I've always had an interest in religious figures since I was a child. So, whenever I see a piece of media that uses religious symbolism, I usually will check it out. Based on what I've read, mangas generally fall into two groups when portraying gods or mythical figures. One group is where the gods are very dependent on the main character of the series who is human and the other group is everything else. I feel the first group is so notable because it's quite easy to build a story with those elements in that the god is some manic pixie girl changes the normal male lead into a different person. Sort of like the set up of Scott Pilgrim if Scott lacked any personality at all. So when I see some thing like Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha, I have to ask myself if I want to risk reading something from the first group. Luckily, Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha squarely fits into the second group.
Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha follows Inari, a normal middle school girl, who embarrasses herself by accidentally tripping and pantsing (the act of pulling one's pants down) the boy she likes. In a fit of shame, Inari runs to her local shrine where she meets the guardian deity of the shrine, Uka, where she grants Inari one wish; to become the girl who is the most popular at the time. Naturally, Uka grants the wish and Inari becomes a spitting image of the girl in question, but Inari's wish comes with its consequences. Soon enough, Inari wants to change back into her old self and Uka helps her again. What follows is a story about truly changing one's self and the relationship between gods and humans.
What makes the story of Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha so great is that it has a simple set up, but it also shows the implications of each action in the story. For instance, when Inari got her wish granted, to change herself into someone else, her wish didn't give her exactly what she wants. Since she looked like someone else, her friends and family don't recognize her any more and since she is prettier, she has to deal with being hit on by older men. Getting her wish granted didn't help Inari get what she wanted, but it helped her realize her own faults and so she slowly begins to mature as the series goes on. Through the use of divine intervention, this series shows that getting what you think you want will come with consequences, but if you're able to meet those consequence head on, then you can truly get what you want.
The Main Characters
Inari and the goddess, Uka, are incredible fleshed out in this series. The reader is shown almost every spectrum of Inari's and Uka's emotions and why they are acting that way, which makes both of them very compelling.
On the surface, Inari seems like a normal love struck middle student, but she has a surprising amount of depth. Inari is a good person, she understands what responsibilities she has and will always try to fulfill them, but if someone is in trouble, Inari will forego her duties to help a person in need. Of course, Inari will face some consequences for not fulfilling her duties, but she will still face those consequences head on and learn from them. Also, Inari can be pretty silly at time because of her honest nature. When pushed into a corner, she will speak her mind and if she doesn't understand something, she will often have an amusing reaction. Inari is a very compelling character because she understands her responsibilities and can face them head on, while having an honest nature that can lead to some funny situations.
Uka is also very compelling because she has well defined likes and dislikes despite having less screen time than Inari. Like Inari, Uka understands her responsibilities, but she doesn't want to fulfill a few certain ones because of her place in the god's society. So on one hand, Uka is a good goddess, but she shirks some of her duties because of her beliefs, which makes for an empathetic goddess character.
The Side Characters
In the beginning of the story, Inari's friends play a moderately large role in story by helping Inari when she's feeling down, but later in the series, Inari's friends don't get much development despite Inari developing quite a bit. The main problem with this is that it feels like Inari's development feels like it's happening in a vacuum because the people around Inari don't change that much or there aren't new situations that arise from Inari changing. On the other hand, what we are shown of Inari's friends are great because they have distinct relationships with Inari and they have distinct personalities. Also, when the series covers the relationship between Inari and her friends, it's done with a great amount of nuance and depth that leads to some grow for everyone involved.
The Separation of the Story
This is a bit of a personal gripe, but the division of the story elements into parts about Inari's daily life and the godly doings in the story feel a bit off. This is mostly because the story focuses more on Inari than Uka and the gods. There is nothing bad with this set up because Inari is changing through the story and has to deal with the divine occurrences in her life, but her story feels small in comparison to the world that was set up in this manga. In other words, the role of gods and Uka's side of the story could be explored more.
Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha is a simple story about a girl, Inari, who wishes that she could change herself so the boy she likes will reciprocate her feelings, but when she takes the easy route to do this, there are repercussions she must face. We get to see all the trails Inari must go through and we get to see how she feels about what is happening in her life. Slowly but surely, Inari begins to mature into a person that the boy can like as well. Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha has its faults as well. The manga could develop the side characters and the world a bit more, but what the series focuses on is extremely well executed that these faults are obscured by the good elements in this series.