I can’t believe I haven’t already reviewed this anime given it is one of my favourites and regularly makes appearances on my top 5 lists including Most Fun Titles From Bones and Best Uses of Phone in an anime. Though none of that tells you what Noragami is about.
Noragami is about Yato, a god without a shrine who dreams of being worshipped and earning enough money to build a shrine, but mostly he runs odd jobs for 5 yen coins and is promptly forgotten. One day Hiyori sees Yato while he is searching for a lost cat and thinks he’s about to get hit by a bus so pushes him out of the way. As a result, her soul now slips out of her body and she can see gods and phantoms. Later, Yato recruits Yukine (a human soul) to become his regalia (a weapon that a god can fight with).
By the way, my review of season 2 of this will come out just after New Year’s and will by 200th anime series review.
Noragami is one of those anime that I instantly fell in love with. From the opening song, to the vibrant colours, the decent action and interesting powers, the humour and the drama, everything just hit for me right from episode 1. Possibly it is because we don’t start with the normal character introduction and then something weird happens but instead we see a super dramatic world with a voice over of a girl who is in desperate pain and the voices of those tormenting her. Just as things hit their worst and you think something truly horrible is about to happen, a single coin is flipped through the air and a confident voice declares that their wish has been heard.
This is how we meet Yato who enters in very cool fashion but even in this first fight we see that he’s a bit of a goof ball as he doesn’t exactly take the fastest path to victory. Then the fight ends and in the midst of the usual victor’s monologue his weapon berates him and asks to be turned back. Enter a very crabby female who accuses the god of having sweaty hands and the show sets it tone for the rest of the series.
There’s real drama and human emotion, but the show isn’t trying to drag you through the depths of despair. There is really over the top comedy, just watch the episode with the character who attempts suicide by jumping off the roof and how Yato goes through the process of exchanging cards with the guy and discusses his life story during the plummet (to which even the side characters start wondering how tall the building must be) and you will get a good idea that this show isn’t trying to be deadly serious in its presentation. The show cuts from serious, to insane, to stupid, and back again in the space of one line of dialogue and yet somehow manages not to feel like a mish mash of ideas but rather like this is exactly what they were aiming for.
Adding to this, the three main characters have excellent chemistry and are all inherently interesting in their own way. Hiyori does get a little bit short changed later in the season as her more interesting attributes kind of get levelled out and she mostly ends up just being support and worrying about Yato, but she’s still great value as a friend/potential love interest/only person who ever actually remembers Yato. She also gets shoved into the role of damsel in distress which is a little irksome given earlier in the season, even though she was definitely being rescued, she was at least trying to be helpful and hold her own ground in situations that were well over her head.
Yukine is my least favourite of the group, and yet I still really love his character development. He’s a little bit childish and selfish, though you kind of understand why given he died young and while we’re not given specifics we are given enough to know his life wasn’t exactly great. He also causes Yato a lot of problems which leads to one of the more dramatic moments in the first season. I know some viewers don’t like what happens to Yukine but given the context of the story it is a fairly good arc and the conclusion is incredibly tense.
That said, the real star of the show is Yato. His character is up and down and all over the place and it will be a long time into the series before you as a viewer start to see which parts are the real Yato and which parts are performance. He’s lived a long time and seen a lot and everything has left its mark on him and those experiences make him who he is. That makes him a fairly complex and interesting character, who also happens to be a lot of fun to watch.
I really enjoy the designs of the characters, particularly some of the support cast and I love the range of designs and powers for the gods and regalia. This story opens up near endless possibilities and the ones that are explored are highly entertaining. Bishamon leaves the largest impression with her tribe of regalia and her seemingly unreasonable hatred for Yato but she isn’t the only god we encounter during this season and the others all manage to leave their mark on the narrative.
However, this is a review and not a love letter and so I do have to point out that the finale of season 1 is not great. The issue with Bishamon is kind of dealt with (though it will be season 2 before the show adequately deals with that and I’ll review that later) and the show shifts to bringing in a character from Yato’s past for a fight scene that really just feels like they wanted to end the season with a dramatic clash of swords. Possibly this ending could have worked except that it wasn’t as interesting as the fight with Bishamon and it seemed to come more or less out of nowhere just to round out the season. They did build some ties in with earlier events, but mostly it just feels like filler which is more or less what it is given it has no bearing on season 2.
Otherwise, I really loved this anime. It is one of those shows I love to binge watch because it just has a sense of fun but doesn’t feel frivolous and it combines great action with humour and just a little bit of darkness. This anime has also worked well as an introduction for non-anime fans as they kind of get caught up in the weirdness of it fairly quickly (that’s assuming they have a sense of humour and don’t mind action/comedy).
I’d love to know your thoughts on Noragami.
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