For once, I didn’t have anything to complain about when it comes to the content of Kamisama Dolls. Yeah, it wasn’t great, but as far as penultimate episodes go, it did most everything right. Well, almost everything, but we’ll get to that glaring “almost” later. For once, here are the positives!
Throughout the episode, Kamisama Dolls never let up for the sake of second rate melodrama, like it did in the very special flashback episode. There was no villain who was evil just for the sake of being evil, no teacher who was victimized just because somebody had to be, and no stupid child blindness. While the rape subtext was still present and used a bit more than it should’ve been (More than zero times), it was thankfully averted due to Kuuko’s surprising burst of athleticism and self defense skills.
Meanwhile, Mahiru makes a return to her base of operations, where she confronts an escaped Hibino with her kakashi. After saving her from a gruesome death by falling, Utao uses Kukuri to fight Mahiru in a pathetic shoving match, before eventually breaking her kakashi’s armor and sending it into a frenzy that it was impossible to break out of. Even in a three on one fight (Utao, Kirio and Black Keanu to the rescue!), its power was still impossible to contain. Finally, events end on a cliffhanger as Kyouhei valiantly clings to Mahiru’s frenzied kakashi while it ascends, tears in his eyes.
I won’t exaggerate and say this was the best episode yet. The first episode still had that sense of mystery, suspense, and a very important element that this one lacked: Aki. Yeah, Aki had an appearance… for all of 40 seconds while Kuuko tossed him the key to break him out of his literal bind. Aside from that, many notes were hit well in this episode: The action had that feeling of urgency previously absent, the characters actually felt like they developed somewhat (At least Mahiru somewhat resigning herself to a life without Kyouhei), and there were no plot twists that came out of nowhere.
Yes, it could be argued that Mahiru’s kakashi going berserk could’ve just been a convenient plot device to have her fight with herself over her feelings for Kyouhei, but kakashi armor hasn’t been shattered before like it has in this show, at least to this degree. Who’s to say that there isn’t a slightly Evangelion-esque reaction from the kakashi whenever its connection is severed from its seki?
I’d be willing to call this a damn good episode if not for the glaring lack of Aki. Aki isn’t a great character by any means. He’s hardly fleshed out as a villain, though he’s the only main character who seems to be consistent in his motivation to follow his own path away from the village. It’s just that he’s the catalyst for the events of the story, so you’d think that he’d have some kind of importance in the rest of the story, or at least have the plot of the village pursuing him resolved with some sense of closure. Kamisama Dolls set itself up as an intriguing, if predictable story of an innocent convict escaping, seeking to prove the injustice and hypocrisy of his captors.
It helped that he seemed totally detached from the world, unable to see past his own selfish desires. With the half-assed sympathy grab of the seventh episode working in his favor yet again, you’d think that Kamisama Dolls would begin to focus on his struggle, and that of those who would see him brought to ‘justice’. This plot was pretty much dropped at a certain point, for what reason I don’t know, and it’s taken a toll on the quality of the series as a whole.
It still has problems with tone, character design (The characters look goofy when the scene is supposed to be an “Oh shit!” moment), and consistency, but if the final episode resolves everything here, I’ll be willing to look past all that. But answer me this: Does anybody understand what the overarching plot in Kamisama Dolls is? Is it the relationship between Utao and Kirio being instrumental to the preservation of the village? Is it Kyouhei and his attempt to escape his former life through a move to the city? Is it Aki remaining a fugitive? Your guess is as good as mine, since these all seem equally valid plot points.
To be succinct, Kamisama Dolls actually has a few good ideas, but isn’t implementing them at all. Unless it magically and satisfactory wraps things up, it should stick to action and making Mahiru learn her lesson to keep disappointment at bay.