Noragami Aragoto – 06

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Usually a bad guy just wants more power, for reasons. But once Kugaha truly gets into why he wanted to “start over” with Bishamon, it wasn’t just to become her new exemplar. He truly believed this was what needed to be done. Bishamon had, after all, forsaken her war god legacy and horded “worthless” regalia, dragged them into her centuries-old grudge against Yato (based on a misunderstanding no less), and got them and herself corrupted.

But in his “selfless crusade” to rid the universe of this “selfish, detestable” Bishamon, he forgot one thing: his place, in the order of things. As Yato remarks when he diagnoses Kugaha’s plan as an elaborate cry for mommy’s attention, gods can do no wrong. They are above the morals of humans, Kugaha included. Her will reflects the will of the universe, and cannot be questioned just because Kugaha doesn’t like it.

More importantly, Kugaha deeply underestimated Yato’s power, especially now that Sekki is two swords, sharper than ever, and no longer conflicted about using deadly force. When Kugaha plays his trump card: his skeletal dragon phantom, Yato and Yukine dispatch it with ease.

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Yato prepares to dispatch Kugaha as well, but Bishamon stands up and shields him, refusing to let Yato touch her treasured regalia. Never again, it seems. The War God who had escalated matters so far so recently is the voice of peace here, recalling how she and Kazuma first met Kugaha, and how he became a valued member of her family. Her words and her apologies cut Kugaha to the quick; I might have even detected a glimmer of shame.

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But once word comes that another dragon Kugaha loosed in the mansion is responsible for killing so many of her regalia, Bishamon knows what must be done; she’s just more merciful than Yato would have been, releasing and exiling him rather than taking his life outright. It’s an act that doesn’t forgive what he did, but acknowledges he believed he was doing right by her as well as himself. But he’s not a god, and he wasn’t right.

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Yato, Hiyori and Yukine then fade out to let Bishamon deal with the second phantom, which carries the lost and still-vocal souls of her regalia. She arrives in the nick of time to save the group of survivors, calls the name of the oldest, a rusty swordstick (in a return to her humble roots), and brings the monster down as her lost children cry out for her.

This is the war Bishamon fights. Not some glorious bout on a barren hill that will be recorded in the annals of history, like Kugaha might have wanted. Instead, Bishamon is constantly fighting a war against neglect and cruelty of the near shore. She adopts those who had nowhere else to go because no one else will, and because she alone has the strength to bear so many.

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When the Ma clan was wiped out, Bishamon lost a battle, but not the war, as she and Kurama started over not by killing herself and resurrecting, but taking the ruins of what remained form her defeat and turning it into a fresh victory, her current Ha clan. And standing beside her during that resurgent win was her trusty exemplar Kurama.

When Kurama awakes to find a healed Bishamon smiling over her, he is ashamed for twice disgracing her, and asks her to release him. But like Kugaha, he’s wrong, and Bishamon can do no wrong. She still needs him in the ongoing war to help as many lost ones as she can. It’s a neverending war, but she is timeless.

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And one reason she needs him so badly is because she is unaccustomed to not holding in the manifest pain of her regalia. This is something she’ll work on no longer doing, so something like Kugaha never happens again. To that end, she’s begun an exchange journal with her regalia that she asks Kurama to add to, after she lifts his exile and asks him to return to being her exemplar. And if the War God can forgive him, it would be the highest insolence to not forgive himself.

This was a gorgeous and moving conclusion to the Kugaha vs. Bishamon arc. It managed to give Kugaha a little more dimension before shipping him off, and succeeded in bringing Bishamon and her family to the forefront as a larger-scale analog to Yato’s little but loving family. And it just may have ended Bishamon’s grudge, which dates back to the show’s last season, which is huge, because maybe henceforth she and Yato can interact civilly!

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Noragami Aragoto – 02

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That shaman-looking regalia did the “Evil Smirk at the End of the Episode”, so there was a good bet he’d turn out to be a less than swell guy, and this episode confirms that with all the subtlety of a Hiyori Iki Suplex.

Yukine comes clean about having made a friend outside the Circle of Trust, but everyone’s happy about it, and Yato, while a little weary that Suzuha is a Bishamon regalia, merely urges caution going forward.

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Suzuha already has Yukine in his thrall with his friendly demeanor and approachability, but seals the deal by telling a very sad tale about a girl who used to notice his flowers every Summer, but could never remember him, and forgot about him altogether thirty years ago, when they promised to meet at an old cherry tree he’s now desperately trying to rehabilitate.

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Suzuha’s longing turns to obsession and despair one night, after the shaman-looking guy (named Kugaha) seems to twist the knife, telling him even his master has forgotten him and that he has nothing. A pack of phantom wolves then kill Suzuha right there, and Bishamon, who may well have forgotten Suzuha what with the legions of other regalia she has to keep track of, only wakes up when she feels the loss.

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Unaware that Suzuha is gone, Yukine arrives at the time they agreed on for a picnic, along with his friend Hiyori. Yuki makes no bones about his concern about Hiyori forgetting about him when she grows older and moves on with her life, both to Yato and to Hiyori herself, but she tells him not to worry: she’s not going anywhere. At least, not until she’s satisfied Yuki has gotten a good academic education. When/if Yato fixes her tail problem, even she can’t say what will happen, but she doesn’t want Yukine to worry.

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The pain from Yukine’s worrying, after all, is also felt by his master Yato. So it really puts into perspective how much pain Bishamon endures every day from the collective pain of her myriad regalia. And she only knows it’s Suzuha who is gone when she spots a dead plant in the hall; all the low-level regalia put on happy faces so as not to add to her suffering, a geture that’s both helpful and unhelpful.

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Even though her exemplar Kazuma watches her like a hawk, he’s still caught off-guard when blight suddenly appears on Bishamon’s neck. He acts quickly and decisively, gathering all regalia for a full-body inspection to ascertain who gave Bishamon the blight. When Dr. Kugaha performs the examinations and finds no blight, and Bishamon shows up with no blight on her neck, Kazuma is confused and his confidence shaken.

And that’s probably also Kugaha’s doing: the guy’s a doctor; maybe he faked the blight to stir Kazuma up? It would seem he’s poking and prodding at the weak spots of his fellow regalia. Suzuha was only the first. As he remarks to Nora (who the bad guys always seem to consort with on this show), Kugaha doesn’t consider Bishamon worthy of being the War God, is acting to topple her, and seems bent on using Yato to facilitate that outcome.

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Noragami – 12 (Fin)

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Noragami turns in a decent but unspectacular finale that provides relatively sufficient closure but doesn’t quite deliver the same emotional or visceral impact as Yukine’s ablution. For one thing, watching two angry guys swordfight just isn’t as visually impressive as the ablution; also, the fact that Hiyori is mostly just sitting/lying around this week, though ironically had she not shown up at all, Yato might not have beaten Rabo.

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Most importantly though, this battle didn’t hit as hard because we never really cared about Rabo. He’s significantly less interesting than the more puckish Nora, and kinda comes off as that lame old friend yelling “You changed, man! You used to be cool evil!” at Yato constantly. We were far more invested in Yukine’s fate, and appreciated the fact everyone had to put aside their baggage and chip in to help save him. There’s no redeeming Rabo.

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Rabo ultimately just had a death wish, and wanted someone who remembered him to end his life that had become meaningless because no one else did. He also seems to figure out pretty late in the game that the key to getting Yato as angry as possible is by hurting Hiyori. About her: even though the memory orb shatters, she gets her memories back on her own, thanks to Yato’s smell. Scent being the sense most tied to memory, this kinda makes sense.

With Rabo taken out and Nora again masterless (we imagine she and Soul Eater’s Excalibur would get along famously), Yato begs Hiyori to cut her ties with him an Yukine. Not surprisingly, she flatly refuses. After all, the girl who can break out of a powerful shinki’s spell and beat the crap out of a calamity god for being too close is not the kind of girl to end her two most meaningful friendships just to live a “safer” life.

7_very_goodRating: 7 (Very Good)
Average Rating: 7.667
MyAnimeList Score: 8.29

Noragami – 09

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As it turns out, Daikoku’s borderline was only a precautionary measure to protect Kofuku; he allows Hiyori (and only Hiyori) to enter the shrine and shower in the spring water. But there are only two ways to cure Yato: if he himself slays the increasingly corrupted Yukine (something he won’t do) or if three regalias combine their powers and initiate an ablution—the confinement and punishment of Yukine until he confesses to his sins and repents. It’s a neat concept: only regalias can fairly judge other regalias, since they were both human at one point.

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But first, three regalias are needed. Daikoku, setting aside his dislike of Yato for Kofuku and Hiyori’s sakes, visits every shrine in the area begging for volunteers. Mayu is the first who agrees to help, an interesting gesture that almost suggests a smidgen of guilt harbored due to making Yato release her from his service—or maybe just because her distance from Yato in Lord Tenjin’s employ has led to a gradual dissipation of the hatred she felt for him when they parted ways. Even regalias need a cooling-off period. That leaves one more regalia required, and while Hiyori’s pleas for Kurama were initially ignored, the debt he still owes Yato moves him to volunteer as well.

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That’s a good thing, because we were worried for a moment there that Hiyori would seek the help of Nora, which was bound to cause more trouble than it solved. So with the three unlikely regalias joined, the final piece of the puzzle is Yukine, who is steadfastly unrepentant and believes himself unworthy of the punishment they start to dole out. It’s an uphill battle, as he nearly transforms into a phantom, nearly wiping away the mark of the name Yato gave him. Yukine isn’t guilty so much as angry and resentful that he can’t interact with people of the near shore anymore. Yato knows he has to call out to him, but is weak and needs time to gather himself to say the proper words.

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He gets that time thanks to the person without whom he and Yukine (and possibly others) would have died long ago: the tough, resolute, dependable Iki Hiyori, who throws herself into danger yet again to make a personal appeal to Yukine. She snaps him out of his near-calamitous tantrum with the threat that they’ll no longer be friends if he completes his betrayal of Yato. That threat assumes Hiyori is his friend, something he’d never considered. Now that he knows he has friends, he repents and is purified. The final scene is replete with raw emotion appropriate for the aftermath of such an ordeal. When Yato and Yukine bow their heads to Hiyori in apology and gratitude, all she can do is gather them in a big ol’ hug.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)