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.
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.
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.