Playing Catch-Up: Noragami: Episode 1+2

It is here.

wpid-screenshot_2014-01-21-11-09-58

The part of me that is contrarian resists the urge to dismiss this series merely because friend blog Animation Anonymous suggested this in our last news post…but that would be unfair to my legitimate reasons to adopt this series so late. xD

In short, this series is ending up the opposite of Nobunagun, in that it is adopting all the things I hoped for from its pre-release information.  Not that I’m unhappy with Nobunagun, but my big hope going in was that the reincarnation stuff would play a more prominent role and as of yet that is a limited function of the overall story there.

Here? Despite the bad track record of anime handling spirituality (on the whole, of course there are exceptions) I wanted to see the kami of Japan in their full glory, with a fleshed out universe and a story told from a god’s point of view.

And it’s exactly what we’re getting.

Most importantly? While Nobunaga the Fool and Witchcraft Works are bad series, there are other blogs attending to their badness with mostly the same points I draw issue with.  Noragami, while many sing its praises, I find myself yelling or wanting to add information, particularly after this week (which for you mighty spacemen of the future, we are on week 5 here).  So from the opposite angle of “I will drop a show because I don’t feel my voice is contributing besides parrots”, we’ll be following Noragami here because I feel there are dimensions missing from the discussion.  And really that’s the most compelling reason, in the end, when I think about.  As much fun as it might be to hear me swear like a sailor.

So introducing the catch-up post. The first time I’ve ever had to use it…for its intended purpose.  So we’ll see how this goes.

First off, the OP. I adore it. It’s really grown on me.   Probably because it is just as much a part of the artistic expression of the series.  Like, about halfway through, the three leads are on that little turntable sequence, right? Hiyori, despite being the Human of our adventuring party, is portrayed as the “biggest”.  She has a wider frame, looks like she can seriously kick the most ass compared to her companions.  Yato’s camera has difficulty focusing on him, much like the audience will have trouble bringing his entire character into focus.  It’s so inspired that it really sets the mood nicely.

So Episode 1…we meet one of our leads, the kami Yato.  A girl is stressing about school and prays to be saved, and her despair transforms into some kind of phantasm and in leaps our kami, a blade in his hand to vanquish the entity of despair.  It is a pretty great action sequence, and the colors are bright and flashy. Moody even, like a more subdued Nobunagun.

And then it’s all thrown on its ass as Yato’s weapon quits.  She seems to be a personality (she turns into a human after the fight at least) and she demands to be released. Turns out Yato isn’t a very good master, homeless, penniless, and overall a wretch among gods. The scene ends with a phone call, where Yato learns “the lord” is missing.

This brings us to our viewpoint character, Hiyori, who in the course of walking home stumbles across two little bits of information. Well, two for us. Hiyori and her friends find a missing poster of….a cat. Yup. It’s “M’Lord”. We find that Hiyori is a little oddball in that her “gods” are MMA fighters. I think.  But as she passes Yato, who is searching for said cat, she sees him wander in front of a bus, and leaps to push him out of the way.  And as she’s yelling at him, he points out that she’s left her body behind.

When she awakes in the hospital, Yato is in her bed…not enough stalker-kun.  Hiyori can now hear the voices of the dead.  The fact she could SEE Yato to begin with proves to him she is a Human of immense potential (possibly a good candidate for a miko? An untapped miko an up and coming god could use?), and her near death experience has only enhanced her power.  But to everyone else, it just looked like Hiyori randomly threw herself in front of the bus.  On top of that, she’s having fatigue issues.  Well. They aren’t fatigue exactly.  She’s actually disembodying and astral projecting herself, she just doesn’t seem to notice or control when it happens. The only indicator is a little purple…I want to say chinchilla tail.  But it’s really more of a gerboa tail…cute animals are a hobby, okay? Yeesh.  Well, Hiyori is also cute, so there’s that.

Yato promises to help her with her problem.  How very trickster spirit of him.

Episode 2 opens with Hiyori badgering Yato about having not helped her yet, and we get the sense of urgency by seeing how often she’s just disembodying. Yato explains to her that he can’t help her because he lacks a regalia. You know, the sacred weapon that had been fed up with his bullshit in episode 1?

Hiyori decides to track down a regalia spirit for him.   It’s a good feature about Hiyori, that she isn’t just willing to let Yato get off his godly butt and help her, she wants to lend help.

Of course, trying to go grocery shopping for your grandparents in a foreign country where you can’t read or write is probably not the smartest idea either.  Hiyori has no real understanding of the metaphysics of this world.  Which is odd.  Shinto traditions, the ones Yato is clearly invoking, are all very clear about something: The Human world and the world of Spirits must remain separate. Any mixing of the two only ends in disaster, and this happens over and over again in the folklore.  It’s a bit odd she might not -think- of this.  Sure, maybe she doesn’t give them a lot of weight.  But when you have a tail and can poke your own unconscious body and a guy with demonic blue eyes is telling you his name is the kami Yato, maybe open your mind to the possibility that those stories might hold weight, right?

But again, it’s just naivete, nothing maliciously stupid.  Well. Turns out Hiyori has just run into a “phantom”, corrupted human spirits (I’m just going with Phantom because simplicity, and the figures presented are slightly off from mythological yokai).

But Yato sees a pure spirit. And he gives it form. A new regalia weapon, this time instead of a little dirk it’s a huge sword.  And just a sword, the metal tang, no hilt or anything.  Which I like, it’s a very…off weapon. Yato dispatches the phantom, and cries.  He seems to be able to read the regalia’s memories, and whatever Yato sees there is painful enough to cut through his casual, vagabond persona and draws out his sympathies.  He calls up the sword, who in person is named “Yukine”. Or at least that’s what Yato has named him.  It’s an interesting detail, and one a certain side of me adores, that the servitor is given name and purpose by the master…stop judging me.

And he is completely ungrateful. This was kinda spoiled for me by the OP, it was pretty clear Yukine was going to have attitude problems before we even met him, but it still brought a smirk to my face.  Not even his godly servants are going to eat Yato’s bullshit about his greatness.

Even with hindsight, I admit the first couple episodes did not exactly impress me. But that’s okay. They lay a good foundation for our characters, so that the universe building to come is all the more interesting.  They don’t bore, at least, and you can sit through them on the promise of what’s to come.

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