Series Recap: Noragami

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There isn’t a whole lot to say about Noragami.  I enjoyed it…we’ll leave it at that.  Oh who am I kidding, I can never just leave it.  While I liked what we got I just have a lot of issues with the “could haves”, but even these are so general and expansive, that they don’t really come into play when analyzing the series.  Take, say, KILL la KILL, or Unbreakable Machine Doll, the “should have”s are based on very specific plot threads to those series where roads taken were less interesting than roads previously open.

But Noragami isn’t like that at all.  The biggest thing “wrong” with it, to me, is that its universe feels…smaller, than I expected.

Oh sure we have a few other grudges against this show, but like the above, they really are minor.

I adopted Noragami very late into the season, week 5, almost halfway over.  The story of “delivery god Yato” and the Human girl he befriends was interesting enough to me that I found my brain teeming with ideas.  It was well worth how much people were pushing it back then.

One thing I guess I’ll take issue with. People often refer to Noragami as an action series.  And I do not see it. Sorry. I know I’ve called it that but mostly as that’s what it was billed as by the community, and from the right angle it looks like an appropriate label.  But my instinct is different. The emphasis here is on character relationships from where I sit.

Obviously there are action elements, and damn well executed action elements.  But I think we really need to stop pinning genres onto a show because it just does a piece of its storytelling well.  And really that’s what the fights in Noragami have mostly existed to do: tell the story.  They are not celebrations of combat either in universe like Dragonball or out of universe like KILL la KILL. They just are, and Bones seems like they wanted to do those scenes WELL, so they put effort into it.  It does fights well because it needed them. It did character pieces well because it needed to.  It is a generalist approach, I believe, and I think that’s what I’d call Noragami before an action series: A Generalist Anime. It hits the parts of action, comedy, drama, supernatural, and brushes romance, mystery, and coming of age.

I mention this because I believe it is the root source of where I diverge from people on the whole.  Many hail Noragami as the standard to hold the rest of 2014 to.  In some regards that may be true, but standard bearer? I feel the show was casting about too much.  It was very much… “let us throw the characters together and see how they react against each other”.  In the end, that just meant the characters were free to drag us in any direction, and they did.  It was like…you know when you have multiple-party-tug-of-war? With like five ropes centered on a fixed point? The knot in the center (our focus) just kinda wavered around that center point most of the series.  I’d go so far as to argue that no one really won, we just ended with more samey-ness come the resolution.

This probably sounds far harsher than I am intending it to. But as Yahtzee said, I’m a critic, my job is to criticize.

On the whole I was pleased with my experience watching Noragami.  And it will probably be better to say, marathon in 3-4 bloc chunks. “Was that worth the three months of paying it attention?” Ehhh..? But I do love it.  So let’s start with the strongest foot forward. Continue reading

Noragami: Episode 12

Why’d it have to be rain?

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Opening this week in Rabo’s shrine, a decaying thing in a dreary rain, much like the calamity god’s life.  He also seems to be missing a few screws as he just kind of keeps talking even when Nora tries to get his attention.

Yato, Hiyori, and Yukine arrive, the pair of spirits shocked to see Hiyori tagging along.  But she’s quickly pushed aside and battle commences.

But Yato is outclassed.  It is only the timely intervention by Hiyori that saves him.  Even without her memories she’s still saving your ass, buddy.

I also want to comment that the music here is fantastic.

Rabo continues to beat at Yato. He clearly views Yato as a mentor figure, and seeing a former calamity god trying to “behave” is pissing him off.  He comes to the realization, like Nora, that Hiyori is the source of the problem.  We of course know that’s not true, Yato has his own reasons, it seems weird that BOTH these villains fail to see that.

Outside this…dream world? We see Bishamonten has her hands full trying to protect Humanity from the surge in powerful Phantoms that have appeared.  Tenjin is doing what he does best: staring at clouds.

Yeah there is no contest between this pair.

Rabo takes the direct approach, shattering the marble with Hiyori’s soul.

Oh now you gone and done it.  Yato is quiet, balancing Yukine’s pitiful whining, but it’s not nearly as annoying when it’s over another person rather than crying over himself.  And the way Yato starts picking him apart, you have to wonder if he even needs the Sekki. Continue reading

Noragami: Episode 11

You can have a Hiyori in any color, so long as it’s pink.

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More catch up!

Noragami begins this week with a flashback.  In it we finally establish Rabo, a fellow god of calamity who roomed with Yato for a time, doing jobs together and the like. Just their jobs always involved slaughtering people.  And we see he’s still at it today, massacring people openly in the street.

Coming back from the intro, Hiyori does seem to remember Yukine, but not Yato.  Er…damn how does that work now? She knows Yukine is dead, right? Sooo…what, she just doesn’t know about the Regalia thing?

Yukine and Yato are later stumped. Stumped? Wasn’t the ONE thing on Yato’s mind last episode that he should cut her ties with him? Yet he is completely unable to see it right in front of him?

All the usual anti-amnesia tricks apply. Yato shares stories and pictures in an attempt that Hiyori’s memory arrives.  But she politely humors them, and goes about her business with Yukine.

Time for more drastic measures.

Continue reading

Noragami: Episode 10

Disappear.

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Kicking off our final story arc is Yukine working in shop with Daikoku.  Yukine is working to pay off the money he stole over the past few…weeks? Which presumably means there was way more than we saw, since he left the charity money on the ground the one time we saw.

Speaking of paying back, Kofuku reminds Hiyori that she has a debt to pay. Twice now she’s helped Hiyori bail Yato out of a predicament, which by her estimations comes to 10million yen. …Kofuku suggests Hiyori gets into porn.  Oh I love you, Kofuku, destroying people’s lives no matter how you try to help.

Well, it’s a visit to Tenjin’s now.  He notes he’s surprised to see Yukine still, after the danger Yato put himself through.  Yato says it was part of his plan, and personally I like the idea of Yato being a pragmatic kami than this whole “father” bullshit.  It isn’t enough to say Yato wants to invest in Yukine, to see him reach his full potential, because he naturally believes in him? We have to tack silly paternal bonds onto it?  Okay okay, cultural identity and all that. I still think it’s silly.

Yato also thanks Mayu, and Tenjin even admits that Mayu is extremely tough after being trained by Yato.

One of Tenjin’s regalia, Miyu, is missing.  Mayu tells Hiyori and Yukine privately that it’s because she stung Tenjin.  It seems just being introduced to the idea of Yukine’s crisis was enough to make her contemplate her own lost life, and she stung Tenjin in a moment, it seems she wanted to be a teacher, or something.  Or at least it was a prayer regarding becoming a teacher that moved her so, which may explain how she came to serve Tenjin in the first place.

Mayu explains that as far-shore creatures, Regalia are prone to want to cross over.  It makes them very vulnerable to temptation and regret, which is why they must be vigilant and like water, never allowing things to bother them. Continue reading

Noragami: Episode 9

Foul, I call foul.

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In a Strike the Blood opening, we undo that last little scene from last episode with Daikoku letting Hiyori inside the barrier to be purified.  But for Yato, the situation is much more grim and saving him will require a complicated ritual of some kind, and he sets off to find two more regalia to help him with the purification.

He even threatens to kill Yukine if he takes a step. Yeah, you show him!

In one of the more pointless bits of fanservice, we see Kofuku filling a tub with her showerhead, which is fed from her sacred spring.  Then the next scene Hiyori is naked and using the showerhead directly because…because she has a great body and spirit clothing is easy to get off. I guess.

Doikoku’s first stop is Tenjin’s shrine, where Mayu offers her help.  She may have despised working for Yato, but she doesn’t want him dead.  But the others are afraid of the fact that a purification is a fatal procedure if done wrong.

Hiyori overhears this on the phone and…where did you find a payphone Daikoku? Sorry that’s just a weird moment…I mean we can’t find a third regalia, but we found a pay phone.  That’s like being able to find a leprechaun’s pot of gold, but not your car keys.

Anyway Hiyori naturally takes matters into her own hands.  Impressively, she doesn’t try to find Nora, knowing she’d probably just kill Yukine.  And Hiyori wants everyone to come through this alive.  A little bit of a parallel to Yato’s gamble with the schoolboy last episode.  It’s all or nothing, happy ending or bust.

Disregarding Kazuma’s warning, she heads for Bishamonten’s shrine, looking for him specifically.

Everyone has been insisting Yukine must be destroyed. And here Kazuma asks one last time for Yato to release Yukine from his bond, which Yato refuses. Continue reading

Noragami: Episode 8

The ultimate sin is…vandalism?

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Right from the get go I am torn. On the one hand, the male-character-mistaken-for-peeper gag is so old, it has ceased being funny. Is it only that way because anime has trained me to find it habitual? Who knows. Whatever the reason it just stopped having even the glimmer of interest years ago.

On the other hand, watching Hiyori, specifically, beat on three boys with a broom for two minutes straight can’t be bad for you.

Wait, three? Yes, the third is Yato’s client.  Hiyori is all sympathy for him, of course.  Which I like, actually. Hiyori’s compassion is, quite certainly, a character flaw. And it’s always there, it’s nice that it doesn’t just exist for the sake of making Yukine look bad, and then EVERY other time it’s reeled into normal-person levels. Even when it’s with a random guy in the girl’s bathroom.

Speaking of little shits, Yukine loathes this client, who is looking to be saved from bullies. Yato only comments that Yukine hates what he sees in himself.  Yato then gives the boy advice and a “something”.  The sound effects used and the dialogue are meant to make you think it’s a gun, but that would be so cliche you say “No, this isn’t a PSA movie from the 1980s, this is Noragami, what is it really?”

Yukine storms out, and he will again abandon our other two heroes for the remainder of the episode.

Hiyori is freaking, asking what Yato was thinking.  Yato’s response is he is merely providing a mode of action.

It is a chaotic attitude, and one the “god of calamity” would almost certainly have.  It plays to that strong characterization that the kami have in this series.  You or I might say, “Stand up to them,” or “tell a teacher”, or “sticks and stones, nyah nyah”, or whatever trite garbage the elementary psychologist drilled into your heads when you were younger.  But Yato doesn’t have that education, nor even those values.  He doesn’t even REALLY care which way this goes.

I think it goes back to what I suggested about why Yato holds out on fixing Hiyori (or stringing her along that he CAN fix her). He holds her in his pocket because he wants to make a strong impression.  And to handle it so dramatically will leave an impression on the boy (his name is Manabu).  One thing is for sure, if Manabu doesn’t confront them, or confronts them in an ineffectual way, it will continue, and his prayers will NOT be answered.  In such a situation, by a person like Yato’s reasoning, action would be better than that, and it doesn’t matter WHAT the action is, but to do nothing is stagnation and that is almost certainly the opposite of fixing a problem. Now, is this what is in Manabu’s best interests? Probably not.  Because this could have resolved in so many bad ways (we’ll get to that later), but I don’t think Yato is operating from the realm of compassion.  He is rolling a gamble. He will solve it or go for broke.

Insert obligatory “god helps only those who help themselves first” nonsense.
Continue reading

Noragami: Episode 7

*Twitch, twitch*

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There’s nothing wrong with averting expectations. I want to make that very clear before I explain a little grudge I have against the finale of this episode.  But in so doing, you need to do -something-, because otherwise you feel like you’re treading water.  And really that’s the feeling I have right now: that Noragami is stalling for time.  Or, even worse, is more aimless than it originally let on.  Which was pretty aimless to begin with.

However an important part of this week comes at the very begining, that of greying the sides in this conflict between Yato and Bishamonten.  We meet the latter at her bath with her regalia, Kazuma.  Kazuma is relieved that his master is set on getting rid of the phantoms she feels responsible for. He raises his voice at her, but she is already planning to take care of them first before going back after Yato.

After the credits roll Hiyori is bringing snacks to Yukine.  It doesn’t exactly bug me, it certainly helps with the masquerade and all, but this is really just all part of one big point to mess with your expectations.  Nay, to turn your expectations into desires.  I’ll explain this when we get to the REAL crime this episode.

Anyway, Yato is waiting for her instead.  Yukine ran away, and Yato doesn’t really care, so long as he’s around when the monsters show up.

Surmising it’s most logical that Yukine be at Tenjin’s, Hiyori goes there. Yukine WAS there, but Tenjin turned down making him a regalia.  The reason would be he would become a Nora.  It seems to be a title, not a specific name (though perhaps one inspired the other).  Now, Tenjin’s regalia blush as if he’s talking about something dirty, thus reinforcing my opinion of Tenjin as a dirty old man.  This explains why Nora had SO MANY marks on her arms and legs. Nora aren’t trusted because they have divided loyalties.

Oh is that a fact Noragami?  Oh-ho-ho-ho-hoooo…we’ll be getting to THAT soon as well. Continue reading

Noragami: Episode 6

…Brain, prepare a new bed for the new waifu.

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This week started with Yukine in bed. He’s been moping since last week from the looks of things.  Hiyori tries her best to cheer him up, but really? She’s missing the point.  Hiyori thinks Yukine’s just sad about the girl dying.  While I’m sure he is, it’s much more personal than that.

As we discussed last week, Yukine has a very low self-esteem, and this week he will share that Yato killed the little girl phantom against his will. He’s feeling violated and helpless, which doesn’t help his naturally low self-esteem and the fears that everyone is waiting for him to cock up.

Hiyori leaves some cookies and cocoa by the door. Yukine just runs out, knocking over the teats and showing us the cocoa slowly creeping over the cookies. SYMBOLISM!

I expected better of you, Noragami.

Yukine’s actually really nervous, casting barriers against even the tiniest of phantoms.  And the stress and fear just breaks him down, causing him to act on his impulses and steal a skateboard.

So we finally understand the truth.  As Yukine gives into temptation we see a flash of a phantom eye, and Yato reels in pain.

Remember last week how we learned that some of the Regalia powers are based on negative emotions? Well what is a Phantom here? Just a spirit that wallows in negativity. It is corruption.

Regalia are, pardon the expression, a double edged sword.  Kami need regalia to be pure souls.  But they are still Human, at their core.  And now we see that spot Yato has been clutching is dark. The same corruption from when Yato touched the Phantom way back in episode 2. Now, it’s still unclear if regalia NEED those negative emotions (they certainly seem to for the barriers), but by its very nature we already see the yo-yo game that the Kami play with them.  And it partly explains why Yato has such a low opinion of weakness.

Yato stops Yukine in the street, and Hiyori finds them.  Well that worked out for the best. Yukine lies by saying Hiyori bought the skateboard for him, and Hiyori, though she doesn’t seem like she wants to, covers for him.  She is clearly having flashbacks to the way Yato’s eyes looked, and how he said he would cast divine judgment on Yukine.  Yato doesn’t seem like he believes it, but he’ll pick his battles.

When they’re attacked by biker chick…lion chick?

Anyway her name’s Bishamonten.

Oh fuck, clever, Noragami. Gender bending a well known deity? I can’t say I disapprove of this.   Continue reading

Noragami: Episode 5

Why do you want my tears?

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Yato has a new trick for Yukine. How to create a barrier.  It seems Yukine’s on the fast track for his student stuff, and even his very first barrier is more powerful than Yato anticipated.  I think it’s interesting to note that the emotions of a barrier here are fear and hatred, specifically.  So does the fact Yukine can create a professional-seeming barrier line indicate the innate fear and hatred inside him? Or is it just another facet of his apparent status as prodigy?  Or maybe ALL Regalia powers are based off what we would deem “negative” emotions, and Yukine is full of them (this episode doesn’t seem to disprove that).

On being questioned about Nora, Yato deflects it by saying she’s a “friend with benefits”.  …The OP doesn’t disagree with you, exactly, Yato. But I think you’re just doing your Zatoichi thing again.

Well this is the last straw. Hiyori will be looking after Yukine, unable to leave such an innocent boy with a pervert like Yato.

Well Yukine has impure thoughts being smooshed into Hiyori’s breasts (can you REALLY blame him?) and this sends Yato into fits of pain.  He can feel every impure thought Yukine has, and he isn’t about to let himself be turned into the human…um…kami pin-cushion just for Hiyori’s peace of mind.  It’s a cute way of reminding us about this connection, while doing so in a way that isn’t just a re-hashed infodump.

However, Hiyori is convinced that Yukine is a “good boy”, and this praise, unlike Yato who praises his skills and talent, seems to make Yukine uncomfortable.  It’s very subtle to note the change between both compliments (hard to track them on opposite sides of the OP), and I love it.

Well they eventually decide to let Yukine choose. And he doesn’t need more than three seconds to decide he’d rather be in a normal house with Hiyori than sleeping in a shrine that doesn’t even belong to him like Yato.

Well she brings him home, and her house is enormous. Even by American standards.

And when Hiyori’s parents return home…

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…oh. My. God. That face. That fucking face. I am going to die.  HE JUST KEEPS MOVING WITH IT ON! Jesus, dial it down like ten notches, Stalker-kun. Continue reading

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. Continue reading