Thoughts on Kamichu!

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Slice-of-life isn’t normally my forté. I feel the focus on everyday life and the beauty of relaxing within a realistic realm of charming monotony is an appreciative dullness at best. The type of slice-of-life I prefer are those that focus on the quirks and charisma of the characters within, who drive the plot themselves and make the most of their (admittedly one-dimensional) bombasity. While pure slice-of-life enthusiasts may spit on me for even encouraging the bastardization of their feel-good mood-pleasers, I think there’s potential in allowing forth both the pleasure in environment and everyday, and the characters within them. While I wasn’t expecting to have that sort of analysis beforehand, Kamichu! is an interesting case of combining both aspects to create a hybrid prior to the days of Lucky Star and otherwise.

There’s a heavy emphasis on normalizing the aspect of the fantastical in Kamichu!. Yurie, an innocent and clumsy middle-school girl, has been deemed a god by a source not revealed within the series. It begins with her already being aware of her new powers and most everyone within her community knowing, too. There’s no expected shock and awe, the piercing gazes of disbelief, or strange cults devoted to bowing down to her every whim. Yurie is a god, yet everyone still sees her as Yurie. There’s little indication as to how much time has passed between the debut episode and the time she attained her powers, but one would probably predict anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, as a lot of what happens to Yurie during the course of the anime is completely new to her. The subtle implication of people simply acknowledging the change around them and moving on is a nice spark that gives the series a proper slice-of-life vibe. Very little within Kamichu! is exaggerated for the sake of goofy gags or silly faces. There’s a vague, intertwining feeling of serious and light-heartedness that comes with the innocence that surrounds the plot.

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Interestingly enough, the type of show Kamichu! embodies changes as the episodes go along. There’s the structure of progression, along with the feeling of experiencing new things as Yurie’s godhood allows her a number of new events to unfold, that’s consistent, but the focus tends to be shaky depending on the situation. There are some episodes that feel entirely like filler, that show Yurie in a situation that adds little to her characterization or her “godliness,” if you will. These episodes usually feature one-shot characters that never appear again, along with plots that clearly define what is right or wrong. The middle point of the series (roughly episodes four to nine) feature most of these types of episodes, and are the episodes I found most bland and forgettable. Kamichu! is directed more at children, so this type of filler-like quality is almost like revisiting Meitantei Holmes and its near-endlessly repetitive episode structure. Regardless, it didn’t do much in terms of consistent entertainment (I nearly fell asleep on more than one occasion).

Other episodes within, fortunately, are what make this show so memorably exuberant. While not all completely spectacular, the episodes that focus more on established characters and their interactions with one another are where Kamichu! shines its beacon brightest. The characters are distinct on both physical and emotional levels, and new characters are at least memorable (in these cases). Yurie is clumsy and good-hearted, Mitsue is calm and level-headed, and Matsuri is a prime and proper businesswoman, full of charm and forwardness very unlike her cohorts. While Mitsue doesn’t get many opportunities to stick out, her presence is one that is consistent and appreciated especially by Matsuri. Yurie’s infatuation with the school’s sole member of the calligraphy club, Kenji, is something of an innocent whimsy that is taken advantage of in many cases. Kenji himself is somewhat of an aloof enigma that takes being oblivious to new heights. All of these characters, and characters one may not expect to relate to, give off a giant tent of familiarity that exceeds most other shows I’ve seen within the genre. Perhaps it’s the relative lack of comedy or the way the personalities of the characters aren’t used for gags; whatever reason, the characters, by series’s end, become surprisingly welcome within the viewer’s mind.

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For a series animated in 2005, Kamichu! has some old tricks that new dogs hardly seem to employ. Of course, seeing as it is 2005, these old tricks are used sparingly, between inconsistent animation and design. During key segments (and sometimes randomly), animation will spin with a consistency that genuinely awed me, with small, inconsequential movements being treated as integral to a scene’s success. The movement of hair, blinking, finger movements, and others become some of the more noticeable distinctions from the stiff movements of other series. As noted before, most characters are distinct from one another, with emphasis on hair color and style, and height difference. It looks so different that one could fault it for trying to be too different. Positives aside, the animation is rather shaky at times, with characters looking rather unlike their normal selves. There’s also a blandness to the color palette that makes the series both more realistic and more dull. Overall, I would say the animation is decent, but never quite spectacular. It’s nice sometimes, but mostly ordinary in the most mundane of ways.

Something I briefly mentioned were the romance and comedy aspects, which both fluctuate in importance throughout. There is surprisingly little of both, seeing as there are a couple pairable duos within and plenty of opportunities for amusement. Romance becomes important enough to become the theme of a few episodes, while comedy is sprinkled throughout in the form of irony and relatably awkward situations. I believe the incorporation of both in this sense both improves and hampers the quality of the writing, as it makes the series more believable from a preteen’s point of view, but also less entertaining overall to watch. While I enjoyed most of the characters and their interactions, it takes a while to truly care about their endeavors, especially when experiencing the long train of “filler” episodes. The final three episodes are spectacular in incorporating comedy and romance to their fullest potential within this setting, but by that point, how many would really find time to appreciate it? Kamichu! is a slow-paced show in general, with its speed very rarely fluctuating overall. The romance hardly comes to any satisfying fruition, but what is shown (in episode eleven particularly) gives enough “D’aww!” to satisfy most. With comedy, well, don’t go in expecting Non Non Biyori, because it isn’t. At all.

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I’ve planned to watch this show since around 2013, when I found the series randomly scrolling around MyAnimeList. The premise sounded benign, though something about it strangely called out to me, which is why I never took it off all these years. This may be why I never got around to watching it until now, either. Kamichu! has a serene atmosphere that makes the show give the more fantastical elements more stability than excitability. Despite the presence of gods and supernatural abilities, people take it more as another aspect of life, something that’s been embedded within their culture forever and has become another familiar aspect of the everyday. Whether or not this sounds good for you is for you to decide, as the series sticks to what it knows. What I know is that the show had potential from the first two episodes or so, but couldn’t quite remain consistently insightful for me to give full marks of recommendation. It has charm in bursts, especially for those patient enough to look for them.

The rating for these titles and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on Kamichu!

  1. I remember seeing advertisements for this years ago, and I almost picked it up a couple of times. Every time though there just didn’t seem to be enough umph or wow factor to make me buy it.

  2. Hmmm, I’ve never given this one much thought, but after reading this, I think I might just give it a go.

    Slice of Life isn’t exactly my expertise either, I find the genre really difficult to watch unless its extremely relatable to my own experiences of circumstances or has some kind of unique presentation of quirk.

    This seems unique enough for me to give it a shot. Thanks for your thoughts on this!

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