Gods are everywhere. Wherever humanity is found, there exists a mythos, a belief in a higher power. Be it one supreme deity or a pantheon of specifically minded beings, the belief exists. Arguably however, in these polytheistic interpretations, not all Gods are created equal, with some residing over more specific, unpleasant tasks. So what happens when one of these Gods decides they’ve had enough? When they decide to mix things up little? They get a new job of course.
Set in Japan, as most anime are, we meet a young girl named Hiyori, representing your standard student type. However, through happenstance, luck and a little misfortune, she comes to meet a less-than-dignified God named Yato. Marketing himself as somewhat a jack-of-all-trades deity, Yato charges the barest of pittance with the promise of helping with whatever issue bedevil someone. Be it find their lost cat, clean their bathroom or help discover a way to prevent the sporadic separation of soul and body…ok, so that last one is a little more intense and, not-so-surprisingly, it is also the issue with which Hiyori requires help. Thus the series major plotline is born…kinda.
Due to the lore present in this series, Yato also happens to be a monster slayer of sorts, vanquishing the Phantoms born of negative emotions that linger in the Spirit World and subconsciously influence the world of the living. To do so however, Yato requires a weapon, one comprised of the soul of a wandering human, a ghost if you will. Thus Yukine makes our duo a trio, bringing with him all manner of melodrama. Imagine a katana going through puberty, that’s Yukine. That isn’t to say he can’t shift back into human form when out of combat, it’s just funnier to imagine an angsty sword…to me at least. Anyway, given his to-be-expected misgivings about having died so young, Yukine is more often than not less than willing to comply with his new friend/master. Thus we find the core of our series.
Despite bearing the marketing of a tale of a God and the schoolgirl he promised to help, it is Yukine who takes centre stage for a majority of the series. It’s not even that subtle, given that by episode two Yato is already procrastinating on Hiyori’s wish, given that he has no earthly idea how to help her. Though played for comedy, this flippant nature also funnels pretty strongly into Yukine’s ever wavering confidence in his master, resulting in some angsty acting out that has dire consequences. Due to the unique nature of their bond, ever negative emotion or action felt or acted out by Yukine “stings” Yato. Generally a warning sign that their Regalia (spirit weapon) is acting out, Yukine’s constant misdeeds drive a serious wedge between himself and Yato, with Hiyori suffering some of the blowback. It’s around this point that you want to give Yukine a slap in the face for being such a jerk to the people that care about him. Now, I’m not saying I didn’t feel this way, but you can’t entirely deride the kid for his thoughts, mainly because he’s not entirely wrong. Having died at a young age, Yukine is unable to live his life normally. Unfortunately for him, his new sense of sentience forces him to witness the living, complaining about minuscule issues that Yukine would love to have be his only problems. Thus, this struggle becomes one of those ones that force you to feel sad and angry at the same time, which is a sign of good storytelling in my opinion.
That being said, I do have one less than positive notion regarding the series pacing. Though the Yukine arc takes up a majority of this series, it does not round out the entire cour, thus we are left with three episode that introduce and resolve an entirely new arc. Though by no means possessive of poor premise, the speed with which it completes makes it feel like an OVA that was tacked on at the end. Sure it further explains in idea introduced earlier, but for a new foe to appear so suddenly, having had no presence in the earlier episodes? It adds a level of separation from the central plot, like it’s technically non-canon, hence the OVA connection. It also probably didn’t help matters that the closure of Yukine’s story hit more emotional high points than the climactic final battle. Who am I kidding, it definitely didn’t help. The right balance just wasn’t struck, maybe if the second arc had had more episodes devoted to it, or at least some inkling towards it in earlier episodes. It was just over before it could really show what it had.
Animation wise, Noragami is a pretty solid series. Though a fair portion of the series takes the form of discussion and dialogue, there is an amplification when the action kicks in. Though the degree of which depends on the importance of the sequence. Luckily however, the series places pride in smooth motion, over intense detail. So even moments that do not add scores of intricacy do add a flow to motion, which is nice given all the flipping Yato does. The ambient hue changes also help set a particular mood during various sequences, with ominous crimsons often dentoing the presence of a particularly imposing Phantom.
Dub wise, I’ve gotta give credit to the cast. Though far from the extremes anime can reach, the characters of Noragami do tend to fluctuate moods with reckless abandon. Thus, the ability to keep the characters shifts believable is appreciated. Props also have to go to selling Yukine’s more poignant outbursts. Without a solid performance behind that, it would’ve been a lot easier to side with the opinion that he was being a spoiled brat, rather than a messed up kid.
So yeah, Noragami. I tend to have hesitation when trying to briefly explain this series, given that it might not be what people expect. At first, second and maybe even third glance, the role of main character falls to Yato or Hiyori and that may be the case. But watching the series shows, without question, that it is the story of Yukine. Sure Yato’s past comes up more than once and sure Hiyori’s soul still isn’t 100% attached to her body, but that stuff is pretty readily pushed aside to focus on the Regalia with attitude problems. This is even more telling given that yukine doesn’t shift out fo focus until after he sorts himself out, leaving those final three episode to deal with Yato in a central role. So give Norigami a go, it’s a good series after all, just not for the reasons you’d expect.
Yato: Goofball, Delivery God, Madman