Have you watched Noragami? You should… It’s good! It’s also pretty complex. It sneaks in a lot of rather heavy themes under the guise of an action anime with some Japanese mythology for flavour. You could almost be fooled into thinking this one was just about running around and looking cool with swords. I wouldn’t blame you for it. It’s nice to enjoy things on an uncomplicated level sometimes. But at least you appreciate the swords.

Nora as sword.jpg
yeah – it doesn’t get better

Noragami has a lot of interesting little touches. It blends in some unique elements. For instance, those of us not fluid in Japanese may not have noticed the unusual language. Yato uses premodern Japanese when vanquishing demons. This beautiful detail, which adds an element of history and legend the entire story, would have been entirely lost on me if I hadn’t randomly read about it HERE. I’m glad that I did. It gave me the chance to enjoy a show I love on yet another level.

So how is it that after two seasons of really enjoying the series,. Looking up all the folklore associated with the gods and tales we see throughout. Thinking about how cool those sword fights are. I never paid much attention to the only recurring antagonist, a sword in her own right, and ostensibly, the title character....

It seems impossible. Like black magic almost. And yet, you rarely hear much at all about Nora. An intriguing, mysterious character, who’s so brilliantly crafted she managed to Keyser Soze me.

When you think about it Nora really is a puzzle shrouded in mystery. She is never shown to be directly dangerous or even threatening to Yato, or anyone else for that matter, unless wielded as a regalia. We see the story from Hiyori and Yato’s perspectives so Nora is a disruptive presence, but I do believe she honestly cares for Yato and is acting in what she believes is his best interest. After all, “to thine own self be true” and all.  Yet despite being mostly benign in action and potentially even well intentioned, her every appearance is marked by almost palpable tension and a distinctly oppressive atmosphere.



It’s almost as if Nora’s very existence is somehow unsettling. She states her intentions clearly and follows through on them, yet no one seems to trust her. She’s protected Yato continuously, yet  he’s uneasy whenever he sees her. She offers help and support to any god in need, yet no one wants her around. It’s really very sad when you think about it.

There’s a scene in Aragoto when Nora is trying to convince Yato to form a team with her again. The camera pans to her, arms outstretched in a welcoming motion, and her Kimono shifts to reveal the multitude of names etched across her arms and legs. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the image is so reminescent of portraits of wanton women. (Here I go again with my late 1800s vocabulary for ladies of the night). There’s an idea that Nora should be shunned or punished for her lack of loyalty. But we see Yato carelessly discarding her whenever she’s no longer of use, whitout a thought to spare.

Fact is, we don’t know the circumstances that lead to Nora’s present situation. We do know that she and Yato have been together since they were children and at some point he left her behind while she remained willing to sacrifice herself for him at any time. Out of everyone in Yato’s life, Nora is the most consistent and well… most loyal presence.

Also, despite the fact that she has had the chance at several one on one interactions with each of them, she seems content to simply sow some doubt in the minds of Yukine and Hiyori. We’ve seen them both put in clear and present danger from characters who get a much kinder edit from the show. And it’s fascinating.


Nora and Yato.jpg
they seemed like such a good team, too

If we play by the rules of Noragami’s universe, we know that Nora was human at some point and passed away, probably violently, when she was still quite young. After which we have precious few clues about her journey but at some point she became regalia for a minor yet powerful god of calamity which plunged her into a world of incessant violence and revenge. We can assume that she has strong ties, possibly even a contract with Yato’s father who’s quite the troublemaker as well. Therefore it wouldn’t be far fetched to think her actions are not her own.

When we push aside the cinematic language, the visual cues, the darkened colour palette and ominous music, the narrative in itself isn’t clear on Nora’s alignment. She does cause a lot of trouble and you could argue that her plot at the end of season 1 could have killed Yato. Then again, it’s also perfectly consistent with her ongoing efforts to separate Yato from Yukine and Hiyori so that he will return to his ways as a God of Calamity. And we have no reason to think that quest is motivated by selfish reasons. It’s more than possible that Nora thinks the path to Yato’s happiness lays in accepting himself for who he is (or was).

We react the way we do to Nora, because we take example in the way Yato treats her with disdain and distrust. But so far, it’s been a case of tell don’t show. Nora is bad mostly because Yato tells us she is. Because the show non verbally screams it at us. Yet the plot has used her mercilessly to advance the narrative or throw in some tension, made her into a convenient scapegoat at every turn, then discarded her without so much as a look back. Just like Yato.

Not cool plot, not cool at all. Even evil little girls need some love now and then.

In this regard, I’m now going to do the only thing. I can think of to honour a regalia. Nora’s known names are: Mizuchi (螭) ; Hiiro (緋); Furuhime (零姫); Tsutsumi (筒弥); Eyami (疫). They were all given to her by people she considers family. Some of them haven’t been called in a very long time… Some of them will never never be called again. I’m going to try very hard to remember them all.

go see what else wlop draws – it’s more than worth it

23 thoughts

  1. I’m amazed at the way analyze a series and its characters to the point where you can give your readers a completely different persepctive. Are you secretly a lawyer?

  2. The depth in Noragami ey. Nora has always been, and will probably always be, one of my favourite characters from Noragami for this very reason. I think Nora has always wanted the best for Yato since she saw everything he went through. Whilst Yato was no kinder to her than anyone else, Nora saw him as more than her master. She sure wants him to return to his old life but I agree with you that she might be doing that because that’s what she believes will bring him happiness. I also think that like Yato, Nora has been manipulated by this shady father figure so she’s as much a victim as Yato is.

    1. I haven’t read the manga so you may have more insight than I do. To me she’s still a gray zone. Maybe ictim maybe puppet master, maybe confused but well meaning ally… This uncertainty is something I quite like about the character

      1. I’ve only read the first couple of chapters. Should get back to it really.
        Makes sense. I don’t know, after the second season I’ve always felt that maybe there’s more to her character and more to this father and his manipulation than we know.
        That’s true. The ambiguity makes her all the more interesting.

  3. I never found Nora unsettling. However, I didn’t make the connection how easily the story throws Nora away just like how Yato does. Yato disliking her seems reasonable to me. I mean, if Nora tried separating me from Yukine, and Hiyori of course I would consider her a great threat! Good luck remember all those names given to her.

    I’ll add one to the list of names people gave Nora. My name for her shall be Aku no (悪の)!

  4. I’m with Scott — I really like your character studies!

    I’ve always liked Nora. No matter how Yato treated her, I always felt sympathy for her. She always left me feeling sad.

  5. Because of her, I once looked up that ghost head-band she’s wearing. Turns out it was a funeral rite that was out of fashion by the Edo period. I didn’t find out much more, and that thing doesn’t even seem to have a clear name.

    She’s always been among my favourite characters. “Nora” meaning stray and being in the title (“Stray God”) connects her to Yato at a very fundamental level, even before watching a show. And just referring to her as “Nora”, basically a deregatory name used by Gods, while having many names (which is pretty much the same as having no real one – or does she perhaps remember her living name?) seems like abandonment. The rather interesting thing here is, that she’s still retained a sense of self after all that time. With treatment like that she could easily turn into an ayakashi, but she hasn’t so far. Her attachment to Yato could be what literally sustains her form. If she ever gave that up she might become an evil spirit (and I suspect that would be bad news, since she’s… old.) It’s also possible that she’s just a survivor: fine with doing what she has to, so none of what she does registers as an impurity.

    I wonder how she died.

  6. I know that I read your posts and always enjoy what content that you put out, but your character studies are always fascinating to be. They always provide different angles on how to perceive a character or make me think about them in a different way. I strive to write with this level of insight.

    Nora was always fascinating to me. Her backstory and how she is more then a seductress to Yato is what makes her presence on screen always more complex and interesting. Even if she does shake up Yato’s life with negativity or try to drag him down, it’s never without reason.

  7. You raise so many good points here, you have me questioning my dislike for Nora, which I think probably stems from my love for Yukine. By comparison, Nora seems considerably less pure and she comes with ulterior motives. My biggest issue with her, however, is that she lures Yato away from the protection of both Yukine and Hiyori without a way to contact them. (This happens in Aragoto.) When he tries to leave, it is made clear that he is not allowed. It seems like isolation which is abusive behavior.

    Maybe this is all Yato’s father’s doing… But yeah. You have me questioning everything I thought I believed. I’m hoping for a season 3!

  8. You are so right. Every time we see her it is unsettling. Then when you think about it she never really does anything directly bad. She is a great character and it shows with the animation that consistent traits will really help build up a character presence.

  9. I haven’t watched this, but by strange coincidence I stumbled across it just the other day when I was researching Japanese ghost stories and Shinto/Buddhist rituals for my Project Zero article. (I believe the Google search term I was after was “God of Calamity” or something similar.) Sounds interesting; I find Japanese folklore and Shinto mythology kind of fascinating any time I come into contact with it in games, but have never actually watched an anime involving it. Perhaps I should rectify that.

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