When I saw Icebreaker’s review of Noragami, I decided to put it on my watch list…let’s just say that there may be a lot of reviews soon for twelve episode anime 😅. I don’t spend my free time wisely.
Fan art link: Noragami
Summary: In times of need, if you look in the right place, you just may see a strange telephone number scrawled in red. If you call this number, you will hear a young man introduce himself as the Yato God. Yato is a minor deity and a self-proclaimed “Delivery God,” who dreams of having millions of worshippers. Without a single shrine dedicated to his name, however, his goals are far from being realized. He spends his days doing odd jobs for five yen apiece, until his weapon partner becomes fed up with her useless master and deserts him. Just as things seem to be looking grim for the god, his fortune changes when a middle school girl, Hiyori Iki, supposedly saves Yato from a car accident, taking the hit for him. Remarkably, she survives, but the event has caused her soul to become loose and hence able to leave her body. Hiyori demands that Yato return her to normal, but upon learning that he needs a new partner to do so, reluctantly agrees to help him find one. And with Hiyori’s help, Yato’s luck may finally be turning around. Link: MAL
Story: 3.5/5: I’ve seen this sort of dynamic before, but it had fresh twists and turns that kept me interested. There were a few logic problems that were never cleared up (like how Hiyori was able to see Yato in the first place when no other human can), but they will hopefully be answered in the next season and/or the manga. Even though the story did have some clichès in it, it was enjoyable, fun, and surprisingly touching.
Characters: 4.5/5: I would’ve rated this higher, but I wanted some more development with the minor characters too, as they were just as interesting as the leads. However, the characters were my favorite part and made this anime much more memorable. Yato, the “delivery god” is one of the most interesting lead characters I’ve come across in a while; his character is slowly unraveled to show that yes, he may be silly, cheerful and optimistic, (sometimes overly so), but he does have a darker, serious side to him, as well as a…complicated past, to put it mildly. Without many supporters, he’s taken on many “wishes” he’s not proud of. He’s an antihero that you may not agree with all the time, but is overall likable and interesting. Hiyori’s character is good, but needs work; unlike most “window” characters, she’s actually normal; bright, but not the smartest, cheerful, but can be serious, has unique interests (like martial arts), and reacts normally. She may be a damsel in distress sometimes, but it’s balanced out by the times she saves others. However, her role as the heart and window of the show gets muddled; she can come across as a side character rather than a lead character. Then there’s Yukine; Yato’s Regalia who can transform into a sword. He’s rather bratty and has no shortage of faults. His journey, to me at least, is a coming of age story; even if his struggle is mainly his anger at life after death, it has many similarities to coming of age stories: he messes up big time, he can be bratty and unsympathetic, makes dumb choices, and in the end, comes to realize how much pain he’s caused not only others, but himself. The supporting characters like Kofuku (goddess of poverty) and Daikoku (her Regalia) are fun and add more layers to the story, but then other characters like Bishamon (goddess of war) and Kazuma (her most trusted Regalia) I feel, deserve to be explored more, which I’ve heard happens in Aragoto, so yay! And Nora is an intriguing, rather eerie antagonist.
Animation: 4/5: The animation overall was good, there was just one thing that bugged me; the sequence in which Yato starts a fight with Yukine becoming the sword (Sekki) is recycled…a lot. It’s used way too much, sometimes even twice in one episode. Although it’s a nice piece of animation, I don’t want to see it every episode. But other than that, the animation is nice, crisp, and flows well. Especially in fight sequences! It never becomes murky or difficult to follow. The art can even have its own stunning, beautiful moments too, outside of fights. And can I just mention the eyes? Every character has such gorgeous eyes.
Soundtrack: 3.5/5: The OST did a nice job of blending newer rhythms and older pieces of music to create a sound that sounds modern and fresh while having a distinctly mythical, oriental vibe. It’s very pretty and unique, but sometimes ends up simply blending into the background without standing out. There are exceptions, however, and some soundtrack pieces help influence and add tension to a scene while standing on its own. The opening track was really good and looked and sounded cool. The rock sound complements the anime, and the black and white visuals with splashes of color looked really different and unique.
World Building: 4.5/5: At only twelve episodes, Noragami did a good job at fleshing out its world and integrating mythology, rules and laws. It’s the first anime I’ve seen that includes a lot of Japanese mythology, and I found that aspect interesting to watch.
- A new take on the lead “trio“: One thing I particularly liked was Yato, Hiyori, and Yukine’s bond. They felt less like a group of friends and more like a family, particularly Yato towards Yukine. The sacrifices and pain he went through for Yukine is similar to the relationship between a parent and adopted child. And Hiyori is definitely the “mom friend” of the group. In just a short twelve episode span, it’s proven that the bond between these three is incredibly strong, unlike many other shows where it takes whole seasons to show that much.
- Incorporating mythology: I haven’t really seen a lot of anime that incorporates mythology (does Spirited Away with its wide variety of spirits or Death Note with its Shinigami count?) so this was a first. I felt as if the culture added more layers to the story and characters, and added a fresh spin that I personally haven’t really seen before. I’m typically a little iffy on this sort of thing in fact, so maybe Noragami will inspire me to watch even more mythology based anime.
- Complex lead: So many things I’ve read or watched recently have intriguing leads, but it’s the way Yato’s character is slowly revealed that makes him stand out. It doesn’t feel rushed or too slow, it feels natural. He feels very human despite being a god, and that helps his character a lot. Whether it be because of his mysterious backstory, his dedication to Yukine, his neediness when it comes to Hiyori, the contradiction of his status (he’s a god, but he’s homeless and literally charges 5 yen per wish), but he is one of the more complex and layered protagonists I’ve come across lately.
- I don’t really have a title for this one, but…I feel like the way they portrayed suicide needed a lot of work. It may be that I really like psychology, but some stuff didn’t sit right with me. Like episode 3; Yato wanted to stop the suicides, but only because of the Regalia and how each of those souls didn’t want to die. He went on to explain that souls who committed suicide can’t become Regalia. To me, this is similar to the belief that people who commit suicide can’t go to heaven (and as I come from a religious family, I know there is nothing to suggest that). That line of thinking bugs me, as it removes any accountability. And episode 8 as a whole bothered me too, as it also removed accountability.
- The last three episodes: I’ve heard that the last three episodes are anime original content, and I hate to admit it, but it felt obvious. They were really just filler action episodes, easily skippable. All they did was add more intrigue towards Yato’s past, which wasn’t necessary, as we’ve already gotten a lot of interest due to Kofuku’s hints and Bishamon’s hatred towards him. They were just sub-par and made me lose some of the emotional investment I’d had till then. But I heard that season 2 gets way better, thankfully.
- Hiyori’s portrayal: She’s a good character, I will say that. I like how she isn’t the typical “normal” character who is supposed to act normal but just acts stupid. She’s more realistic than that. But for some reason, her character felt less like a lead and more like a side character, which isn’t good at all; she’s part of the main trio. Maybe this’ll be fixed in the second season or in the manga. But the thing is, I can’t explain WHY she feels like a supporting character, rather than she just does.
Rating: : 3.5/5: I would’ve loved to give this a 4, but the last three episodes dropped the quality too much for me. But the characters, mythology, interesting layer of mystery, and positive reception ensure that I will check out Aragoto as soon as I can. Even though Noragami has had good reception, I feel as though it’s still under the radar. I hope this will change with time; despite its flaws, this was a fun, touching series with good animation and twists.