Noragami (roughly translated: stray god) is an inventive series comprising great moments that don’t quite come together.
As an urban fantasy, Noragami has some great ideas. Yato is a former god of calamity, so whilst he wanders the streets doing odd jobs dressed in a simple tracksuit, we know that he’s harbouring a dark past. Hiyori has to manage her new ability to slip between the Near Shore and Far Shore at the blink of an eye, whilst Yukine is secretly raging against his own death, and desperately wants to re-join the living. These are all interesting side-plots, but Noragami deals with them one at a time, in an almost arbitrary manner.
There are all sorts of other gods prowling the streets, invisible to the populace. Tenjin (Tōru Ōkawa), god of academics; Kofuku (Aki Toyosaki), god of poverty and Bishamonten (Miyuki Sawashiro), god of combat all have distinctive Regalia and varied approaches to their work. Their dislike of Yato is pretty much the only thing they have in common.
There are flashes of brilliance here and there. Yukine’s desperate yearning to return to the land of the living is wonderfully painful to watch, whilst Yato’s determination to rarely ever give a straight answer makes him both comedic and enigmatic. Hiyori is the character that gets the raw deal, however. Apart from taking the role of the viewer, being introduced to the world as the series unfolds, we don’t get a sense of what her wants and desires are. The writing makes her frustratingly passive, also. It’s as if she’s simply along for the ride.
The series hits disparate tones with ease.
The animation standard is fantastic, and the action particularly striking. The DVD comes with commentaries by the English voice cast, which are entertaining as always. One episode even features a video commentary, which means we get to see the actors enthusing over their adaptation.
There is a second season of Noragami that began screening in Japan a month ago, and I’m keen to see where it takes the show. As it currently stands, it’s an interesting anime boasting some great ideas. It isn’t a must-watch, however.