Originally released as a manga by Eri Takenashi in 2005, Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens was something of a hit in Japan. The book went on to become an animation in 2009 and there were some other materials as well such as a novel and OVA animation. A short while ago we had the opportunity to check out the first release from Bandai Entertainment. With 7 out of 13 episodes we got a very good look at Kannagi and had a chance to see what it was all about. The result was pretty positive, but does that trend continue with the second half?
Okay, before we get into what's on this disc, let's just recap the first volume and the premise of the show for those of you just joining us. Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens features an average high school student named Jin who happens to be sensitive to spirits and the like. One day he takes a chunk of wood from a sacred tree and carves the figure of a young girl out of it. Imagine his surprise when the wooden carving turns into a real-life girl (named Nagi) standing before him! It's a rather inventive plot, I'll give that to Kannagi, but the show somewhat falls into comedy stereotypes as a crutch of sorts.
The first seven episodes went on to flesh out the characters and introduce new ones as it told its story. Basically Nagi ends up moving in with Jin and there's something of a relationship that builds between the two. When they aren't exchanging awkward glances they are eliminating impurities, such as spirits, and trying to build Nagi's fan-base so she can retain her powers. Nagi does whatever she can to stand out and making matters worse is the fact that her spiritual sister also comes along, and Jin's roommate has a crush on him. The first volume was a fun episodic kind of comedy with some harem trappings and you can definitely expect more of the same with the second installment.
This time around there are some dramatic happenings towards the end, but the meat of the content is mostly standalone adventures and situations. Most of the stuff that happens in these episodes is the flourishing of Jin's reputation at school, for better or worse. There's a rumor that unwittingly gets circulated that he and Daitetsu are gay lovers, and let me assure you that his reaction to this is priceless. Making matters worse is the way Tsugumi and Zange try to correct their mistaken unleashing of the rumor. It turns things the opposite way to the extreme, but I dare say I do appreciate Zange's approach to the matter.
Aside from this bit the most interesting thing that occurs in this latter half of the series involves Nagi's development. She begins to question whether or not she really is a god and heads off to do a bit of soul searching in the process. Ultimately it's up to Jin to find her and bring her back into his life. He helps her realize that it doesn't necessarily matter what she is and in doing so Nagi realizes that she has feelings for him. This felt like the perfect kind of ending for the show, though there are many other things to discover so it's not the be-all and end-all of the series.
Overall Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens was a very entertaining series. Taken as a whole it's clear that the beginning and ending are the best parts with the middle being packed with filler and episodic nonsense at times. It's a shame really because if this whole piece was brought together in a fashion that pushed a much larger story it would have felt more cohesive. As it stands it's entertaining, but it definitely could have been better. I'm going to recommend the title, but only for those in the market for a comedy that doesn't grow much beyond the introduction.
Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and has been enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show looks very good with bright, solid colors, clean lines, and an image that is basically free of flaws. There is some grain at times and a couple of points where artifacts can be spotted, but otherwise there's nothing here to complain about. Even these elements are nitpicky. This is a great looking show that stands out based on its strengths.
Japanese 2.0 stereo is as good as it gets here. There's no 5.1 selection (not that there needed to be) and there's no English language dub. As it stands what's here is serviceable with an entertaining cast that handles the script well, but the technical aspects feel kind of flat. The sound never has depth to it and by and large the lack of directionality is something of a sore-spot. Granted that's not nearly as glaring as the English omission, but that disappointment hinges entirely on whether or not you prefer to watch anime with English or with Japanese and subtitles.
A textless opening, textless ending, and previews for other Bandai releases are included here for features.
Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens features a very inventive premise, a fun cast, and plenty of laughs throughout its 13 episodes. The only problem is that aside from the background and introduction of the series the rest of the plot kind of falls flat on its face. The middle of the series doesn't do as well as it should, but it's nice to know that the show ends on a perfect note. Kannagi is definitely worth checking out. It's just not the "run out and buy this now" kind of anime.
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