Author: Takenashi Eri
Genre: YA, paranormal, humor, manga/comix
Publication Date: October 11, 2011
Synopsis: Nagi is a goddess who wakes up from years of slumber with the help of a young boy named Jin. He accidentally cuts down her sacred tree so her powers are diminished, but she resumes her quest to rid the world of its impurities. However, she has another personality inside of her – Kannagi – so Jin gets two roommates for the cost of one when he lets Nagi move into his house!
☆: 4/5 – a fantastically fun tale of gods and monsters!
Review: I’ve been a fan of “Kannagi” since the anime came out a few years back, and thanks to Bandai publishing it in English, I’ve been able to catch up on volumes I haven’t always been able to get my hands on the original versions for in the States. Nagi is an awesome character, and this series is so very fun because it plays with very old ideas, and then (lovingly) parodies them with new ones (not to mention obvious anime/manga cliches like maid cafes, moe characters, and magical girls) without becoming a cliche itself.
This volume delves into Nagi’s sister, whose tree wound up on (Catholic) church land, and how their original united story became two separate tales within Shinto culture. I love how Takenashi made this tale truly her own, so along with fighting sisters we have the more subtle commentary on two faiths battling it out in modern Japan (Catholicism vs. Buddhist-Shinto/Shinto) for people’s hearts and beliefs. Or maybe I’m reading into it too much to come to that conclusion, I’m not sure, but that’s what it felt like when reading it.
This is also a story about identity crisis – mainly Nagi’s, as introduced in volume 1. Modern man seems to have no respect for the old ways, and so when her tree gets chopped down and she becomes free from it, she feels useless in terms of her job of getting rid of evil spirits/keeping bad things away. But the way Takenashi solves this is hilarious – by having Nagi discover magical girl-genre anime, demand that she be given a magic stick like the one in the TV show she watched, and now actually uses it to banish evil spirits. Art following reality following art? A little confusing but awesome all the same.
Takenashi ratchets this up in the second volume with the introduction of Zange, her little sister and the second Nagi tree, and how the two are fighting for Jin’s attention/affection/friendship/etc. Her little sister’s tree is still standing, and she’s committed a taboo – taking possession of a human body for a long period of time. So Nagi gets yet another layer of angst piled onto her identity crisis – her sister is still whole, and more powerful than ever, not afraid to trample human beings that have forgotten the old ways in order to attain “graven idol” status. This isn’t to say that Zange’s evil, but she’s very mischievous, and she has her own goals of topping her older sister and attaining worship over her to take over the legend of the tree. Misguided ambition, maybe, would be the terms best suited for Zange, but that doesn’t stop Nagi from continuing to banish evil, even with her ridiculous magical girl stick, now decorated with traditional Shinto sacred paper to help her in her fight. She’s an annoyance, but a dangerous one, which gives us a little taste of foreshadowing for future volumes to come.
Oh, and Nagi treats herself like a goddess AND a magical girl hero, too. It’s fabulous.
The translation in certain parts is iffy (“Fool of a Jin”, which I’m guessing came from “Jin no baka”, would probably sound better as “Foolish Jin”), and so it feels like Bandai kind of banged this one out instead of giving it a good workover like it deserves. It’s not like they have that many manga projects going on, so I kind of expected more from them on this one.
Otherwise? This is a really fun installment in the series, and I encourage everyone who hasn’t read the first volume to do so. The great thing is that anything you might not understand in terms of cultural or translation notes, Bandai does provide them at the end of the book. Good on them! So don’t worry about the stuff you might not get, and just go with the flow for the “Kannagi” series. It’s just that fun and awesome.