, and the conflict of village vs. city, the show could have been 100 times better. The introduction of all the other robot users, or Seki, took mounds of time away from the more important characters.

I actually enjoyed many of the characters, but there wasn’t that much of a need for them to ever be there. Moyako is a good example. A girl from the village, who is from the family of kakashi repairmen, is a nice level-headed character with a couple nice moments, but unfortunately, she’s not very important to the story. Many of these characters were well-written, but out-of-place overall and ended up sucking the life out of the story.

Koshirio, Kirio, Moyako--Glorified extras.
Koshirio, Kirio, Moyako--Glorified extras.

In addition to character-overkill, the other problem I had with the show, were all the holes in the plot. Or perhaps, lack of common sense to the plot.  Without naming specific incidents, it always felt like they were making up some of the story as they went along, while paying very little attention to the things that had happened previously. For example a character will tell others, that they can’t do A, because B will happen, and B is bad. But A happens over and over without B. The biggest hole, in my mind (I can name it specifically, because I already have), is that no one tries to catch the person we’re told is the reason why we even know the characters we’re being introduced to on a weekly basis show after show! Believe me, there’s a reason that sentence doesn’t make any sense!

Lighter fan service moments shown in Kamisama Dolls.
Lighter fan service moments shown in Kamisama Dolls.

I have to be honest and say that I wouldn’t recommend Kamisama Dolls. There’s probably a blu-ray coming out with additional material, but the 13 episodes were so-so at best. The show has comedy, action, supernatural things, robots, fan-service, some horror, giants boobs–pretty much everything. But it doesn’t do anything very well, except maybe giant boobs. I enjoyed some of the characters and lighter moments, but that was about it. The show had a great premise, and even after a few episodes, I felt like this series could have turned out swell. Along that line of thought, even if the show sounds (reads I guess more accurate) good to you, think twice about watching this.

The other “non-rating” theme that’s sort of evolved in these posts, is the “Did I ever, at any time watching this, want to drop it” scale. The answer to this, is yes. There were a couple of moments where I almost stopped watching. Without specifics, one such moment was a flashback episode about halfway through the series, and it’s god-awful. Seriously, as heavy as the back story (the entire reason for the series) seemed like it would be, it’s really just a jumbled coincidental mess. Overall, not the worst show I’ve ever seen, or even seen this Summer 2011 season, but forgettable nonetheless.

Thanks for the support!
Thanks for the support!

4/10 story
7/10 animation
6/10 sound
7/10 characters
5/10 overall
CaptainSlow's avatar
Oct 6, 2016

What I Liked: The Kakashi designs and sound effects, as well as the in-plot reasoning behind their creation. Fight choreography isn't bad and is usually engaging. The soundtrack, and Chiaki Ishikawa's contributions. Animation is passable for the most part.

What I Didn't: Episode 7. Miss Senou. The characters feel completely undermined by their own emotions, and the series spends a lot of time jumping between frivilous comedy and dramatic moments. The series feels overencumbered by all its subplots that offer no real interest or much connection to the main plot. Hibino's treated as something for the main character to fawn over and not a character. The puppet previews are some of the most jarring preview sequences I've ever seen. Mahiru, and the absolute drudgery that was the final quarter. The ending was a sequel-baiting mess.

Final Verdict: Much like the warbling of the show's brilliantly-designed Kakashi, Kamisama Dolls spends a lot of time being nonchalantly unclear about the elements that matter. Characterisation is limited to simplistic backstories in an attempt to justify emotional outbursts, there's no clear central theme or message and it just generally feels messy. Not even the ending offers respite here, throwing away any potential this show might have had.

?/10 story
?/10 animation
?/10 sound
?/10 characters
4/10 overall
jypsel's avatar
Feb 19, 2013

Huh... this was really disappointing for me.  

The STORY of Kamisama Dolls follows University student Kyouhei, who is trying to escape his past and the village he was born and raised in.  The most upsetting this about this anime is that the story had so much potential.  I mean, an immesurable amount.  This could have been epic.  It would have had to been a little longer and it would have had to focus much more on Kyouhei and Aki more, but it really could've been something.  These were the thougths I was having while watching -- needless to say, when you're thinking of how to improve an anime, it's not a good sign.

Also, the ending of this anime was ridiculous.  It was a clear set up for a season two, which means a majority -- I mean a majority -- of the questions raised in this season remain unanswered.  And someone PLEASE explain to me that cryptic ending with Aki?  Is he going to go bananas and kill everyone or did his little laughing fit with Kyouhei save his soul?  

The ANIMATION was pretty terrible!  I am a little surprised because this is a show that relied a lot on CGI effects and yet, somehow, they turned out awful.  It's not a good thing when you see a character and you don't recognize them from earlier episodes because everyone looks the same.  There is a character who "betrays" some of the others and I had forgotten who the heck he was.  

The SOUND was decent.  I had no problem with any of the seiyuu's performace, save Utau, who drove me a bit insane,  and I loved Aki's voice.  The OP was also pretty great.  Actually, I thought the OP was stellar.  The song took some getting used to, but once I was adjusted, I fell in love. And the graphics with the song are stellar as well!

The CHARACTERS are bland and forgettable.  I was so disappointed with the female lead that I wanted to give up.  I am so sick of these big boobed girls being the lead.  I understand that some people have a fascination with large breasts, but it ruined the tone of this anime.  In fact, so many of these character relationships ruined the tone of this anime.  Aki was probably the only notable character, and even he had a bit of a cliche going on sometimes.  The random (spoiler warning) twin brother made me want to throttle myself.  I was just so disappointed with how the writers decided to take this anime, characters included.  

OVERALL, skip this anime.  It's absolutely nothing special and you will gain nothing from watching it. You will lose some valuable time that could be spent watching a decent anime, though.

2/10 story
4/10 animation
7/10 sound
4/10 characters
4/10 overall
ThatAnimeSnob's avatar
Jul 15, 2012

I always like watching something out of the ordinary, just for the sake of being uncommon, unorthodox, or generally something not boring for being the same old story. This anime has zero interest in this department as it is full of clichés and stereotypes I have seen a million times already, following the safe and easy route to present a very light mystery/fantasy story around simple people doing simple stuff. It also messes up even in trying to be stereotypical since it does very little with its own potential.

The first thing that hit bad with me was the name; there was a similarly named anime airing along with it called Kamisama Memo-chou. I know the stories are very different but there are still similarities in terms having sci-fi, fan service, mystery, and a dork male protagonist. And they both sucked. It felt like I was watching two versions of the same badly-handled archetype airing at the same time! Damn anime industry; stop rehashing the same old stuff so obviously!

Ok, let’s leave the whole name thing to the side and try to see the show as a stand alone. Let’s focus on the production values… which are cheap as heck. Studio Brain’s Base can definitely do better but in this case it didn’t care much. The amount of stills and jerky animation is alarming, since there is very little motion going around, even in scenes that deserve a lot. It is all obvious from the opening video alone. You probably know how the animation in openings is far better than the actual show. Well even this one is 95% lazily drawn frozen images with a few cheap visual effects to barely flavor it. The letters were also so small; who will be able to read them (assuming he can read Japanese)? And the song was average; I like the female singer as a voice but her songs ain’t my thing at all; they all have this gloomy sadness which makes me feel bad while trying to emerge into the setting.

And now a few words about the director of the show, as means to prepare yourself for what to expect from the story. Kishi Seiji has handled both good and bad shows alike, although it is true he hasn’t really directed anything with a complicating storyline in an awesome way. His style is to keep everything simple, funny, and with disjoined scenes. Although many loved his work on shows like Sunred, Angel Beats, or Persona 4, nobody can deny that there was no real flow in the narrative; he just jumped from one scene to another with little effort in continuity. And guess what, this show is like that as well.

The first signature of “disjoined continuity” comes from the way the characters behave. They can’t even blink their eyes without feeling embarrassed about something and getting all red and full of tension. I understand it is done to show how innocent, insecure, and frail they are but COME ON they are supposed to be people who have witnessed some pretty serious and bad things in their lives. They should be acting somewhat differently, more mature/crazy/cautious or something like that. But alas, the director went for the Elfen Lied style and placed extremely innocent people amidst extremely tragic events and had them acting completely out of sync with their surrounds, as a cheap attempt to cause emotional response from the viewer. Needless to say, it felt retarded in both cases.

Speaking of the characters… can anyone even call them as such? They are drawn in a very generic way and personally I even find them unappealing. They take things easy WAY TOO LIGHT; you can see they are more emotionally moved towards the opposite sex (blushing and embarrassment), rather than screaming in terror in the sight of corpses, supernatural psychopaths, and cat-like robogods. By the way, this is not a slapstick comedy show to excuse it. It doesn’t even try to excuse how everybody else besides the main cast is completely uncaring or blind to several buildings and cars being destroyed daily. You literally see nobody else even noticing the mass destruction that takes place daily. Furthermore none of them are memorable for any reason and they are even repulsive if you are fed up with blushing ball-less protagonists, moe lolis, shallow bimbos, simplistic battles, and anything that is average in general. More specifically:

The lead male is a spineless harem idiot that keeps bumping on girls, like so many thousands of others that have overflowed all modern teen shows. I am a GAR fan; this does not help me to sympathize with him and it sure does not offer the show any more depth or subtlety. Does anyone actually like this dork archetype? He can’t even talk to a girl without almost bursting with embarrassment. Other than that, he has witnessed some really horrible things as I said and yet he magically managed to remain a dork instead of toughening up or getting a bit insane. This is so lame! See what I mean by disjoined events?

Furthermore I don’t even see his involvement in the story, since all the work is done by a cat robot and a loli. Why is he there, perhaps so we can see the story unraveling through the eyes of a spectator? That is so boring compared to first person narration. Or even better; having someone doing something that somehow affects the main plot. Did he do the tiniest action to affect anything? Sure, he befriended a guy who wanted to kill him with absolutely no reasoning at all. Here is EXACTLY what happened.
“Oh look, it’s that evil person who hurt so many people, and almost killed me and my harem chicks. Hm, he looks really thirsty. Here you go mr. psychotic mass murderer, drink this and be my friend.”
LULWUT??? It must be the Elfen Lied effect which causes the brain to shut off completely. I have no other explanation for all that other than him being a harem lead, bound by nature to be boring, unimpressive, and with a heart of gold, just so chicks and mass murderers like him for being a total blockhead. DUH!

The female characters ain’t any better; they all have a permanent blushed cheek effect and talk like bimbos who are afraid someone will molest them (brothers included). That is supposed to make them look cute and frail and also a cheap attempt to hide how boring they are. They gave gigantic boobs to the lead teenage girl that stay straight up even when she is lying down. Those things defy gravity! They also have her being constantly part of overused boob jokes, just to cover up her lack of intelligence. She is good for some Spanish sex but as a character she is blunt and forgettable; they just threw her in to be “Harem Chick No.1” (the blunt childhood friend who almost always get the dork in the end). Same thing can be said for all other teenager or adult girls who are defined only by how horny or sexualized they are and otherwise lack characterization completely.

But you know what? Neither the harem lead or the main bimbo are the protagonists because they both don’t do anything much in the plot (other than passively staring at events). So I guess the main character is the little girl priestess which is learning how to control the robocat. The thing is, the whole thing looks more like a joke than a serious and responsible task. She is considered to have a very important mission, to control an ancient machine that can defend her village from threats. And yet despite being attacked by murderous villains or saving people from flaming cars all the time, she almost acts as if the whole thing is a videogame. In fact, she even plays videogames with the exact same interest. Shouldn’t she be more scared or serious about the real thing instead of thinking of how many points she will get for saving lives? And what’s with the constant UGUU and klutz attitude of hers? When she is not trying to control the robocat, she is acting like a naive waitress. The director is only trying to make her look as moe as possible and disregards giving some depth to her otherwise interesting task. But no, the show ends and she doesn’t even gain control over the robocat, which was also this minor thing called THE MAIN PURPOSE OF THE WHOLE SHOW!

The lead attraction ends up being her cat-like robogod. It sure stands out from all the rest for its looks. Yet it is also a bad-handled character; not only it looks ugly but it doesn’t even have personality or free will; it’s just a puppet the little girl remote controls. It doesn’t even fight in any good way either; it just makes silly noises when it moves around like a toy for babies instead of feeling like an ancient weapon of terrifying power that could trash whole armies. Kamen Rider Hibiki’s disk animals did it far better. Other than that, both this thing and all the other dolls other characters control are equally mooks with no effect in the story.

Regarding the action around the robogods, although there is a lot of it, it is far from interesting. Besides the lack of motion in most scenes, there isn’t much choreography, or duration, or visual effects, or well done overall to pay notice to. Robocat lifts a car. Robocat flies. Robocat falls down. This is all you see. It was made to look even worse by making the characters talking apathetically and above all FROZEN STILL despite some really nasty things happening around them. Walls collapse, cars blow up, people are killed and the main characters don’t seem to care much; they just stare at the robocat with almost no concern and have the loli doing her silly UGUU sounds. Talk about DULL SURPRISE; what a great way to alienate you from excitement. So to warn all of you who may be misguided from the entry picture, THIS IS NOT AN ACTION SERIES. It is mostly slice of life, moe, romcom, and drama, with a few poorly planned out battles that mean very little to the plot. Everything plays out as easy going as possible.

As for the story, it is completely aimless to the point you are given no motivation to keep watching. There are villains with superpowers appearing and foreshadowing something that has very little impact in overall. I mean there was some sort of mass murder going on, and there is chase by some thugs who also have superpowers, and there is a twin evil loli that wants to hurt the other one, and even more characters and robogods are introduced in the last episodes that are supposed to offer something, and the whole DOESN’T HEAD ANYWHERE! It was all just ephemeral dull conflicts that are resolved with almost zero effort before ending with nothing major resolved around them. Ok, a possible sequel would help to resolve this issue (which I doubt will ever happen) but that does not mean I will give the story any credit for ending in the middle of nowhere. So imagine how much the storywriters tried to make it interesting by having the most exciting scenes end up being the tired-to-death soft ecchi ones, regarding all the girls having the hots for some dork. NOT AT ALL! Everything plays out like they are trying to make you fall asleep instead of exciting you.

I am not over yet with the complaints. The previews for the next episode after the credits are over, show puppets; silly looking versions of the characters saying silly things about the artwork of the show. Wow, this show is yelling its silliness all over the place yet it otherwise throws in mass murders and blowing up cars.

The show doesn't know whether it wanted to be serious or comedy and it sure fails to mix these properly. It is clearly NOT just silly or dramatic and the combo ruins both aspects. Thus the result is completely ridiculous; an immature teen show with poor production values that aims at people with very low expectations. Just throw in cute girls blushing, an idiot male, some excuse of a story, some bare skin, and let the suckers buy it. My impressions couldn’t be any worse. This show is a total flop. Spare yourselves the fail and don’t even bother.

And now for some excused scorings.

ART SECTION: 5/10
General Artwork 1/2 (generic)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 1/2 (basic)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)

SOUND SECTION: 4/10
Voice Acting 1/3 (stupid)
Music Themes 2/4 (average)
Sound Effects 1/3 (annoying singing robocats)

STORY SECTION: 3/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 0/2 (disjoined)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 0/2 (too open)

CHARACTER SECTION: 3/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 1/2 (generic)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 0/2 (messy)
Catharsis 0/2 (none because of the open ending)

VALUE SECTION: 1/10
Historical Value 0/3 (none)
Rewatchability 0/3 (none)
Memorability 1/4 (stupid enough to kinda remember it a bit)

ENJOYMENT SECTION: 1/10
Total failure.

VERDICT: 3/10

3/10 story
5/10 animation
4/10 sound
3/10 characters
3/10 overall