I somehow missed a couple of chapters, but I'm glad to blog this one because this chapter actually showcases the evolution of both Tomoe and Nanami in ways I didn't expect. In particular we're dealing here with an interesting discussion of selfishness and selflessness and where the two overlap. As always, for a wonderful translation/summary of the chapter, go check out Kira Kira Treasure Box.
One of the running themes of Kamisama has always been Nanami's selflessness. She will help anybody - literally anybody. And the series is a constellation of characters to whom she has, in one way or another, lent aid: Mizuki, Kirihito, Himemiko... She can't help but help others; it's a part of who she is. And the generosity of Nanami's spirit is (rightfully) one of the many reasons people love her.
However, there's a fine line between selflessness and lack of self-regard, and we see that line here in this chapter. Nanami's so concerned with Tomoe's well-being that she's kept her own pain to herself - really, she's kept it from everyone. Nanami seems to believe it's always her duty to bear up and smile, to heal other's pain at the expense of her own.
Meanwhile, Tomoe has been (especially in his older days) the epitome of selfishness. He wants what he wants and takes what he wants without thinking much of others' needs or desires. Later, after he becomes accustomed to humans and comes to live at the shrine with Mikage, he loses some of this, but he's still a very self-focused person. Mikage and Nanami both acknowledge he hasn't learned to fully reach out yet to humans, and even though Tomoe's love for Nanami is selfless, it's also selfish at the same time: he wants her for himself, because her life has meaning and he loves her and wants her.
In this chapter, though, these two identities bump up against each other and transform. Tomoe - terrified of losing Nanami and not being able to find her, and betrayed by what she's kept from him - makes it clear that her "selflessness" in not telling him has caused him pain. Although he acknowledges that he hurts at the thought of losing her, he also makes it clear he is strong enough to help her bear that weight. He reminds Nanami it's okay to want things for herself - to want comfort, to want help, to want his comfort and help. Nanami realizes she's harmed Tomoe with her desire to keep him from harm. Similarly, we see him release his selfishness. As though he's aware that his own grief isn't going to help her, Tomoe seems willing to put it away. Though he's still surely in despair over the thought of possibly losing Nanami, he prioritizes being there for her over his own pain.
The growth that these two bring out in each other is really wonderful, and I don't think it's a coincidence that this arc echoes the Yukiji arc. In the past, Tomoe and Nanami/"Yukiji" fell in love, and she was lost to him; here, he states his intention that the same thing will not happen twice. More noticeably, their embrace at the end of the chapter echoes their embrace when Tomoe finally wakes up from the curse that has been slowly killing him: both serve as a sort of "reunion," Tomoe's declaration of intent and his seriousness about keeping Nanami well and with him. Both of these arcs, I suspect, will lead to major changes in Tomoe as a character. The first taught him that humans are "easily hurt" - the second is going to teach him that how fragile they can be in some ways doesn't matter.
A lot of amusing play from Mizuki here, too - I love the way he bickers with Tomoe - but more than ever I'm convinced we have our happy ending waiting in the wings. I think the question isn't so much if the ending will be happy, but how: whether Tomoe and Nanami will end up as humans, or living as gods to rule the shrine together, I don't know. My wish is for the second, but either way I know they will continue to grow in their journey to find happiness with each other.
And at this rate I am pretty damn sure Akura-ou will be a part of that. But more on that later...