As always, thank God for anime on Netflix. I wouldn’t be able to get exposure to half the shows I’ve wanted to check out (and Hulu Plus only goes so far sometimes). It’s because of the streaming platform (and hopefully TV’s successor) that I get to enjoy something quirky like Noragami, a tale of gods, schoolgirls, and secret epic battles in the street.
Hiyori Iki, a clumsy junior high student with a surprising interest in martial arts athletes, ends up crossing paths with a strange fellow named Yato. However, pushing him out of the way of an oncoming bus ends up partially severing her soul from her body. Now caught between two worlds, Hiyori finds herself working alongside Yato, who’s revealed to be a minor god in the Japanese pantheon, earning loose change by fulfilling wishes.
Yato agrees to help Hiyori find a way to restore her old life, but the road ahead is complicated with evil spirits known as Phantoms, rival gods like Bishamon, and a sinister Regalia spirit that used to be Yato’s weapon in battle. Fortunately, he’s got a new ally in the form of Yukine, the ghost of a boy who becomes his new Regalia, or divine weapon for slaying Phantoms.
So what does Noragami have to offer as an anime?
Very deep roots in Japanese culture.
I’ve watched plenty of anime over the years, but this show seemed very grounded in all the obvious hallmarks of Japanese culture, from female students in sailor outfits and cat girls to single-stroke katana duels and New Year’s Eve visits to shrines. Of course, this all feels justified given the fact that the show’s about a minor Japanese god and how he fits in (or doesn’t, more often) with contemporary society. It’s an exploration of the question, “What do modern people needs with the old gods, anyway?”
Subtle and enthralling animation.
Crazy extended fight scenes? Check. Glowing runes? Double check. Obligatory power-up sequences rendered in swirling light patterns? Yes, Noragami has that in spades.
Even if you’re not a fan of some characters or plotlines, you can still enjoy the depth of color and detail in this anime. The Phantoms are always eye-catching and Yato himself undergoes a few subtle shifts from goofy grins to dead-eyed malice.
One awesome opening theme.
“Goya no Machiawase” by Hello Sleepwalkers. Go listen to it already.
Faith as a weapon.
At times, it can feel like our protagonist, Hiyori Iki, is little more than a damsel in distress for Yato and Yukine to save from Phantoms and rival gods. However, Hiyori’s defining virtue is her determination, highlighted by her love of martial arts and her dedication to adventuring with Yato, even when the smart thing to do would be for her to cut ties with him.
And that’s rather the point, isn’t it? A single devout believer can make the difference, especially to a once-great god like Yato. The anime never has to spell it out for the audience, but it delivers the message all the same through Yato and Hiyori’s relationship.
While I’m not usually a fan of some of the wacky animation in Japanese humor, I did enjoy Noragami for its colorful pantheon of gods and how they interacted with humans like Hiyori, from gentle and informative to cold and imperious. Hiyori herself was an interesting twist on the clumsy girl protagonist with her martial arts enthusiasm (I swear I kept confusing her for Tohru Honda from Fruits Basket at times). It’s not a bad series, though it makes a little more sense if you’ve watched similar shows already.
Bibliography: Noragami (anime). Directed by Kotaro Tamura. Written by Deko Akao. Based on the manga by Adachitoka. Bones (studio). Funimation Entertainment (US). Original run: January 5, 2014 – March 23, 2014.