Before I get into the review I just want to have a minor celebration as this is officially my 200th anime series review. It seems incredibly that I’ve reviewed that many shows and my list of anime that I want to review never seems to get any shorter. While it isn’t quite up to date, you can always check out my list of previously reviewed series here and if I haven’t reviewed something feel free to contact me with a suggestion.
A few weeks ago I reviewed season one of Noragami, and now I am back reviewing season 2. Season 2 begins by refocusing on Bishamon’s grudge against Yato and that carries us through the first half of the season before we transition into a story involving Yato’s past and Ebisu, a god of fortune. Incidentally, I looked up what Aragoto meant and found a few explanations but MAL actually had an interview with the director and kind of directly explained why that was the title of this second season:
What does “ARAGOTO” mean?
Because it’s written in English, “Aragoto” stands for both 荒事(theatrical fighting scene), and 新事 (something new). Season 2 will be more serious, and we wanted that to come across in the title. Also, Noragami is about old Shinto gods fitting in with modern Japan, so we felt that using the alphabet fit that theme better.
There’s also a pretty good explanation of the different gods in the show and Shinto as a whole (brief but informative) so if you want some background it might be worth checking it out (not that any of it is needed to understand the show it just helped satisfy some of my curiosity).
I know I’ve said it before, but I really love this series. The first season is so energetic and fun with just enough action and drama to off-set the somewhat silly comedic moments and the characters really just draw me in. Well, season 2 is better. In every single way it could be better, season 2 is better.
Starting with the opening theme, while there is nothing wrong at all with the opening of season 1, season 2’s opening has the perfect mix of energy and drama with some really well-chosen visuals to get you ready for the show you are about to watch. More importantly, you know from the beginning that the focus is moving away from the comedy, daily life of a stray god to a heavier action focus in this second series. There’s no doubt what this opening is setting you up for, but you also know that this show hasn’t forgotten about fun in its bid to become more serious and dramatic.
All of the characters have grown since season 1 and are continuing to grow and change (which is a real theme of this second season). We aren’t getting introduced to the world of gods and regalia anymore as we are now fully immersed in it. This leaves Hiyori out during a lot of the early part of the series but her presence as a connection to the near shore (or living world) remains a crucial anchor for both Yato and Yukine and while Hiyori’s screen time may be diminished, she makes every second she is on screen count.
Yukine has also fared well from his growth in season 1. Here he is more determined and committed to his path as a regalia. Yato doesn’t always make it easy to have faith in him but Yukine manages (with some encouragement from Kazume and Hiyori) to stick with it and to stand by his god with some fairly impressive growth both in strength and personality as a result. His evolution as a weapon is one thing and the most literal way you can see Yukine has changed but it is more his mind-set that has really transitioned in this season. No more do we see the jealous and petulant child who died too early or the reluctantly dragged along side-kick. We see someone who has chosen to stay with Yato even knowing that it won’t always be easy.
But it is Yato who will steal the show as the second half of the season delves into his complex back story (and yet still manages to leave us wanting so much more from this). Season 1 gave us a glimpse of the calamity god that Yato is often accused of being and here we see Yato struggling to cut ties with his past and to find what he actually wants for his future. There are so many fantastic moments for Yato during this second season, though by far my favourites include his reaction when Hiyori presents him with his own shrine (which was part of the mid-season transition between the two main story arcs and was far better than the usual mid-season filler shows throw up) and then a very touching sequence (also involving Hiyori) toward the end of the anime. Mostly I loved the imagery of the child Yato reaching out to take Hiyori’s metaphorical hand. It was kind of perfect.
Still, while the three main characters all have their shining moments the support cast this season are truly exceptional. Kazuma and Bishamon are fantastic in the first half of this series. Though this conflict was introduced and set up in season 1, seeing it play out and seeing the relationship between Kazuma and Bishamon in this season is fantastic. Finally learning the truth behind the grudge and seeing Yato and Bishamon face off is everything you could want. It is also an intriguing glance at the lives of other gods as season 1 really only showed us Yato and Tenjin with Bishamon being a source of conflict. Now we see her life behind the scenes and understand her a great deal more because of it. Even after this conflict is resolved it isn’t as though Bishamon is now going to be best friends with Yato as some resentments run deep.
And as that conflict is tied up we see Ebisu enter the story. He’s an intentionally ambiguous character and you won’t really get a fix on his motives until nearly the end of the series, but he makes for a fascinating character. He also shows us yet another relationship between god and regalia and gives us more insight into the concept of what death means for a god and reincarnation.
We also have more of Nora and Yato’s father (who still remains suspiciously out of sight until the very end – and where is season 3 because I really want more of this story). Nora was a scene stealer back in season 1 and what I realised watching season 2 is that a little Nora goes a long way. During the second half of the series, Yato goes on an extended trip to the underworld with Nora and her ongoing presence makes her less enigmatic. She still works very well in her assigned character role but her impact is a little diminished by the quality of every other character and by her extended screen time this season.
Both of the two main plots we get in this second season are rewarding and both have some very decent action sequences. The show hasn’t forgotten those comedic moments but they are timed well and don’t interfere with the flow of the final episodes of either narrative arc, finding their place earlier in the story arcs or in the build up to the climax rather than during.
Visually the show maintains its great animation and the character designs remain interesting and diverse despite the increase in characters. Bones have done a phenomenal job with this show and while it isn’t unique looking by any means, it is easy on the eyes and the colours are quite striking. I particularly enjoyed the underworld sequences and how those were put together. I might criticise the diminished number and design of the phantoms in this season though it makes sense given for the majority of the season Yato isn’t aimlessly taking out lone phantoms but is embroiled in larger narratives now.
All and all, Noragami Aragoto is exactly what you would want from a sequel of Noragami. It maintains the energetic and fun feel of the first season while delving deeper into the characters and the established world. It is a little bit darker and the stakes seem much higher at times in this sequel but it avoids feeling like a repeat of a story we’ve already seen or like something completely alien. A fantastic follow up and this is a series that certainly deserves to continue so I’ll ask again, where is season 3?
Thanks for reading.
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