Thinking Out Loud: I Kind of Want to do a Kamichu! Retrospective (So I think I’m Going to)

And now that I work around -and hopefully, one day in- the industry, I’d really like to start reflecting on the media I work with a lot more. I’d really like to start thinking deeply or doing commentary on series. And actually, that’s part of my job at Anime Feminist. I figured it’d be good to train myself on how I want to write: how I want my voice to sound when I do a deep dive or critique or provide commentary on anime.

(Plus, I was using too many sticky notes to make lists. Blogs are much more eco-friendly.)

Anyways, all that to say…

Sometime last weekend -between cleaning and doing some Gameboy modding like the cool kid I am- I had the thought that I really want to watch Kamichu! Again, and maybe, I kind of want to talk about it too.

And that really, I wanted to write about it here on my brand new blog.

I might have had that though because it’s also the rainy season: I tend to get very nostalgic in summer, and this summer is no different even though life is radically different for us all right now. When I first though about summer at the beginning of the year, I had hoped to spend my weekends riding trains and going to the nearest big city (Sendai) for shopping and zunda mochi shakes and visits to the craft store. I hoped to go to the Tohoku Pokemon Center, to spend a Saturday visiting an onsen. I’d hoped for dinners with friends, for hot Friday nights at the movie theatres, for summer festivals and aimless train rides up and down the lines. 

Really, I’d hoped my final months in Japan would be very different: but then things changed in March, and I had to do the right thing. Lonely as it’s been, I still think distancing and following the policies put in place was absolutely the right thing to do.

While I’ll gladly rock a mask until there’s a vaccine and we’re all able to truly be around others without the virus being so dangerous…I’d be lying if I didn’t say my nostalgia is tinged with sadness this year.

2020 has been a hard year for everyone: for me personally, this has been one of the hardest years in my adult life. I don’t think I’m alone in that either. I think we’ll all be happy to clink glasses to 2021, though 2020 hasn’t been all for naught: change has come, charging into our lives like a bull seeing red. Communities have come together, people are striving to do the right thing, and by and large, the world truly is a good place. 

But I am worth taking a moment to breath: I am worth letting my shoulders relaxing, letting my heart rate slow. I’m worth smiling, which is something I don’t do a lot these days.

And I think I want to do that with Kamichu.

Now, before I go any further, I should probably give you some background on the series. So here goes:

Kamichu!, also known as Kamisama de Chuugakusei -or “The Deity is a Middle Schooler”- is a slice-of-life fantasy anime set in 1980s (1983 and 1984) Onomichi (Hiroshima Prefecture) that focuses on Yurie Hitotsubashi, a girl who wakes up one day and discovers that she has become a kami. However, she doesn’t know what kind of kami she is: just that she’s now a goddess, along with still being a middle school student. 

Kamichu! originally ran on Animax in Japan and worldwide from June 28 to September 27, 2005: in fact, next week -at the time of writing this post- it’ll be turning 15 years old. The show also consisted of one cour: twelve TV episodes and four DVD exclusives. North American fans would get a chance to see the series when Geneon Entertainment and Funimation got the rights in 2008: this was most likely when I saw the series, though if I’m being honestly, I really don’t remember when I first came across Kamichu! to begin with.

(Note: the rights expired in 2011, and haven’t since been picked up by any company, as far as I know.)

The series had a lot of important names attached to it. Hideyuki Kurata -author of Read or Die and screenwriter for Now and Then, Here and There and Made in Abyss– wrote the show: Koji Masunari -who worked on Azumanga Daioh- directed the series. Kamichu! also had three producers: Tomonori Ochikoshi (current President of A-1 Pictures, producer for Black Butler and Fairy Tale), with Saeko Matsuda (Kamen Rider Blade, Xenosaga: The Animation) producing episodes 1-3 and Atsushi Kaji (From the New world, Yu-Gi-Oh!) producing 4-16.

Kamichu! Is a series that flew under the radar in North America, despite receiving the Excellence Prize at the ‘05 Japan Media Arts Festival and despite it being released largely globally. It’s a series that I very rarely hear anyone talk about: actually, it’s only been recently that I’ve met someone else who’s both heard of the series and watched it. It’s gotten to the point that when I’m asked what my favorite anime series are, I tend to just skip over Kamichu and answer things like Panty and Stocking, Yuri!! On ICE, and Keijo!!!!!!!!, all of which are much more well-known, by and large.

(Note: Panty and Stocking, Yuri!! On ICE, and Keijo!!!!!!!! are some of my favorite series. But Kamichu! Really is at the top of that list.)

Arguably, 2020 coincidentally being Kamichu’s 15th Anniversary year is a pretty good excuse for rewatching the series: me finally finishing off collecting the Japanese DVDs is an even better one. Plus, I wanna see those DVD exclusive episodes: up until last month, I didn’t even know they existed!

So I’m (probably) going to do some sort of episode commentary/review series specifically for Kamichu. Mostly commentary, some analysis, partial recap, maybe some screenshots: that kind of thing. I’ll also probably spread things out over the course of a few weeks. At most, I’d do two episodes a week: there’s a total of sixteen -bonus episodes included- so that’s eight weeks, give or take.

This might be a project for August. In fact, I’m going to say it most definitely is, in large part because I’m about to undertake a pretty major international move… in the middle of a pandemic. (Plus, I need time to plan things out.)

I’m actually pretty excited just at the thought of doing this too. Actually, my order of the last five DVDs should be arriving over the next few days. Luckily, I could find them secondhand: new anime DVDs in Japan are outrageously expensive (even for older series), especially considering that often, there’s only two episodes per DVD unless you’re buying a DVD collection, a Blu-Ray set. And Kamichu does have a Blu-Ray edition: it’s even available used… if I wanna pay ¥9000. I think at the time of this post, the new edition is a wallet-breaking ¥19,800, shipping included.

So… DVDs it is: I’ve got a Japanese DVD player.

For comparison: I paid ¥2,222, including shipping, for five DVDs as I already had Vol. 1-3 of the series. They were originally priced at ¥5,555 but due to them not being in print, they can easily be ¥3000 – ¥4000 and up for a brand new/unopened/unused secondhand copy, even well over a decade later.

Like I said: DVDs it is.

Overall, I’m just really excited to have a reason to talk about one of my favorite series: I’m really happy to be able to share this series, to talk about why it matters and look at it as an adult with a very different mindset. I’m really ready for the nostalgia, but also for the ability to be critical and really think about one of my favorite series.

(And who knows: I might take this chance to write something for AniFem too!)

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