Playing Catch Up: Noragami: Episodes 3 + 4

Nora…I’m going to look away for thirty seconds, and if things just happen to my body nobody will be to blame…please?

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Noragami begins its universe building this episode.  And it’s quite welcome.  The whole series has basically spent its collateral of gushy fun fun time.  But now it’s time to get into something so this doesn’t quickly become a forgettable piece.

While Yukine is learning about the harsh life he’ll be living with Yato, that is, hungry and cold all the time.  Yato resolves to settle the matter, and soon the pair are with Hiyori in a restaurant, the latter still demanding to know when Yato will handle her problem now that he has a regalia weapon. We learn here that Yato CAN be seen by Humans, but there is, to borrow Doctor Who terminology, a perception filter at work for the kami and their regalia (and presumably phantoms).  Your eyes naturally avoid them, but if they draw you to their presence, they will notice.

Yato is called in for a job.  He needs to whack a guy. Or several.

Cue the kami of knowledge, Tenjin.  There are a lot of good gags here with Yukine and Hiyori treating Tenjin like a REAL god and snubbing Yato.  Importantly, Tenjin informs Yukine that, as a regalia, he does not need to kneel. We’re starting to see the hierarchy here, how regalia are considered a “part” of their master, and are thus considered part of the same “social strata” if you will.

We also meet Mayu. Or, wasn’t her name Tomone? Yes, the regalia who quit Yato’s employ is now…a pipe? For Tenjin.  Tenjin of course uses all female regalia, the dirty, dirty old man.  But by taking on a new master, she acquires a new given name.

Tenjin actually has a job for Yato.  Mayu leads him to it, and it turns out it is just…killing phantoms.  Yato outright refuses, and we see some of his philosophy shine through. People who chose to die deserve what they get. But he gives in when Hiyori jumps in and Mayu points out Yato accepted payment in advance.

While we’ve toyed with the idea that Yato has a harder side, it really has come across mostly as “competent” than “hard”.  But this is the first time we have seen Yato’s lack of compassion, for lack of a better way to describe it.  But that’s not really what it is.  I’ll be explaining this more later.  But this is the first where Yato has seemed “apart” from Hiyori, and us the audience as fellow human beings.  His utter lack of pity here speaks to how deeply this strikes him.  Suicide corrupts the soul by acknowledging despair.

I am want to point out that we often hate the things in others we see in ourselves.  While suicide seems impossible for a kami…perhaps something that Yato was accessory to?

Yato explains that he couldn’t let people throw their lives away in front of the regalia.  Hiyori deduces that this means none of the regalia wanted to die at all. That they probably struggled until the bitter end.  Combined with what Yato may have seen in Yukine’s memory, it seems quite plausible that all regalia suffer from some bitter life that they still manage to hold out hope in.

I also like that Hiyori is able to piece this together without being blatantly told.  It would be very tiresome for her to just be the naive girl who kicks over the hornet’s nest with poignant observation.  But in being able to put this together, she shows promise that she will grow with this world.

Of course if she is STILL dumb to these types of things by episode 12 it might be a little grating by then.

And we find that Yato and Yukine share a connection in their bodies, with Yato being able to detect Yukine’s impure thoughts about Hiyori.  It’s kind of cute, because you know Yukine really can’t help himself at that age.

And then episode 4.

Action is slowly starting to ramp up here.  I am reminded of Madoka Magica in that the pace starts quite slow, and builds as time goes on (and let’s admit it, that show didn’t get REALLY good until episode 7 or 8).

We start in Yato’s dreams, where he is a superstar kami.  I especially love Yukine in the secret service outfit, it’s just ADORABLE.  Also, the opening has more movement and a lack of still frames.  I can’t tell if this is conscious artistic decision and it will grow more frantic as time goes on, or if they just ran out of time and the first OP was a placeholder while they did the animation. Ah well.

Again, Hiyori badgers Yato over her wish, which is really to fix her body back before she met him. More of Hiyori and Yukine taking Yato down a peg, when he decides he will show them something…

His girlfriend! Is she really? Seems he doesn’t see her -that- often and the first thing he does is ask for money.  But, again, Yato isn’t a normal person. This relationship may well be centuries old.  So to kami this may seem perfectly natural.

Apparently so is Kofuku, that’s her name, and her behavior. As she is just admiring Yukine and especially Hiyori, even going into flirting a little with the high school girl.  Her regalia is a big powerhouse of a dude, who says he has served her for many, many years. All in all I liked this scene. It was endearing and comical.

Yato gets a call for a job, and accidentally knocks his client from the top of the building he was planning to jump from.  After exchanging business cards, the man tells our heroes the tale of how his girlfriend is the msot precious thing, but ever since he has fallen on more and more misfortune.  Yato suspects something and asks for a picture of the girl in question and it is…Kofuku. Turns out she is actually the god of poverty.  It might put a new spin on Yato’s own fortunes.

And again, when the man says he’d rather die than forget Kofuku (as cutting all ties is the only way to undo the link) we see Yato’s aversion to giving up on life.

Afterwards, Kofuku tells Hiyori a bit about Yato.  She earlier had referred to him as “scary”.

And, let’s pause. Yato has an incredible character design. It can do the goofy, cat like poses when he wants to be a creeper stalker-kun, is just vagabond enough to pull off the homeless god role. But his eyes…they also have the right blend of malice. In all he is a beautifully designed character.

Kofuku learned about Yato through some very nasty stories. So at least at one time, we know Yato WAS famous, but has since fallen on hard times.

Kofuku also confirms something Yato once said in passing when he was trying to show off, thus making it dubious if he was telling the truth. But no. Yato is, originally (truly?) a war god.  It’s certainly a far cry from his current pitch as “delivery god”.

We also learn about the nature of kami.  They only EXIST because people WISH them to exist. Tenjin, even Kofuku, are infamous.  Because even when you fall on hard times you know the god of poverty is to blame, right?  But it isn’t that way for yato, or the other “obscure gods”.   And out of desperation, they grant any wish given to them. From any person.

It actually puts a spin on Tenjin giving Yato a job.  Is that a sort of god-charity? That, to keep their old associates from fading away, they can temporarily fulfill the role that worshipers normally would? It would explain why the ever hungry for work Yato lets his pride get in the way of fulfilling a job.

It also gives a little dark tone to Hiyori’s situation.  Yato may be stalling to fulfill her wish because he is afraid of fading. So he is keeping the one girl in his pocket long enough that he knows he will leave a mark on her.  Or when she needs her wish fulfilled.  But it springs to mind that, like the finances guy and Kofuku, Hiyori may need to sever her ties with Yato completely to undo the “damage” she got pushing him out of the way. And that would be even worse for Yato, who I think it’s clear is quite lonely.

It’s also worth noting that we don’t know for sure if Yato is a reformed war god…or if he made a mistake so great he is in penance. The difference is subtle.  I hate to draw this analogy, because of the negative connotations, but it’s almost like being an addict. Though it may give him pleasure to be a war god, did he stop that when he committed a repulsive act, one he can’t even forgive himself for?

Or is he just adapting with the times? It’s unclear yet. But it’s an interesting possibility.

Either way, Kofuku emphasizes that Yato has killed regalia and Humans before. It leaves Hiyori unnerved. She asks Yato the real reason he brought her there.  He simply tells her, “If anything happens to me, you run straight to them.”  Uh oh. That can only mean aliens or the spirit mafia.

Meanwhile, Yukine has slowly been warming up to Yato. Yato is full of praise, and it’s clear that Yukine is surpassing everyone’s expectations as a brand-new regalia.  It’s nice to see this relationship evolving, even if Yukine isn’t exactly full of reverence for his new master, he at least is starting to like his company.  It seems likely that Yukine was not well appreciated in life, and hopefully we get into that soulcrushing story soon.

Enter Nora (the titular Noragami?), in quite possibly the creepiest way imaginable. Staring at Yukine. Like six inches from his face without his notice. Staring. Forever.

…Oh my god I’m in love…

Of note Nora is covered in marks like the one that turns Yukine into the sword Sekki. And not just one. She is COVERED in glyphs.  She also refuses the name Nora, instead saying Yato gave her a much prettier name once.

Okay, Nora is a creepy fuck. She has some of the best imagery in the OP and her introduction doesn’t disappoint.

And we’re not even at the really good episode yet.

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