Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens
Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens is a 13 episode series based on the manga by Eri Takenashi. The 13 episodes don't really finish the story that the manga continues on, but I'm not aware of another season being produced, so that's probably all there is. It aired in the fall 2008 season in Japan. The show is directed by Yutaka Yamamoto, the same man who was sacked after directing the first four episodes of Lucky Star for Kyoto Animation (there are a couple of humorous references to this within the show). Kannagi is from A-1 Pictures Inc. and Aniplex.
Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidens is a comedy about high school student Jin Mikuriya. Jin, as a member of his school's art club, has been working on a wood sculpture of a shrine maiden, in the image of a mysterious female spirit he saw near a sacred tree as a child (he's used the trunk of the same sacred tree to make the sculpture). However before he manages to transport the statue, a teenage girl pops out from inside. She claims to be a goddess named Nagi, a goddess of the earth. With no other place to go, Nagi claims Jin's residence as her own and pretends to be a long lost half-sister as a cover so that she can freely move about and exorcise impurities from the area.
Things become a little more complicated when Tsugumi Aoba, Jin's childhood friend and acting guardian while his father is away, becomes aware (and jealous) of Nagi's presence. And things get even more out of control when Nagi's sister and fellow goddess Zange appears. As goddesses, the two girls compete to gain the idolization of the people in the town (and also Jin's personal affections) so that they can survive in a time when their believers have become few. They form fan clubs at school, work in a maid cafe, and other various things. But while Nagi's host is the statue carved from the body of her sacred tree, Zange's tree still stands, and Nagi soon learns that her sister has done something terrible and possessed a human girl's body.
For some reason, Nagi is unsure why she has manifested, why impurities are forming in the world and why they take on the form of insects. She suffers occasional lapses in her memory, and she also doesn't remember her first encounter with Jin years ago. It's almost as if the goddess in her is a split personality, because when it takes over her she blacks out and forgets what happened. Most of the story just follows the characters through their lives, as Nagi explores the world of the humans, Zange tries to outshine her sister's existence, and Tsugumi struggles with her feelings for Jin. The other members of Jin's art club - the bizarre (and often perverted) Takako, the enigmatic Shino, the obsessive otaku Akiba, and the very large (in terms of height and muscular build) and quiet Daitetsu - are usually involved in some fashion.
There are lots of things the story never gets to or just doesn't use. Nagi mentions that without believers she'll decay and disappear, but there's never any danger of this within the series. Tsugumi and Jin's relationship doesn't really go anywhere; there's some stuff about his past hinted at that involves her but it's not really explained. Jin and Nagi's relationship just starts progressing when the series comes to a halt. We know that Zange has taken over the body of a human girl (a girl who happens to have a crush on Jin), but she doesn't seem to be evil in any way (other than by antagonizing her sister). In fact, most of who Zange is and what she's really doing isn't touched on at all. You'll likely have to read the manga for that, which is unfortunate, because the anime is immensely more entertaining (not that the manga is bad, but you can obviously do a lot more with animation, and the show takes advantage of this). This isn't to say that the anime is in some way incomplete or disjointed or something. Yes, you feel that there are many things that don't get touched on, and that there are things left unanswered, etc. But make no mistake, the show is good. It's adorably animated (is that possible?), colorful, hilarious. You're definitely going to get a level of entertainment you won't get from the manga. Great animation and fantastic voice acting make this a show to love. It does get a little weird at the end; the first 11 episodes are hilarious from beginning to end (except the end of 11, which starts to feel a little like Evangelion), but the final two take on a more serious tone, and it's a little drab. Well, that's a bad term, because it still remains a good show, you're just not laughing every couple of minutes anymore. It ends with a good punch of hilarity though.
Image: Zange, Tsugumi, Nagi, with Jin in the back.