So, I’ve been listening to a lot of video essays about redemption, and I couldn’t help but think about Tomoe and Akura-oh from Kamisama Kiss. I’ve talked about redemption before in Three ‘R’s of Redemption, and I just want to build on that, focusing on the two most powerful yokai in Kamisama Kiss. One thing that I noticed was actually, Tomoe and Akura-oh are guilty of the same crimes, however, the kitsune was offered Mikage’s hand while the oni was cast into damnation in a mountain of fire. I’m just gonna annalize these two and see if they truly get the endings they both deserve and paid their dues to divine society.
Let me start with the obvious one. Akura-oh is apathetic, cruel, and disinterested in his own life as well as the lives of those around him. When it comes to his “Realization”, the step I believe kick-starts the redemption process, he doesn’t realize anything until season 2 in the anime (volume 11 in the manga) when Akura-oh, while under the alias of Kirihito, creates a mirror as a means to come and go to the Neatherworld as he pleases, the atmosphere from the Neatherworld leeks from the mirror. In an inner monologue, he explains that the atmosphere is poisonous to humans, shikigami, and lower yokai, but he himself is unaffected because of the loc of hair he collected from Nanami. He considers turning a blind eye until he remembers Kirihito’s mother, the woman who’s been caring for him and has shown him the unconditional love of a mother. The realization that she would wither away in the Neatherworld atmosphere causes him to destroy his mirror, as well as his free ticket to the Neatherworld and as many tries as he’d like to retrieve his original oni yokai body, all to save this one woman. Sadly, it’s there that he just kinda teeters on the fence, doing whatever it took to achieve his goals so long as his mother is allowed to continue living.
Now, Tomoe is a bit tricky because of his…memory problems in the anime and the first 17 volumes (100 chapters) of the manga. Because of that, I’m treating “Wild Fox Tomoe” and “Familiar Tomoe” as two separate characters despite them being the same person, and I’ll start with the Wild Fox version.
Tomoe, like Akura-oh, is cruel and apathetic with human life while he’s in Akura-oh’s company. I believe his “Realization” stage starts when he first meets Yukiji, sees how she fights back, and becomes intrigued enough to want to protect her and have her indebted to him, though, the true realization comes when Nanami, disguised as Yukiji, is paralyzed and sobbing, begging Tomoe to not look at her. Because she’s not able to move, Tomoe could easily “have his way” with her, but doesn’t do anything to jeopardize her safety or purity. After becoming a familiar, Tomoe requires his reformation process to restart due to his memory loss. His second “Realization” comes when he fully embraces his new role as a divine familiar, pouring Mikage’s sake under the full moon and vows to fulfill his familiar duties.
The next stage is “Reformation”. Akura-oh’s reformation is only in the manga, volume 23. When Akura-oh, Yatori, Kirihito’s mother, and Tomoe all meet at the base of the Flaming Mountain in the Neatherworld where Akura-oh’s oni body is kept, Akura-oh discovers that Yatori killed his mother, he does what he could to get his mother to return home and is furious with Yatori. When Yatori calls out Akura-oh for going soft, he strikes the mother to make a point and Akura-oh moves into the line of fire and takes the strike, saving his mother and dying, asking Tomoe if it’s too late for him to change his mind about humans being mear insects. Before he dies, he asks Tomoe to find his body and protect it from Yatori.
Tomoe as a wild fox actually completes his “Reformation” when he saves a pregnant Yukiji from a fate at the hands of Akura-oh, and he cares for her in secret, taking her to a village with midwives and other pregnant women. He does everything in his power to ensure she survives childbirth and lives long enough to see her dream of having a family come true. After Tomoe enters servitude and loses his memories of Akura-oh and Yukiji, his “Reformation” doesn’t come until he accepts that Mikage’s not coming back and devotes himself to Nanami in the season 1 finale. (This is an event that doesn’t happen in the manga. Instead of one event making him decide to devote himself to Nanami in the books, it mainly just starts happening over time with all the trials and adventures they go on together.)
Redemption is…a little tricky. For Akura-oh, redemption never comes unless he becomes a sweet little angel when he’s reincarnated as the little girl that’s seen in the final chapter of the manga (though, seeing as how the last conversation between Tomoe and Akura-oh is a phone call where Akura-oh is demanding Tomoe take him to an amusement park for Spring Break, I doubt he’s a sweet angel). For Tomoe, he’s redeemed when he was able to forgive Akura-oh and find his body in the mountain of fire, because it was then, and only then when he was deemed worthy of his 500-year-old wish to become human to be granted.
There you go, following the guidelines of my Redemption blog 2 years ago, I came to the conclusion that, while Akura-oh was reformed, he’s not really redeemed, and Tomoe had to work nearly twice as hard to get redeemed due to his amnesia. What do you guys think? Does Akura-oh deserve the “Redeemed” title, or do you think to call him “Reformed” is a major stretch if you squint really hard? And do you think Tomoe was even Reformed before he got cursed and met Mikage? Leave your thoughts in the comments and have a beautiful rest of your day~!