Noragami Aragato
Episode 1 also reviewed here:
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2015
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Season 2, 13 episodes
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Review date:
22 March 2016
Nora.gami
My anime-watching friend at work loves Noragami Aragato, i.e. Season 2. He's still undecided about Season 1, but this he calls a favourite. He likes it so much that he read the manga. I didn't go head-over-heels crazy for it, but I liked it a lot and I thought this year's episodes were more dramatic, likeable and entertaining.
The title "Noragami" can be roughly translated as "stray god". "Nora-inu" is "stray dog" and "nora-neko" is "stray cat" (or "alley cat"). The show's title character is Yato, a very very minor god who lives on the streets, has no worshippers and will do any part-time job if you give him five yen. That's three pence (UK) or five cents (US). Babysitting? No problem. Paint your shed? Absolutely! Murder your husband and all his family? Um, well, let's not think too hard about that last one. Yato's not actually a bad inhuman supernatural entity, probably, but we know he has a much darker past, including being a God of War. That was under another name, though. He doesn't talk about it.
Sometimes he's a comedy character. He's a rude, greedy bum who can be bribed with food, is massively ignorant about the modern world and expects to acquire millions of worshippers any day soon. (Apparently there's a manga chapter where he believes in Santa Claus.) He gets no respect from anyone, including his (very few) friends. However he'll also put himself to a lot of trouble to help people, is fiercely protective and is actually heroic when pushed.
I like him. He can be funny, but there's a lot of pain in there. I also like his friends, like Hiyori (lovely girl, mortal), Yukine (who caused a lot of grief last year but has since grown up a lot), etc.
The difference between this year and last is the kind of stories being told, I think. Season 1 wasn't really about villains. It had Nora and Rabou, I suppose, but much more of the season was about "phantom of the week" episodes and the troubled three-way relationship of Yato, Hiyori and Yukine. (Phantoms are malevolent spirits that infect you and cause death, pain and horror. Almost any god will try to kill them on sight.) This year, though, we have the complete and utter bastard that is Kuguha, who has appalling plans for Bishamon and comes impressively close to carrying them out. We have where Nora leads Yato. We have the pathetic, terrifying Queen of the Underworld, who only wants a friend, and the massed ranks of Heaven's armies.
We have the emotional journey of Bishamon. Look at the person she's transformed into by the end of the season, and what the two Bishamons would have said to each other had they been able to meet. Yato helped do that.
We also have Ebisu. The Yato-Ebisu relationship in ep.13 is fascinating, I think. It's an emotional story you couldn't tell without the mythological setting, which is both powerful and unique.
I like the visuals. It's elegant art, with a rather beautiful way of portraying its phantoms. Oh, and the opening theme music is funky.
There are lots of supernatural shows out there, obviously. Many of those even specifically involve gods. What makes Noragami different is that it's more dynamic than most and has struck a vein of darker, harder drama. Well, this year, anyway. They tend to be a bit gentler and slice-of-life, with teenage girls exploring their godlike powers and not really having to worry about enemies, danger or death. What can threaten a god? In Noragami, the answer is "quite a bit". Being a god is no cakewalk, especially if you're Yato. You can get reincarnated if you die, but what if everyone forgets about you? Gods can have problems that you and I don't. They live in another world. Several of them, in fact. Your existence is... different.
There are also some OVAs, by the way, which I must hunt down. I hear they're funny. Anyway, this season comes recommended. Strong drama that also has a light touch and some humour, with a complicated and flawed but ultimately admirable main character. I'll be looking out for a Season 3.
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