- Genre: Supernatural, action, drama, comedy
- Episodes: 12
- Studio: Bones
It’s hard to be god. Or more precisely, to be A god. Yato might have fallen on some hard times, largely forgotten by all and abandoned even by his own regalia, he scrapes by best he can without even a single shrine to his name but a god like Yato doesn’t let the little things bring him down. He’s determined to claw his way back to the top, one 5-yen coin at the time. Besides, things are looking up already, he has a follower now and a new mighty regalia. So maybe his follower thinks of him more as a nuisance than a god and his regalia is going through a turbulent puberty but you know, beggars can’t be choosers.
Noragami has the singular distinction of being the first ever anime I’ve rewatched in order to review. Some of my reviews rely on the dim memory of shows I’ve seen more than 5 years ago. Explains a few things, right. I originally didn’t so much watch this show as devoured it. I saw the two first episodes at a friend’s house then went on a rampage and watched the rest of the series the next day. I figured I must have missed a lot so I gave it another more reasonable watch. Well that was the plan…Yup, two days again, although with a more conservative 6-6 split…because I had to go to diner at a friends house and it was too late to cancel by the time I looked up from the TV. If nothing else – I’m going to go on record and say this one is bingeable.
Visually, it’s nice to watch if not that remarkable. The art style, while certainly very pretty avoids becoming overly cute and the designs are tame but effective. There was a subtle little touch I really appreciated. Eyes are a recurring motif throughout the series and this was discreetly underscored by making character’s eyes just a little more distinctive. For one, eye and pupil shapes vary, even if just a little, from one character to the next and the colors used are from a slightly more extended and saturated palette than the rest of the show. In fact, I believe they might be from the same color range used for phantoms. Speaking of which, aside from using that slightly different color palette, phantoms (beasties if you will) are drawn with different colored outlines and use a different shading technique. This really makes them pop but I found them a little less menacing for it. Finally, the color scheme is also adjusted in flashback sequences. This is a common trick but I always appreciate its use, cause I get confused easily.
Once in awhile the anime community will insist on calling a clear-cut drama a “comedy”, for no apparent reason. Don’t get me wrong, this show has humor in it and actual gags, but it’s definitely first and foremost an action based drama. And you’ll know it. It’s one of those shows where, even though nothing bad or tragic is happening, you can just sense a certain pain right below the surface. Like an old wound that has scarred over but never really healed. It itches when the weather is dry and hurts if you make a wrong move. It’s like meeting someone for the very first time and noticing something in their eyes or smile that just tells you they’ve been through some bad times. And you can pour all the silly sight gags or cutsey fanservice you want on top, but that shallow ache will always seep out the edges. You should know that I see things that aren’t always there. Like that eye thing in the previous paragraph – I think I might have made that up.
Despite the setup of the show, and my own summary, the main protagonist here is actually Yukine. Out of all the characters, his arc is most closely examined and he is given the most development. Even though the narrative extends around and beyond his personal story, it is undeniably the most important. An interesting choice, using what appears to be an action shounen to instead investigate growing up and the difficult reality of adapting to drastic changes at a time before you have even begun to understand who you are. How that difficulty can seem insurmountable when coupled with the need to overcome trauma. Accepting reality as it is, with all its inherent injustices and allowing yourself to grow and change in response is absolutely terrifying and although the symbolism here was a bit too on the nose at times, there was something awkwardly and beautifully honest about it too. It was a dirty trick to take something that was suppose to be a cheesy running gag and turn into such a dark and foreboding thing.
This is not to say the remaining characters were completely underdeveloped. I fact, the show managed to handle a surprisingly large cast for a 12-episode season quite well. Yes, we didn’t get to know some of them too well but e at least got the impression that they have personalities. As for the characters we did get to know, they were very nicely balanced. Hiyori is a bit two dimensional, granted, but she’s the audience surrogate and she is given a few fun moments. Kofuku and Daikoku are fantastic supporting cast and play off the mains superbly. I was always looking forward to seeing them. Yato himself is understatedly well crafted. It takes a while to get a good reading on him, maybe up to 10 episodes, heck maybe all 12, but once you do you realize how deliberate and well thought out his actions are and how deeply logical his reactions.
Of course though, Yukine is the character most clearly established and unfortunately, he can be hit or miss (for me). The show handles him extremely well in two particular regards. For one, we are never told about Yukine’s past and what seems to have been a particularly traumatic event. I’m sure it was tempting to throw in a flashback or origin story but thankfully the writers were disciplined and in the end, it made the message more powerful. It doesn’t matter what happened, you have to let go. Secondly, the series did not shy away from showing us the unlikable aspects common in most children at that age, the selfishness, the general frustration which manifest in unprovoked and aimless lashing out, the moodiness and self-pity. It’s all too recognizable. It’s also mixed in with moments of wonder, joy and sweetness. For me, some of it got a bit annoying, I’m not a huge fan of mopey. And as the situation was all coming to a head it also got very dramatic. I was about to roll my eyes at the completely extravagant sentimentality but then of course I did this instead:
After wrapping up Yukine’s arc, we are treated to a few more episodes which flesh out Yato a lot more. You would think that with so little time left, and an antagonist to introduce, these episodes would be rushed but actually they are extremely effective. A few threads are left hanging for Aragoto but if there had never been a season two, it would still have been a satisfying ending.
Random thoughts: The idea that gods smell nice somehow manages to be completely insane and logical at the same time. I enjoyed that bit a lot. Maybe it’s my eastern european showing but I find I like characters that wear tracksuits. Also – shouldn’t regalia be called divinelia? I bet there’s an actual word for it and now I look stupid…
What this anime taught me: there is a lot of cultural precedent for personified weaponry in Japan
Alcohol is necessary for a man so that he can have a good opinion of himself, undisturbed be the facts
Suggested drink: Calamity Gin
- Every time we see a 5-yen coin – take a shot
- Every time someone questions Yato’s godhood – laugh and take a shot
- Every time Hiyori calls her moves – take a shot
- Every time Hiyori’s soul slips out – take a deep breath
- Every time someone has a pop art fail – take a shot
- Every time Yato is actually godly – take a shot
- Every time Hiyori feeds Yato and Yukine – have a snack
- Every time we see a water drop – drink some water
- Every time Hiyori thinks Yato smells nice – take a shot
- Every time Yato drinks – join him
- Every time we see a kitty – raise your glass