The prickly yet playful fox yokai Tomoe, who calls the human girl Nanami Momozono his master, is learning to recognise his true feelings for her a year into her residence at the Mikage Shrine. She found herself there at a time when she was desolate of love or shelter, evicted from the family apartment when her widowed father skipped out on his gambling debts. When she rescued the vanished land god Mikage from an overzealous dog, he welcomed her into his old place of worship and bestowed his godhood upon her with a kiss. It’s there she too fell in love with her foxy familiar, but in her resolve to keep a promise to her mother, she’s vowed to remain single and independent.
It’s the sacrifice and losses that began Nanami’s story which return to the fore in this second series. For each joy she’s accepted into her life she seems to enforce a forfeit, most of which involve giving up her time and strength to go to others’ aid. Even her school life has been left behind, at least narratively speaking, devoting herself to her celestial duties even as she’s belittled by her fellow gods. The Divine Assembly has rolled around, and with Mikage’s seat empty she’s called upon to attend. But first she must raise a shikigami – spiritual power given earthly form – from an egg to prove herself worthy.
Each time a challenge is placed before her, she rises above it and gains a friend in return, but there’s a constant apologetic altruism in her actions, one which Fruits Basket director Akitaro Daichi frames again in empathy. At the heart of this series there’s a moral of accepting who you are, what has passed and why you weren’t at fault. In journeying into her childhood as a ritual of the shifting Zodiac, Nanami finds that even what’s been forgotten is never lost; that who you’ve become is testament to strength in suffering, and sincerity in happiness. The warm tones and shades of springtime surging in moments of romance and insight reflect renewal in the art direction by Darker Than Black’s Takashi Aoi, especially after a hopeless gloom of shame or mourning.
Shinjiro Kurama, a disgraced crow tengu with a fallen angel rock star facade, wraps the trappings of growing up in an inevitable shade towards the emo. As a child, adults are a hindrance, our subservience binds us, and freedom seems far ahead. But at that indistinct crossing of the line between childhood and maturity, your best days are remembered from times when you could always lean on loved ones. Shinjiro’s elder has fallen ill, and he’s been estranged from his kind for seventeen years, but through accepting the essential trust and love of family, even in painful memories, he’s able to summon his strength and help save his realm.
Wherever anyone’s stubborn or fragile, Nanami’s there to lend a hand or stand as a positive example. This rarely feels forced, instead echoing itself as the reason Mikage chose her to take his place. We find that it’s her history with her parents that grants her such emotional intelligence, and the gift of channelling comfort she never received into helping others. The power of humanity is its persistence, even in adversity and weakness, and this pulls the harem romance in with the plot in enviable honesty. Familiars, tengu and gods alike adore her because of her mortal gifts and failings which, more often than not, turn out to be one and the same.