Original Run: Jan 5, 2014 to Mar 23, 2014
Genres: Action, Comedy, Supernatural
Yato is a minor deity without a shrine who dreams of becoming a widely revered god. He takes odd jobs for five yen apiece and is a long way away from seeing his dream fulfilled, particularly since even his weapon deserts him. After a middle school girl, Iki Hiyori, injures herself while trying to save him from an accident, she entails his help to piece together her fractured soul. As they both set out to find a new weapon-partner for Yato, Hiyori is further pulled into the world of the gods. Meanwhile, Yato’s past threatens to come back to haunt him.
Recently, I watched three popular anime in rapid succession: Attack on Titan, Hataraku Maou-sama and Noragami. I love AoT as my review shows and while I’m mostly indifferent to Hataraku Maou-sama, it was easy and at times entertaining to watch. But getting through Noragami’s 12 episodes was a real and often painful struggle. The only reason I didn’t drop the show was because I wanted to find if it would redeem itself at some point.
Noragami starts out fine. It introduces a world of gods and phantoms that remain invisible to human eyes while influencing human lives. Yato, the penniless god with big dreams, and Hiyori, the human girl whose rescue of Yato damages her soul, are both interesting characters and their interactions demonstrate the colliding of two entirely different worlds in a humorous light. The first few episodes are episodic in nature, featuring some of the jobs Yato takes on along with Yukine, a young spirit who becomes his new weapon/partner, while Hiyori hounds him on the matter of her soul’s tendency to detach from her body.
I have two main issues with the plot. One is Yukine’s arc which is far too lengthy and thus results in the lack of a substantial storyline. The other is how the show can’t decide if it wants to be comedic or serious and haphazardly vacillates between the two. Firstly, let’s look at Yukine. A fair number of episodes in the middle focus on Yukine and his issues, which are the result of him dying so young (mid-teens) and missing out on life. His character arc takes up the majority of the story and becomes tiresome quite easily. While it is understandable that Yukine can’t quite cope with his new existence, it’s hard to muster any sympathy for him when all we see is his negative side over and over without any redeeming characteristics whatsoever. Meanwhile the two ‘authority figures’ in his life, Yato and Hiyori, adopt completely different and equally ineffective methods in dealing with him which amps up the frustration. Even when Yukine ‘gets better’, it’s mostly because of the effort of others and the method itself – the supernatural version of a beating – is very unsavory. I saw the arc come to and with no little amount of relief while giving zero fucks about Yukine himself.
Noragami blends comedic and serious elements without finding any sort of balance between the two. For instance, one instance of near-suicide is treated gravely and the other lightly, the latter of which happens to include a ridiculously long fall that culminates in the most pointless solution I have ever seen. And I never thought I’d say this but, the aforementioned fall aside, the funny bits are far superior to the rest. I’m someone who usually prefers action and drama over comedy but Noragami handles its serious moments too messily for it to be palatable. It touches up on grave and relevant issues like suicide, bullying, self-harm, corporal punishment and deals with them all in a way that is not only tasteless but also offensive (I’m working on a post on this, should be up next week).
Noragami is the first anime I’ve watched in a while that I actively disliked. It was a struggle to get through and I will not be watching the second season, even though the general consensus seems to be that it’s better than the first.
Most of Noragami revolves around the main trio – Yato, Hiyori and Yukine. There are a lot of minor characters, gods and humans, some of whom are recurring characters. Yato is the obscure god of a protagonist who’s laidback and goofy most of the time but has a more serious side that comes out when the occasion calls for it. His ambition to be a known and revered god seems almost hopeless in the light of his lack of work and the meager offerings he receives as payment. The show somewhat explores his dark past where he was a drastically different person. His contrasting characteristics lend a certain amount of intrigue to Yato. There’s clearly more to him that meets the eye and he is definitely the show’s best character.
Iki Hiyori starts out as an interesting heroine but soon enough degenerates into a typical schoolgirl character without much depth. Her role as a newcomer to the world of the gods allows the viewers to understand and explore Noragami’s setting. Otherwise, her actions and decisions mostly revolve around Yato and Yukine and their issues. Even the task of finding how to keep her body and spirit together (literally) is soon abandoned so that she can stay in Yato’s world. Hiyori had the potential to be an excellent character – and I am impressed by that kick of hers – but unfortunately, she takes the backseat while Yato and Yukine work out their problems.
Then we have Yukine who seems to be deliberately written to be as irritating as possible. He’s portrayed as a bit of a brat from the beginning but he soon devolves into extremely petty behavior that makes it hard to sympathize with his character, especially since a more positive side is not shown to even mildly balance out the negative. By the time he became more tolerable, it was too late to actually care about him. Apart from these three, we have a handful of other gods and regalia, most of whom are pretty memorable.
Art and Music:
Noragami’s art and animation is the generic, good-quality kind that is typical to most modern anime. What does stand out is the bright, cartoonish design of the phantoms which I liked for how it stood apart from everything else and conveyed a sense of otherness. The action sequences – at least the ones where there is some prolonged fighting involved rather than the one-slash-kill fights with the phantoms – are very good.
The music is not really to my taste, though the OP is pretty catchy. The ED is slow, soothing and unremarkable. None of the OST tracks really stood out but they weren’t bad.
Not a bad show per se but it does drag a lot and its treatment of a few issues rubbed me the wrong way. The sequel is supposedly better but I have no interest in finding out for myself.