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.

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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
NORAGAMI: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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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Karandi James.

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