Behind Every Great Anime Protagonist Is A Great Supporting Cast

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Previously I’ve looked at reasons why being a villain would suck and I’ve certainly looked at various characters on my blog and why they shine, but with the exception of Natsume (see the supporter battle Irina and I worked on), I seldom discuss the supporting cast and their importance in making or breaking a series. Which is something I decided I needed to change because the more I think about it the more I come to realise that great characters don’t occur in isolation.

For every character I’ve connected with or instantly fell in love with and wanted more of, surrounding them is usually a plethora of well written, developed and interesting characters. Each one holding up their end of the story and playing the role they need to play in a way that allows the protagonist to shine.

Obi from Snow White With The Red Hair
Obi is a fantastic supporting cast member in Snow White With The Red Hair. See my top 5 favourite moments with him.

However, this also highlights my general problem with harem anime (whether standard harem, reverse harem, or not a harem but using more or less the same tropes). That is, generally (not always), while there might be good characters in the anime, they aren’t working to complement each other. The focus is on each of the girls (or guys) standing out from the others with a distinct visual and personality. Their job is to carve out their own niche audience and fan group rather than support a main character or even the cast as a whole. As a direct result, the supporting characters pull attention away from what frequently turns out to be a fairly dull protagonist and because of the shared screen time none of the supporting characters ever really feels fully realised (again, generalising).

Going through some of my favourite characters, or characters I am drawn to, I can see time and again, that a lot of what makes them so amazing comes from those surrounding them.

March Comes in Like a Lion (I promise this isn’t another love letter) has Rei at its centre with the Kawamoto sisters as almost dueteragonists. Particularly in the second season where Akari becomes a major focus for a large arc. All four of these characters are fantastically written and interesting characters and honestly I’d probably happily watch them just stay inside the Kawamoto house and interact at this point.

But, that wasn’t what drew me to the show and to Rei early on before the deep connections were formed and I learned more about these characters. Whether it was Nikaido as a self-proclaimed best friend, Shimada as a mentor character, Kyoko and Goto as potential antagonists, the members of the Science/Shogi club… every single character we encounter (even the one episode rival shogi players) felt like a fully realised character that helped to flesh out the world. More importantly they gave Rei a wide range of people to respond to and react to bringing out more of Rei’s personality and pain and allowing the audience to feel that he was also a fully realised character rather than just a one note ‘tragic young shogi player’.

Yuri on Ice Episode 6
Yuri and Victor

On a lighter note, Victor and Yuri from Yuri on Ice are amazing. No question I loved watching the two of them interact and grow closer together. I would happily watch more of just the two of them. But again, that wasn’t the immediate draw. What draws you in to Yuri on Ice are all the small touches throughout, including every supporting cast member we meet feeling like they have their own story to tell and just being fun.

Yuri on Ice Episode 7 - Yuri's family

Whether it is Yurio running from his fan club, JJ and his over-bearing confidence, Yuri’s family and their support, all of the characters bring something to the mix that helps to elevate the whole shoe and provide a context for Yuri and Victor’s relationship to grow within.

However, even something like Noragami, where I genuinely love Yato, it is again the support cast that manage to bring out his full charm. Hiyori and Yuki stand with him and each brings something relatable and interesting to the story, but the other gods, the regalia, Hiyori’s friends, those who call Yato, even the phantoms, each of them add something to the story and while we may not get a huge amount of time with them, or back story, they are a delight to meet and interact with.

Noragami

Where Noragami manages to go even further is in the portrayal of Nora who remains for most of season one an incredibly enigmatic figure but one who is sufficiently built up that when she takes a more active role in season two it doesn’t feel like she’s come from nowhere. It feels like a natural extension of where her story had been heading from the beginning and it is largely through her interactions with Yato that more of Yato’s past can be revealed to the audience.

My Hero Academia Support Cast

Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it in terms of whether a great support cast can make or break a show and a protagonist. Look at My Hero Academia. I like Midoriya, I really do, but he isn’t a particularly memorable character on his own. It is the zany cast that surrounds him early on that fills the anime with so much energy and enthusiasm and allows Midoriya the chance to grow into his role as both protagonist and hero. There’s almost as much fan art around plenty of his classmates as there is of him (and of some characters I’d bet there’s even more).

When creating something it is important to remember that while the protagonist will probably be the character people remember, a great protagonist on their own doesn’t normally carry the story alone (unless they are Tom Hanks in Cast Away in which case I still give the award for best supporting cast member to the Volleyball). It is the support cast that create the space and opportunities for the protagonist to be who they need to be and draw out the best of the main character.

Cast Away - Tom Hanks and Wilson

So remember, behind every great protagonist is a great supporting cast. Or a really emotive volleyball.

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Karandi James
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Up Close with Yato

Yato is a character with a fairly strong fan base and after watching Noragami and then its sequel, Noragami Aragoto, it is pretty easy to see why. For a penniless character who spends a lot of time mooching off of others he’s incredibly charming, funny, as well as a character who elicits genuine sympathy once more of his story is revealed. In the context of who Yato is and what he’s gone through, his occasional bouts of silliness are fully understandable and mostly I just want to give him a hug.

I am however going to avoid major spoilers so there are some aspects of his character we just won’t be able to get into.

Starting off with his positive traits, Yato is an incredible sword fighter. Even though he’s a ‘stray god’ and has previously been known as a ‘God of Calamity’ who would take on any wish from anyone, his fighting ability is amazing. Even Bishamon with all of her regalia can’t stop him though she certainly pushes him to his limit.

Yato is also incredibly soft-hearted. That might not always seem like the case given some of his decisions seem quite cold, but once you understand his perspective and where he’s coming from, he’s an incredibly kind soul.

Also, despite how poverty stricken he is, he still only charges his five yen for a wish and regardless of the quest he takes his duties seriously (something you may not believe if you’ve only watched the start and watched him kind of ignore Hiyori’s request). Still, whether it is watching the counter at a convenience store or cleaning a bathroom, once Yato’s on a job he sees it through with pride and enthusiasm.

I would be remiss though not discuss his relationship with Hiyori. At first she’s a client, someone useful, someone who remembers him. However, Hiyori fast makes herself someone Yato needs, a friend. She looks out for him, worries about him, seeks him when he is missing, rallies others to help him. I don’t actually see their relationship as romantic (though it could be seen as heading that way), but I do know that there is a deep love and respect formed between the two characters over two seasons. It is through contact with Hiyori, and later Yukine, that Yato really begins to grow and those relationships are beautiful to watch form and develop.

Noragami Aragoto Yato

And even if they were his only defining traits he would still be an awesome character. However, given he is a god with a complex back story, there’s quite a bit of tragedy and darkness following Yato. While he works hard to ensure those nearest him don’t see it, they worry about their friend and want to help him. Season two particularly dealt with this side of Yato far more and the emotionally moving journey that took us on was well worth it.

So Yato, the small-time god who has big dreams, is definitely a character I respect and enjoyed watching. I’d love another season of Noragami and a large part of the reason is Yato. In the meantime I think I’ll just go and binge watch the first two seasons again because they are amazing.

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Karandi James
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NORAGAMI: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
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A Review of The Blog – 2018 – Part 2

Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 8 Fireworks

Part 1 of the review of the blog looked at the general stats for the year but numbers are just kind of that. As 2018 draws to a close I’d like to take a moment to reflect on some of the posts I wrote this year that people read and to wish all my followers a wonderful night and success in 2019.

Most Viewed Episode Review

This one is and isn’t a surprise. It is the post most often hit by search engines so it kind of explains the sheer number of views this post has gotten. Anyway, this one managed to become my second most viewed post ever on the blog: How Not To Summon a Demon Lord Episode 2: Fan Service and Boobs in Fantasy Land. Part of me kind of wishes my most viewed post for the year was one that was slightly better written than this one but still I’m glad that an episode review did get some attention.

Most Viewed Light Novel Review

Again, not so much a surprise with the anime release, but my light novel review of Goblin Slayer Volume 3 ended up being my most read review this year. Timing really worked in this one’s favour but it is a shame because of the first three volumes, volume three was definitely the weakest and the review meanders because of it (it is always hard to review things you have a luke-warm reaction to). Still, I’ve continued reading this series and I am looking forward to getting more light novel reviews out in the new year (and manga reviews as I continue to work through Natsume Yuujinchou).

Most Viewed Inquiring Minds Post

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 13 Rimuru

Turns out there are some topics all bloggers are a little bit interested in and one of those is how to gain followers. I wish I knew the answer to that one myself but I did my best to answer the question about how I gained the followers I have. Of all the post series I’ve started on 100 Word Anime, I really enjoy the Inquiring Minds Posts because the topics are so varied and they usually force me to think about things I would otherwise be writing about or just think about something in a different way. They have been some of my most challenging posts to write and I certainly don’t always get them right, but I’m really glad I started the series and hope my readers continue to send questions my way in 2019.

Most Viewed Series Review

Noragami Aragoto Yato

I was absolutely thrilled to see that this post that came out in early January ended up being my most read series review of the year. It is an anime that is so close to my heart and I just love it (and where is the next season already). Noragami Aragoto was a delight to watch and I had a lot of fun writing the review. Given the responses, clearly a lot of my readers love it as well.

Most Viewed Feature

How Not to Summon A Demon Lord Episode 9 Shera
The magic of anime hair, and sparkles.

I’m noticing a trend with this and my most viewed episode post. When you write a feature about fan service in anime discussing the currently popular fan service filled anime that is already blowing up your views because you used ‘boobs’ in a post title I guess it is to be expected it will get views. I’m not big on click bait so while I get that these sorts of topics get views, I’m not about to start filling my blog with them because while they have their place it isn’t my main topic. Still, this feature may have garnered some click bait views but it also gained some fairly decent discussion in the comments and that was something I was really delighted about. My most viewed feature of 2018: Is Anime Doing It’s Fans a Service?

Most Viewed Top 5 Post

Sword Art Online - Episode 4

My most viewed top 5 post was looking at my favourite dubbed anime. I’m not much of a dubbed anime viewer (and having recently watched the Yuri on Ice English dub now that I’ve finally got the DVD’s I’m standing by my usual stance of sticking with the Japanese versions of most things), but occasionally there are English dubs I quite like. Clearly lots of people have opinions on this one as it is one of my most commented posts and it remains a post that regularly gets found by search engines.


So that is my look back on 2018. I’ll be looking at my plans for 2019 very soon as Irina has asked me a fun question for my first Inquiring Minds post of 2019. Once again, I hope all my readers have an excellent night and get to welcome in the new year.

Thanks for joining me in 2018. See you next year.

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Karandi James
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Tuesday’s Top 5: Female Anime Characters With Pink Hair

Tuesday's Top 5

Last week I looked at my favourite male characters with pink hair and realised, tragically, there just aren’t that many that I’ve remembered. Totally opposite problem this week when I tried to narrow down my list of lovely anime ladies with pink hair. Ultimately I went with characters who I felt were striking in appearance (pink hair does tend to stand out) as well as characters who added something to the plot of their story. The list ended up being a bit interesting.

I’d love to know who you are including on your list so please share your choices in the comments below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions: Emi Yusa (The Devil is a Part-timer) and Yuno Gasai (Future Diary).

Number 5: Kofuku Ebisu (Noragami)

Kofuku

Kofuku may be a god of poverty and have a tendency to bankrupt men and tear rifts into the underworld leading to more phantoms being released, but you have to admit, as one of Yato’s few divine friends she’s certainly a lot of fun. She gets that sometimes you just have to go with things yet ultimately she’s ready to do what needs to be done. As a character who has offered advice, shelter, power, predictions, and full on muscle to the team when needed, Kofuku definitely earns a spot on this list.

Number 4: Amu Himamori (Shugo Chara)

Shugo5

Amu is definitely one of my favourite pink haired characters of all time. The contradiction between her outer appearance and personality is one that causes her no end of confusion in this magical story that very much focuses on her finding out what she actually wants to be and who she is. With three different guardian characters all pulling her in different directions as well as her own heart, Amu is a very fun character to get to know and to watch grow up and learn to really harness all of her potential.

Number 3: Yuki Takeya (School-Live)

Yuki

And here is another spoiler warning just in case you missed the one earlier in the post.

Yuki is a fantastic character. When we are first introduced to her, she’s your basic school-girl air-head all happy to be with her friends and join in club activities. As you follow Yuki around in a typical day during the first episode, you note that not everything seems quite right, but it isn’t until the end of the episode you realise that Yuki is living in a zombie apocalypse and just hasn’t admitted it to herself yet. Yes, this adorable pink haired protagonist is firmly convinced everything in the world is fine and it is up to the rest of the club members to keep her from wandering outside of the barriers or getting herself killed. That would be interesting enough, but Yuki’s character has a beautiful arc as she comes to terms with what has happened and she is fantastic to watch. Definitely an anime to check out and Yuki’s character will leave a lasting impression.

Number 2: Megum Shimizu (Shiki)

Megumi

Megumi may not be the main character of her series, but she is the first victim we see on screen in this vampire horror story. Megumi, so desperate to escape village life, ultimately dies and comes back as a vampire and is pretty much asked to continue living a village life. While she at first has a great deal of fun tormenting those who used to be friends, as life sours for the vampires, Megumi starts looking seriously at escape. While she is never a fantastic character, Megumi gives us some excellent creepy moments and she is a character who is very true to what she wants at all times.

Number 1: Masami Iwasawa (Angel Beats)

Iwasawa

It is no secret that I have a deep love of Angel Beats, and a lot of that came about because of Iwasawa’s character. Prior to the episode that focused on Iwasawa I’d been enjoying Angel Beats and I’d loved the music and craziness of it, but when I first heard “My Song” and watched Iwasawa ‘accept’ things, I think that was the first time Angel Beats broke my heart and it was the moment I realised that this anime was something a bit special. While its blend of over the top action and comedy as well as melodrama may not sit well with most people, for me it was an emotional roller coaster that I never could get enough of. Iwasawa’s song and character moment remain one of my favourite anime moments ever.

That’s a wrap on pink hair. Leave me a comment telling me who is on your list, and next week we’ll count down anime with dark endings.


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Karandi James

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Anime Characters with a Tragic Backstory

Tuesday's Top 5

Are there any anime protagonists who have a happy backstory? Because that might be something a bit different given the sheer number of characters who come from a past of misery and despair. Okay, I hadn’t really thought about what I was in for when I started drafting this list and to be honest, it was a bit of a nightmare thinking about whether having your parents burned to death after being sewn together was more tragic than having your entire country torn apart by war and to be honest, those kinds of decisions really can’t be made objectively. This list is definitely based on how emotional I became while watching the characters’ tragedy unfold rather than any kind of definitive measure.

Which anime character has a tragic back story that hit home for you? Let me know in the comments below.

Please note, there will be spoilers below.

Honourable Mentions: The entire cast of Angel Beats and Lelouch from Code Geass.


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ANGEL BEATS!: COMPLETE SERIES


Number 5: Vash (Trigun)

The guy can’t catch a break in the present with everyone wanting to get the bounty on his head and he’s blamed for so many different disasters. He just wants love and peace. But his current circumstances come directly from the tragedy in his past and while it is pretty much impossible to talk about without spoilers, there’s definitely an evil twin brother involved. Regardless, Vash’s pacifist attitude is almost a protest against the horror that his life has been.

Number 4: Gray (Fairy Tail)

grey-fullbuster

The entire cast of Fairy Tail should probably be on this list as well, though I haven’t really watched far enough along to the know the details of all of them. But fairly early on in the series we have quite the extended arc that delves in Gray’s past and his training by his teacher and to be honest, that was pretty heart breaking. While Gray came out of it better than his fellow student did, there’s still some pretty deep scars and emotional turmoil there. If we think back even further, the reason he was with the teacher was because of the tragedy with his parents so to be honest we’re just kind of lurching from one disaster to the next when we look at Gray’s childhood.


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Number 3: Scar (Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood)

Scar.jpg

What is more cliché than tragic backstory? Tragic backstory that leaves a visible scar. Despite making fun of it, Scar’s story is really quite horrific no matter how you want to look at it. As a survivor of a war that was more of an extermination than a fight and as someone who was forced to carry a power he found repulsive, Scar’s general anger towards everything kind of makes sense. Still, the nightmare doesn’t end as he goes out for revenge. It kind of prolongs the misery of this story.

Number 2: Ciel (Black Butler)

Butler

Child with dead parents cliché? But this one is so much better than just that. Set in the Victorian era a conspiracy of monumental proportions brings down the family that serve the Queen and the child, tormented and humiliated, decides that the perfect solution to this is to take them all down even if he has to sell his soul to the demon who becomes known as Sebastian. The real tragedy here is that even if Ciel succeeds at his plan, his young soul is going to be devoured so he has no future. This isn’t just a tragic backstory. This is a living and breathing tragedy.


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Number 1: Yato (Noragami)

noragami2

While we haven’t yet heard all of Yato’s backstory, the pieces the audience have seen don’t exactly paint a great picture. Known as a god of calamity who would take on any wish isn’t exactly something that seems like it would be a pleasant existence. Couple in some real daddy issues with the as yet unseen string puller and Yato’s past is complex and has some fairly far reaching consequences. For those who know the silly facade Yato puts on in the presence, even they can see that there’s some deep pain buried underneath. I’m hoping when we finally get the whole story it manages to match the build up but to be honest, a lot of the time seeing Yato’s past makes me want to bring him home and feed him cookies.

And that’s my list but I’d love to know what would make your list.


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Karandi James

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Noragami Aragoto Series Review: This Hero is Worthy of Respect

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.

Party3

Overview:

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).

Review:

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.

Noragami2g

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.

Noragami2c

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.

Noragami2e

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.

Noragami2d

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.

Noragami2f

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.

Noragami2b

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?


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Karandi James.

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Noragami Season 1 Series Review: It Isn’t Easy Being a God

Overview:

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Thanks,

Karandi James.

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