Name: Kamisama Dolls
Genre: Drama, Action
Company: Brains Base
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 18 Jun 2011 – 28 Sep 2011
Synopsis: When Kuga Kyohei moved from his rural village to Tokyo to attend college, he thought he left his former life behind him. One night after a party, he discovers a corpse, and his younger sister, Utao, says that Kyohei’s former friend, Aki, is the culprit. Utao, Aki and others are seki — people gifted with the ability to control wooden constructions infused with mysterious powers called kakashi. Kyohei helps Utao develop her abilities as they fend off the remnants of Kyohei’s former life that are bleeding into his current life.
Visuals: Maybe the worst animated series Brains Base has put out.
Characters: More are continually introduced, and the series cannot juggle them all.
Story: Lacks a cohesive center and leaps aimlessly from plot point to plot point.
Fights: Decently animated, but become progressively more simple and boring as the series drags on.
Kamisama Dolls is one of three series studio Brains Base worked on during the summer 2011 anime season, along with Mawaru Penguindrum and Natsume Yuujinchou San. For anyone who has taken the time to watch all three shows, it’s clear which got the short end of the stick.
Now, Kamisama Dolls was probably never going to be remarkable, but it at least has the ingredients to be entertaining: Beings with magical powers, several built-in conflicts, and an excuse to have fight scenes whenever possible. The series instead stews in mediocrity for its entire run; it has ideas, but no real ambition to make them work.
From the outset, there is — or should be — a clear central conflict: The seedy underbelly of Kyohei’s home village coming back to haunt him and Aki. The problem, however, is that Kamisama Dolls deals with this conflict by introducing a random assortment of characters who have some beef with Kyohei, Utao and/or Aki, but with nothing truly solid to tie them together. Plot points are introduced, vaguely resolved and then scattered to the wind while another one appears to take its place. It doesn’t help that Kamisama Dolls often relies on cheap melodrama to drive up drama.
This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if the characters were interesting at all. Unfortunately, Kamisama Dolls does everything in its power to undermine the characters. Kyohei has anger issues stemming from past traumas in the village, but he is otherwise as dull and bland as many anime leads. Utao vacillates from a young girl who is in over her head among people with great power to a moeblob. Aki could be an interesting anti-hero, but his backstory is ridiculous, and he is reduced to a plot device by the end of the series, appearing only when required, and often in contrived circumstances. Hibino, who becomes Kyohei’s love interest when he moves to Tokyo, is the typical damsel in distress.
The other characters are scarcely worth mentioning, aside from perhaps Hyuuga Koushiro, a member of a rival family in the village who is clear-headed in his dealings with all parties. So, of course, he is essentially tossed to the side after the short arc in which he plays a supporting role in favor of characters who exist to create melodramatic situations. There are so many characters around and so little time to spend on them that it’s simply impossible to truly care about them since they receive little development of consequence.
The cherry on top of Kamisama Dolls is Brains Base’s main contribution: The animation. To be fair, Brains Base does try to keep the visuals interesting by playing with light, shadow and color in certain dramatic situations. But as a whole, the animation and art are inconsistent and sloppy. There are several moments in the show where characters are embarrassingly off-model to the point where they seem alien in appearance. Shortcuts are also plentiful so that the show can get away with animating as little as possible. The fights should be where the show truly shines, and they’re decent on occasion. However, it’s almost as if the creators run out of ideas by the end, and the kakashi are simply battering each other head on in simplistic brawls instead of engaging in the tense urban combat that begins the series. This is perhaps the worst animated series Brains Base has put out.
Whether it’s because Brains Base bit off more than it could chew, or the show simply never had the chance to be a decent anime, Kamisama Dolls is an utterly forgettable series in every way. A second season is on the way that may tie up the numerous plot threads left dangling, but who would bother to watch when so little effort is put into the first season?
The Rating: 4
Reviewed by: Shinmaru