Kannagi: Drama for the Sake of Drama

Happy New Year readers. This is much later than I wished for it to be but what the hell, I’ve been busy. So, I finished watching Kannagi recently, and while I enjoyed the series overall, I was disappointed by the ending. After focusing on comedy for most of the series, the sudden switch to drama in the last 3 episodes felt forced and unnecessary.

Kannagi was probably the most popular series of the Fall 2008 season. Everything about it pandered to the otaku audience. The series’ heroines collectively had most of the popular moe attributes, and it made more than one reference to other popular otaku shows, especially Lucky Star. This is no big surprise, as the director is none other than Yutaka Yamamoto, the director of the first 4 episodes of Lucky Star, before he got sacked for “performance issues.” I actually liked these episodes most out of the entire series. They had a slow, shallow humor to them that I felt accurately captured the spirit of the manga while subtly inserting references and jokes of other anime. While the jokes weren’t particularly deep or witty, their timing was perfect. Probably out of spite for getting sacked, Yamamoto makes multiple references to Lucky Star, some less subtle than others.

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Onto the plot. Kannagi is about a high school boy named Jin who carves a statue out of a tree that comes to life. The tree girl is Nagi, a selfish, childish god who wants to cleanse her lands of impurities using a converted magical girl wand. Then about half way through, the series forgets what its supposed to be about and becomes a sitcom until the last 3 episodes when the director remembered that Nagi was supposed to be the main character. But I was ok with this. As I already mentioned, the director was born to do comedy, and I enjoyed every moment of these in between episodes.

Part of my problem with the drama in Kannagi is that I don’t buy the relationship between Jin and Nagi. While their Odd Couple style arguements are great, Nagi is not a deep enough character to accurately make the serious moments believable. Part of the reason I loved the sitcom episodes was because Nagi was reduced to a gag character. Her simplistic and naive perosnality make her excellent for jokes. This is shown best in the karaoke episode, where the majority of her lines are her singing about beans. However, the drama around Nagi in the last 3 episodes was too much over too short a period of time, and broke the pace the show had set.

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My other problem was Jin. While most harem heroes are mild mannered and weak willed like their target audience, Jin suffered from a testicular deficiency more than his brethren. He spent most of the time complaining about Nagi’s antics, but never did anything to set her straight. However, had he been forceful, the dynamic between the two would probably not have been as entertaining. Their boke and tsukkomi relationship was unusual because when Jin would tsukkomi Nagi’s comments, but Nagi would tsukkomi Jin back, usually physically. This would probably not have worked well had Jin had more backbone, but it also unfortunately made the drama between them weak.

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One of the strong points was the supporting cast. First there was Tsugumi, Jin’s childhood friend. She embodied many traditional Japanese beliefs of modesty and politeness, but this ultimately led to her getting shafted by Jin at least once per episode. These moments were funny but depressing at the same time. She always considerate and full of good intentions, but was never rewarded for her actions. Next was Zange, Nagi’s sister. Her twisted personality and more direct nature strongly contrasted with Tsugumi’s. This made the Tsugumi shaft moments all the more depressing as Zange was more successful in seducing Jin using underhanded tactics than Tsugumi’s genuine kindness.

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The next set of characters was the dude friends, Daitetsu and Akiba. Daitetsu was a lovable oaf who Jin seems to be gay for at times, although he just values manly friendship. He has a couple good gags, usually related to his misunderstood relationship with Jin. While he served the plot well, there is not much to say about him. Akiba on the other hand was a much more entertaining character. I felt he accurately captured the spirit of closet otaku. He trys his hardest to appear normal, but in reality, is as hardcore as they come. His rants were over the top, but still felt believable, a tribute to the writing staff.

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My favorite characters of the series were the art club presidents, Takako and Shino. While they aren’t as integral to the plot as other characters, they are great enablers and many of the better jokes stem from them. Takako’s dynamic with Akiba is great as they are essentially the same kind of character, but refuse to relate to each other. On the other hand, Shino’s calm demeanor belies her manipulative and scheming nature. However, once the drama started getting thick near the end, they were absent most of the time. This is probably a wise decision as I don’t think they could have contributed well to a serious scene.

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Well, this is running longer than I expected, So I’ll wrap this up quickly. Kannagi is an otaku show. While it doesn’t make many references to other anime, the shows plot, characters, and jokes target a very small group of people. The production quality was very good, almost too good for a show this devoid of action. While the characters constantly movement while having a simple conversation was realistic, it also felt a bit excessive at times. Also, the later half of the series lacked this movement, causing a feeling of inconsistency. But this is just minor nitpicking. Watch Kannagi if the premise doesn’t immediately turn you off. In fact, even if you don’t like the idea, watch it, you might be pleasantly surprised.

I might write a review of 2008 next. But who knows when I’ll get time for that. Take it easy.

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