The Day I Became a God – 05 – Letting the Spell Land

Last week, many a viewer not well-versed in the minutiae of mahjong (such as myself) struggled to keep up with the onslaught of game rules and terminology, even as we were eminently entertained by the spectacle. This week mostly dispenses with the comedy and bombast to tell a far more accessible, relatable, and straightforward tale: how we deal with loss.

Izanami Kyouko’s mother is dead. She’s been dead for ten years, and ever since her death, Kyouko and her father have been different people. The loss of their mother and wife left such a gaping void in their lives, they couldn’t possibly fathom how to fill it. Rather than moving forward with their lives, they both remained more or less stagnant.

When Youta and Hina learn that Izanami’s father has barely left their house since his wife’s passing, and with only twelve days left till the end of the world, Hina has Youta lure him out onto the town with them under the pretense of helping find a gift for Kyouko’s approaching birthday.

While Youta and Hina are with Papa Iza, he marvels at a “future” in which curry is white, and they go on a culinary journey composed exclusively of cheese. Ultimately they learn that Kyouko’s mom left video messages for her and her father, but he hasn’t told Izanami about them nor shown them to her, no doubt terrified of how she might react to them.

Youta agrees not to tell Kyouko about the messages, but Pops didn’t say anything about Hina telling by means of a magical smartphone that enables Kyouko’s dead mother to speak with her. It’s actually Hina speaking with Kyouko’s mother’s voice, and just hearing that voice brightens Kyouko’s face and her day.

Hina is confident Kyouko’s knowledge of the videos will “shake things up” for her and her father…and she’s not wrong! Both Kyouko and her dad sit entranced when her mom appears on the screen, providing messages for her birthdays from age seven through eighteen. Her main message is for the two of them to buck up, “forget” about her, and destroy the video.

Back then, when she was near death, she was pleading for her daughter and husband to move forward without her…because they were without her, and there’s nothing any of them could do to change that. She stages it as a magic trick, complete with hat and wand, and Kyouko is indeed enchanted, compelled to abide by her mother’s final wish…for her daughter and husband to be happy.

As the gorgeous, heartbreaking, utterly devastating sequence during end credits deftly illustrate, they certainly were happy with her…they just have to learn to be happy without her. I can’t remember something making me cry this much since the infamous life sequence from Pixar’s Up—or hell, probably some other Maeda Jun work(s)! This was the Goddamn Tearjerker I’ve been expecting…and it’s probably only the beginning.

Again, thanks to Hina, Youta arrives at the cusp of a romantic breakthrough, this time with his childhood friend and longtime crush. Kyouko arrives at his door short of breath, her heart having rushed ahead of her head, to thank him for the magic phone call. Alas, Youta doesn’t feel right cashing in on what he considers “cheating” by Hina to bring them closer. But with just eleven days left till the end, he’ll soon find himself bereft of such precious opportunities.

GODDAMN TEARJERKER™ CERTIFIED

The Day I Became a God – 04 – Slapping the Winds Together

After a virtually incomprehensible cold open in which Suzuki watches an interview between two scientists that left me scratching my head, we’re back to the Narukami residence, with Youta catching the beautiful, brilliant lawyer Tengan Kakou on the TV.

Before he knows it, Hina is winning an online mahjong preliminary in his name, stamping his ticket to the in-person tournament organized by his TV crush! Even Izanami, a mahjong buff herself, attends along with his best mate Ashura.

I’m just going to put this out there: I don’t know jack-squat about competitive Mahjong, having only played the solitaire version that’s just matching up like tiles. Narukami is similarly a complete novice, but received precise divine instruction from Hina. His resulting tactics in the game do not conform to the traditional competitive play—which just happens to be what Tengan Kakou wants.

This episode seems like a case of me enjoying watching Narukami fall far behind as if he had no idea what he was doing (because he didn’t, he’s just following Hina to the letter) then come roaring back with some frankly ludicrous bending of the rules, which even leads to the adoption of Uno rules. At the same time, I kept feeling a bit left out due to my aforementioned ignorance of Mahjong’s rules and terminology.

Fortunately, what we saw probably couldn’t be described as anything resembling a “normal” game, and indeed there were times when it seemed the show was parodying serious obscure game competition shows like Chihayafuru. Youta simply kept bastardizing the obscure terms until he adopted a game language all his own.

Not only does he win fame (and likely a tidy cash prize), but the attention of Tengan Kakou, who is initially cordial in her congratulations but before long is macking strongly on someone I assumed hasn’t quite reached age 18. Those uncomfortable undertones aside, their use of Mahjong terms as double entendres makes for quite the side-splitting exchange between the two:

“I’d like to see your infinite reiichi.”

“But you can score! An incredibly high-value hand! It’s an extraordinary yaku you may never encounter again!”

“I’m in unrequited love with another woman, which earns me the furiten penalty. Therefore, I am unable to score!”

Sadly for Youta, the unrequited love for whom he spurned the Great Tengan Kakou (leading to her sic’ing her bodyguard on him, who tears off the sleave of the suit he borrowed from his dad) took off for home without waiting for him, rendering this entire enterprise somewhat pointless.

There are thirteen days left until the end of the world. Unless something of genuine substance comes from the hacker-and-scientist side of things, it’s looking like Hina’s goal isn’t for Youta to help her save the world from ending, but simply living his life to the fullest until it does end. Or perhaps these experiences are somehow preparing him to save the world when the time is right?

All we know is, Youta has performed a piece of music for Izanami, rescued a family ramen joint, and won a mahjong tournament all in the same summer, with more to come. He’s having himself quite a summer. Like the ridiculous mahjong match he played, I’m fine just enjoying the crazy ride for now.

The Day I Became a God – 02 – The Skies, the Sun, the Earth, and Time

“Odin”, AKA Hina, makes herself at home at Youta’s, and to his shock neither his mom nor dad have a problem with her staying as long as she likes, both of them insisting she’s a relative without evidence we’re aware of.

Could the fact the Narukami’s all have god-like names be a hint that they’re related to gods? Whatever the case, her interactions with Youta, his parents, and his little sister Sora are wonderfully animated by P.A. Works and performed by Ayane Sakura.

Youta elaborates on his long relationship with Izanami, who became extremely introverted after her mother died young. Once preoccupied with basketball, Youta committed to spending more time with her, and that’s when he realized he loved her—and really had always loved her.

Barring a plan to save the world, Hina comes up with a fresh plan to help Youta win Izanami’s heart and help Sora with her film project. After the baseball fiasco Youta is reluctant to participate, but when beloved little sister asks if he’ll help with her project he immediately agrees.

What results are three wonderfully blatant rip-offs of Armageddon, Rocky, and Edward Scissorhands. Hina’s scripts don’t just open Sora up to unwanted legal action, but the dialogue is written in a David Mamet-esque scattershot rhythm that saps any emotional resonance the scenes had in the movies they’re aping.

Nevertheless, Izanami is surprisingly game, though her movie dialogue seems sprinkled with lines that are actually her own words, like “Doesn’t your father have work?” I found these scenes, and both Youta’s and Izanami’s commentary, hilarious, Sora is licking her chops at the footage she’s amassed.

However, the project utterly fails to move the needle for Youta vis-a-vis Izanami, so Hina comes up with something knew. And again, Youta learns he doesn’t know Izanami as well as he should, as Hina tells him Izanami’s dream is to be a musical director for movies. She ends up writing a moving piece of music that Youta intensely practices at the music store over a period of days.

Youta asks if he can come to Izanami’s house to play it for her, and she seems genuinely intrigued. When he can’t quite get the tempo right, she sits beside him and plays it perfectly, revealing to him just how lovely a piece it is. More importantly, Izanami really seems to come alive, wearing a placid smile as she plays it.

When the time comes to again tell her how he feels, Youta isn’t able to do so, but he at least buys himself another opportunity down the road when she agrees the two of them should study more. I kinda wish he’d actually told her his feelings, so that if she rejected him again he could at least find out why—even if it’s as simple as “I don’t like you that way.”

That night Hina castigates Youta for choking, but just as his father is asking where Sora is and expresses his worry, his mom drops and shatters a plate, increasing the unease. Then Sora’s classmate shows up at the door with a bruised and barely conscious Sora. What could be afoot here, and with twenty-four days before the End of Evangelion?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Noragami Aragoto – 12

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The drastic measure Ebisu ominously suggests turns out to be a variant of a soul call, which is basically ‘Yeah, just YELL HIS NAME REALLY LOUDLY down the vent’, and Yato will come back. I know, it’s a little more spiritually involved than that, but I was still amused by how simple the approach turned out to be…or rather would have been, had Hiyori actually known Yato’s real name.

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She summons back a confused Bishamon without any trouble, but Yato dosn’t come no matter how hard she calls it. That casts doubt on the fact Yato is his name at all, which hurts Yukine deeply if true. Nonetheless, as Bishamon and Ebisu fight off the Heavens’ Punishers who have come to take Ebisu away, and Kofuku keeps the vent open, Hiyori keeps calling.

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She keeps calling Yato not just because she desperately wants him back, but because she doesn’t want it to be true that he kept his name from her; not after she saw how happy and tearful he became when he saw it carved on the shrine she made for him. They’ve come too goddamn far for him to still be hiding basic stuff like his name…right?!

But then, Hiyori concentrates on the structure of Yato as she carved it, and focusing on two  crossed strokes forming a kind of offset plus, and calls out a different name: Yaboku, which does the trick. Yato apparates right on top of Hiyori, but she’s so happy he’s back she overlooks the closeness. Nay, in situations like this (and when Yukine underwent ablution), this is when the family comes in for a big warm hug.

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So hurrah!, Yato is back safe and sound. But notsofast; there’s still those Heavens’ Punishers to deal with, what with their biker gang name and Mortal Kombat-esque dragon regalia Kiun, which they summon when their arrows fail to pierce Ebisu and Bishamons defenses.

To deal with Kiun, Bishamon puts faith in her exemplar Kazuma to work his blessed vessel magic to power up her whip Kinuha, and he doesn’t disappoint in asserting his dominance, in a nice bit of visual trickery, Kazuma reaches out to the lightning dragon high in the sky, and suddenly grabs it as if it were tiny and within reach.

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Yukine isn’t quite ready to forgive Yato for hiding his name, going into the underworld, and getting beaten up without telling him or Hiyori anything. Still, the Heavens’ Punishers have a lot of tricks up their sleeve, and contingency plans for their contingency plans, so it has to wait. Or rather, the making-up has to happen immediately, as Yato requires Sekki at full power to repel the nuke-like projectile launched from the Punishers’ Purification Ring.

Sekki does just that, and with authority, and Ebisu, who after being reamed by Yato, actually wants to keep living, is appreciative. He’s appreciative of all his fellow gods’ efforts, as well as their regalia and human. But it may not be enough against the forces of the heavens. Another ring appears beneath his feet, and before the credits roll, Ebisu is swallowed up by white light.

Will it be blocked again? If so, by whom; Yato? Bishamon? A god who has yet to appear in this battle? If not, will it be the end of Ebisu? How will the gang deal with the loss of the one person they all worked together so hard to keep alive? Heck, I can answer that last one: They’ll feel like shit! So here’s hoping something—a miracle, perhaps—happens to prevent that. Because you know what? I like Ebisu.

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Noragami Aragoto – 11

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Of all the things to go down once Hiyori and Yukine arrived at the entrance to the underworld, I did not expect for Yato’s mercy to bite him in the ass, but that’s almost what happens, as Kugaha tries to capture Hiyori and kill Yukine. Kugaha tries to weaken Yato’s newly-minted exemplar by bringing up Hiiro and the fact he went to the underworld with her instead of him.

This works, but only briefly, as Hiyori grabs Yukine and counteracts Kugaha’s negative words by telling him how much Yato means to him, and to have faith in him. Yukine manages to fire off a borderline that shatters Kugaha’s and slams him against a tree, and well…that’s the last we see of him!

Then again, perhaps his being there wasn’t a mere coincidence: if he’s to be believed, Kugaha seems to have been keeping track of Yato’s movements and actions all along, and while Yukine is able to neutralize him here, I’m sure he’ll still want to confront Yato.

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Of course, after this week that may not be such a good idea, because his former master Bishamon ultimately decides to go all-in on rescuing Yato. Before that, we see Yato’s in a bad way, falling back into those damned caverns. As Hiiro tenderly treats his foot, Yato starts to lose hope, matching Hiiro’s sentiment that this being the end for them isn’t so bad if they’re together.

It’s clear Hiiro is far more than a temptress to the “dark side” for Yato. They were, and remain, family. But he shakes off thoughts of giving up; not while Yukine and Hiyori are still up there.

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Hiyori and Yukine bump into Bishamon and Kazuma (she’s also wearing Aiha as armor and another regalia as a whip; prepped for battle), Kofuku and Daikoku arrive, and options are weighed. Hiyori absolutely can’t go into the vent (which quickly closes anyway), while Yukine can’t go without disguising himself as someone else’s regalia, in effect becoming a Nora.

Bishamon makes the decision for him: she’s going to go down with Kazuma, Aiha, and the other girl, and save Yato herself. Kofuku opens a fresh vent and down they go.

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She’s not just doing it for Yukine and Hiyori’s sake, but because she owes Yato. She actually owes him twice over, first when her Ma clan of regalias almost killed her, and again when dealing with Kugaha. She admits she hated Yato in order to move forward, and you could even call that a third debt. Regardless, she intends to repay them, which means saving Yato from Izanami here.

Even Bishamon and some of her top regalia struggle against the mighty Izanami, but they’re not trying to defeat her, just grab Yato and escape, so they have a chance. Of course, they’ll also need a way out, but Kofuku’s vents keep closing too fast. Enter Ebisu, who comes to and says there’s a way to open a gate to the underworld, but it will require someone from the Near Shore…namely Hiyori.

That’s pretty foreboding, but you know what? In keeping with the theme of having faith, be it Yukine in Yato or Yato in Yukine and Hiyori, I’ll have faith she’ll be alright, and things will work out fine.

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Noragami Aragoto – 10

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Answers to our questions last week come quickly. Will that kiss really work? No, it didn’t; Hiyori doesn’t seem to have any interest in Fujisaki. Will Hiyori become even more troubled by her inability to remember? Yes, most definitely. She rubs at her lips until they’re red, and she walks around with a cloud over her head. Will someone be able to jog her memory before it’s too late? Thankfully, yes, albeit accidentally.

When Yukine first approaches her, she can’t see him, which is bad, but his voice and his smell bring all the memories of him and Yato rushing back. Simply beside herself with relief, Hiyori embraces Yukine tight enough and long enough to make his nose bleed. Who can blame her? She never wants to come close to losing him or Yato again.

She was in a kind of hell, one she’d experienced before, but was so sure—arrogantly so, she believes in hindsight—she’d never experience it again. Now she knows: she’s not immune to forgetting; she must be vigilant in remembering. But first thing’s first: Find Yato.

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Down in the underworld, Izanami has caught up with the fleeing Yato and Ebisu, and sends legions of naked blue beldams to drag the men back to her so she can play with them for all eternity. Hiiro acts independently by shoving one of Ebisu’s regalia into the beldams to distract them and save her master and Ebisu, who are all she cares about.

But when Yato learns Ebisu retrieved the ablution brush not for his own selfish reasons, but for the sake of protecting humanity by controlling phantoms, it changes Yato’s entire perspective of his charge—and mine as well.

With Bishamon and Kofuku also still away, Yukine joins forces with their exemplars Kazuma and Daikoku to seek out Yato. They ask Tsuyu—who isn’t a regalia but the spirit of a plum tree who serves Tenjin—to speak to the trees, and she finds one that saw two men matching the description of Yato and Ebisu entering the underworld. Hiyori hears this too; now she knows where to go.

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Meanwhile, in Takamagahara, the six other gods of fortune along with Bishamon are being held captive by High Sentinal Oshi, who tells them that by “interrogating” several of Ebisu’s regalia (many of whom turned out to be Noras), they’ve determined he’s the conjurer they’re looking for, and will seek to execute him for his crimes.

That doesn’t play so well for Okuninushi, who shows the adamant, haughty Oshi one of his more terrifying forms. But before any god or sentinal blood is shed, Kazuma arrives with Kuraha, restrains Oshi, and frees Bishamon, who make a beeline to the underworld to retrieve Yato and Ebisu.

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Even though Yato is still missing, Hiyori is clearly in far higher spirits now that she’s remembered him and Yukine. Yukine remains weary, mostly because he doesn’t want Hiyori to get involved in anything hazardous. Her scrape with the whole Bishamon business was a close enough shave for him. But Hiyori tells him she needs to find Yato and hear his story face-to-face, so Yukine agrees to let her accompany him.

It doesn’t really matter who shows up to the underworld first, as long as someone gets there fast; Izanami and her harem is proving too much for Yato and Ebisu, and all the exits are sealed with powerful-looking magic. Ebisu remembers his childhood—a childhood he’s had often because he dies and reincarnates so much. He’s a popular, well-known god with many shrines and books and oral histories about him. So if someone has to stay down there with Izanami and die, it should be him.

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Yato disputes that logic, much to the chagrin of Hiiro. Now that he can see Ebisu’s formidable will, which causes him to press forward in his purpose no matter how many times he dies, and he wants to be a god worthy of that kind of respect; worthy of Hiyori. This is how great and immortal gods are forged, he believes; not by simply going with the flow and doing whatever his father and Hiiro tell him to do.

This time he makes his stand, and convinces Ebisu to use the brush to punch a vent into the very fabric of the underworld with phantoms. Suddenly, something that was a big no-no in past episodes is crucial to their survival; the ramifications can be dealt with later.

Even though Yato gets snagged by Izanuma and pulled back down into the abyss, with a huge host of gods, regalia, and Hiyori about to descend on the underworld in quick succession, his number is far from up…especially if Ebisu, who escaped, tells the others of Yato’s selflessness.

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Noragami Aragoto – 09

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Because Yato is in a charitable mood and possibly harbors guilt for the things he did with her, he goes along with Hiiro’s idea to go into the underworld to rescue a conjurer, despite the fact he could very easily get trapped down there by it’s queen, Izanami. When that conjurer turns out to be Ebisu (who is absent for the latest colloquy, correctly suspected, and for whom an arrest warrant is issued), suddenly Yato’s personal dilemma is intertwined with the overarching threat of Ebisu.

For a supposed Big Bad, it’s surprising how casual Yato and Ebisu are when they meet. Perhaps it’s because Yato trusts a far more famous god, or because hasn’t always been the most scrupulous fellow himself (as his continued entanglement with Nora attests) but he doesn’t really protest Ebisu’s use of Masked Ones as “phantom regalias”. In fact, we get a lot of Ebisu’s silly, eccentric side, rather than any goofy evil face-twisting. It’s a nice change of pace; I like it.

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While Yato, Hiiro, and Ebisu tread deeper into the underworld, Hiyori is snagged by her high school friend into a triple date at Amagi Brilliant Park some Capybara-themed park. Notably, Tenjin stops Tomone (curious about where Yato went off to) from getting Hiyori’s attention in the street; it’s been established Tenjin wants Hiyori to stop hanging out with gods an regalias and live a normal living high school girl’s life.

Now it looks like that might be happening. We don’t know her friends that well, but their meeting up and pairing off at the park is very well done. It’s amusing to see the girl who arranged everything ended up pairing up with a different guy, leaving the handsome, well-spoken Fujisaki (who caught her from falling last week) to Hiyori, and the two have instant chemistry, courteously apologizing to each other for putting one another out.

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When Yato and Ebisu encounter Izanami, everything seems arranged to keep them by her side. She takes the form of people they care about—a very forward Hiyori, in Yato’s case—and she constantly offers food, drink, friendship; all of which will keep them stuck in the underworld as her “friend” forever. Hiiro actually does Yato a solid by protecting him from “Hiyori’s” kiss; let it be said that Yato and Hiiro really do make a good team; it’s just that being in that team puts serious strain on Yato’s newer relationships in the living world.

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Yukine, for his part, has very little to do this week, but he continues to train and become stronger in body and mind under Kazuma’s wing. Kazuma notes that Yukine is also trying to remain strong for Yato’s sake, even though he’s worried about him.

He should be, it would seem: when Izanami says she’ll only give them the brush if one of them stays behind, Ebisu picks Yato to stay with the logic that he’s the more famous god with a lot more at stake. Obviously, Yato takes exception to this—he has as much a right to exist as Ebisu, regardless of his past—so they fight.

But it all turns out to be an elaborate distraction. When Ebisu “beats” Yato by snatching Hiiro from him (she once served him as well, taking the form of a pistol), Izanami celebrates the fact Yato will be her friend. But then Ebisu uses his little masked phantom bat to snatch the brush, and he and Yato high-tail it together as Izanami fumes.

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As they flee, Yato thinks only of getting back to the near shore and to Yukine and Hiyori, whom he cares for so much. Surely this is the end of his dealings with Hiiro, right? He’ll pop back at an awkward time during the date and Hiyori will be embarassed but relieved and happy at the same time, right? Right?

Well…no. As the date progresses, Hiyori continually remembers someone who’s name and face she can’t place, and it starts to eat at her, until it’s clear to her date Fujisaki that something is very wrong. But Fujisaki reads her demeanor as something that can be remedied by taking her hand and kissing her in front of the hugely-romantic fireworks parade.

His instinct isn’t wrong, nor could he possibly be aware that by being kind and charming and comforting to Hiyori all but snaps the thread connecting her to Yato. Who was the one she wanted to take to the park so badly? Wait…she’s at the park with someone now. Does it matter? 

This is what Tenjin – and Hiiro – wanted. Will that kiss really work, or will Hiyori become even more troubled by her inability to remember? Will someone be able to jog her memory before it’s too late?

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Darker than Black Gaiden – 04 OVA

Claude has kidnapped Yin and plans to sell her to the highest bidder, who turn out to be some old Chinese friends of his. When Hei rolls in to rescue her, Claude disguises himself as her to trick him, then disguises her as himself so that he electrocutes her. This completes her awakening into Izanami, who begins sucking up the souls of thousands of contractors, until the Syndicate steps in, pacifies and re-captures her. Depressed over the loss of his love, Hei takes up drinking, and is then confronted by Madame Oreille.

Watching it now, a year after it aired, we get a similar sense of this Gaiden series that we did with the Star Wars prequels, particularly Episode II with regards to this episode. That is the sense that everything in these four OVAs was inevitable. We saw the entire Ryuusei no Gemini series, so we knew what was going to befall Hei, Yin, et al. There’s not much in the way of surprise of novelty in the plot, as it’s merely filling in the blank between the two animes. So it comes down to execution: and it was executed pretty well.

There was also a sense that something good was gradually becoming corrupted, namely Yin. One new fun fact we did learn is that the entire reason the Syndicate was founded was to prevent a prophecy from coming true – that is, the Awakening of Izanami/Yin. That failed, but the Syndicate had long since forgotten its purpose anyway. Yin, it would seem, was a prisoner of fate; a puppet to events that had a mind of their own. Her love of Hei, and his of her, got pushed to the side. Despite growing to love and need one another so deeply, they were never meant to be. Which sucks…and also explains why Hei is such a drunken mess at the beginning of Gemini.


Rating: 3.5