Japan is a land of gods who grant wishes to those who ask. The most powerful and well know deities enjoy a steady stream of patrons and followers seeking assistance. For a war god named Yato (voiced by Hiroshi Kamiya) this is not the case.
Without a shrine of his own, Yato is a bit of a deadbeat and has developed quite a reputation of little importance. Still, when the occasional job does come up, he puts all…okay some of his efforts into seeing it through.
On one such mission (finding a lost cat) Yato runs into Hiyori Iki (voiced by Maaya Uchida), who saves him from being hit by a car. An act which was meaningless since Yato could have easily dodged it himself. Unfortunately, Hiyori is struck in his place. She survives the accident physically unscathed, however what happened to her spirit is a lot more annoying.
At complete random, Hiyori’s soul will leave her body. Though this form allows her to achieve some pretty amazing feats, it’s still mostly inconvenient. She makes a contract with Yato to help her get back to normal. He accepts and gets right on it…eventually. Other issues keep coming up which need to be addressed.
One of the main jobs of a god is slaying dark phantoms from corrupting the minds of humans. To do this gods rely on Regalia, wandering spirits who assist their masters in battle. Since Yato’s last Regalia quit, he's been left completely defenseless. This changes when Yato finds a young spirit who he names Yukine (voiced by Yuki Kaji).
Yato, Hiyori, and Yukine have a knack of getting into tough situations. Due to Yato’s past exploits, he’s also managed to piss off a few powerful gods. Yet Yato also carries with him a rather dark history of violence which he's never been able to escape.
Holy crap, Noragami was so damn good. Why did it take me so long to watch this series? My god, everything about it was incredible. End the review here, go watch it if you haven’t. Hell, go watch it again if you have.
Where do I to begin?
The Animation and Music
This is a one two punch. I can’t talk about them separate since they complement each other perfectly.
Noragami is brilliant to look at. Immediately it hits you. When this show is being silly and goofy, it feels more subdued and not shoved in your face. When this series is being tense and frightening, it gets creepy but it’s not afraid to use bright, vivid colors.
The music and soundtrack is bad ass. It puts you at the edge of you seat. It gets you smiling with triumph. It has feeling. You’re pumped when you need to be pumped. You’re uneasy when you need to be uneasy. You’re concerned when you need to be concerned.
Both the visuals and the music are telling much of the story. While there is banter and dialogue, lengthy exposition is kept at a minimum. Sure the world of gods and spirits does take a bit of explanation. What I’m referring to is character development.
A god of poverty named Kofuku (voiced by Aki Toyosaki) is portrayed to be ditzy, energetic, and carefree. She’s an overgrown child who doesn’t seem to know her own strength. Mostly she’s here to lighten the mood; or so I thought.
A god of combat named Bishamonten (voiced by Miyuki Sawashiro) has it out for Yato. She wants his head on a spike. Bishamonten keeps a highly disciplined air around her and is not someone you want to anger or annoy. That is unless you’re Kofuku who doesn’t care.
Unlike Bishamonten, Kofuku adores Yato. This isn’t a secret and it hasn’t been an issue. That is until Bishamonten gets the idea that maybe Kofuku is protecting Yato from her. Bishamonten brings this up and warns she will personally deal with Kofuku if this turned out to be the case. This is a god who wouldn't hesitate to follow up.
Then the music starts playing. It’s very ominous, somethings not quite right. This isn’t for Bishamonten, it’s for Kofuku. She doesn’t back down. Instead she turns the situation around and actually intimidates the powerful combat god. This was not the happy-go-lucky girl we’ve been seeing. This is a deity with the power to destroy. With a combination of the music, the visuals, and little dialogue, this became a character I would not want to f@#$ with.
This is what makes Noragami so fantastic.
This series is able to have slapstick comedy, unnerving imagery, and serious moments all coexisting. They never overstep their bounds. They never take away from the others. They never feel awkward, forced, or unwanted.
When a powerful, touching moment is happening, don’t throw in a joke; Golden Time. When a story is trying to be fun and comical, don’t go dark and extreme and then completely ignore it; Angel Beats. Noragami knew exactly when and where to take a turn and come back from it.
For the first half of this series, the atmosphere was more or less nonthreatening. Slowly, more curiosities would be thrown in which would put characters into a different light. When an actual, cannot be taken lightly event occurred, the lacks nature would be pulled back. These moments were allowed to play themselves out fully before next the joke would get uttered.
There’s a scene where Yukine has to face the sins he has committed. It’s powerful and hard to look away from despite how difficult it is to watch. Yukine is in great pain and final breaks. He confesses all the bad things he’s done. One these things include an attempt to fondle Hiyori while she was asleep, and she was there to hear it.
In a lesser anime which has already established itself as being a series with comedy, it would have made a joke here to keep that image up. It could have been as big as a highly animated freak out or as small as a dumbfound look. By doing either though, it would have completely ruined the power of the scene.
Do you know what Noragami did? Nothing, it did nothing. Hiyori heard this and didn’t react with a “how dare you”. She was concerned over how much suffering her friend was going through and who was legitimately asking for forgiveness. The ordeal ends and the relief starts set in. AND still there are no one-liners, physical comedy, or mood breakers. This episode ends on a touching note and it isn’t until the next when the humor is brought back.
This is how you do it. A series can have these polar opposites and have them be good. A show shouldn’t be afraid to pull back if necessary.
Thank you Noragami for doing this.
This section isn’t going to be that long, even though I do have something to say. While I love this series, I can’t help but feel there was a bit of a waste with Hiyori.
She’s a great character; that is not the problem. She mostly serves as support for both Yato and Yukine, and plays the role perfectly. Hiyori is kind, funny, considerate, and can hold her own in a fight.
And right there’s the problem. She stops fighting because the show nerfed her.
When introduced and obtains the ability to go into her spirit form, Hiyori became a formidable combatant. She’s fast, agile, and has some pretty sick moves in her arsenal. The first time she confronts an evil phantom, she takes care of it herself.
However, when she learns she will die if the link between her body and spirit is were to be severed, she stops going into battle. While this makes sense why someone would do this, Hiyori didn’t seem like the kind of person who would value her own safety at the cost of her friend’s lives. I firmly believe she would take a stand.
The whole thing came off as a missed opportunity. It was a little strange coming from a show which didn’t have a problem doing this at first.
Season two, season two, oh my god I’m so happy there’s a season two.
From the animation, the music, the characters, the story, Noragami is a brilliant series. It’s fun, exciting, tense, creepy, and all around entertaining as s@#$. This is a show that knew how to take conflicting atmosphere and have them work together to create something truly outstanding.
I already recommended this one at the beginning of the review. I’m surprised you’re still here.
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