Noragami – 09

nora91

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.

nora92

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.

nora93

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.

nora94

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)

Kyousougiga – 10 (Fin)

kypouu10

Koto and Myoue travel to the celestial plane and meet their grandfather, God, who tells them they’ll be the ones to replace Inari, who will then disappear. Not liking the sound of that Koto and Myoue leave the plane and travel through a time continuum until she finds Inari and Lady Koto and busts in with her hammer. As she beats up Inari for being selfish, Myoue restores Lady Koto. God agrees that the thirteenth plane will be allowed to exist, while Inari will not disappear and remain with his family.

Just as it always announced at the start of every episode (or in this case, at the end), Kyousougiga was a story of love, life, and rebirth; with the latter two being possible because of the first, a love that started with a rabbit that became a beautiful woman. Inari states that before her, he merely wandered the world aimlessly, separate from it. Lady Koto and their children became his real world, and the start of his real life. He went on to make a common mistake family heads often make, out of stubbornness and obligation: to arrange the future in which his offspring would live; a future that didn’t include him, as he’d pass his duties to them.

Armed with the wherewithal to challenge his unilateral decisions was Koto. Just as she wanted to spend a little more time with Myoue before carrying out his death wish, Koto loved her father too much to let him quietly disappear. This results in climactic celestial family squabble, and ultimately, a happy ending for all. Inari meant the transfer of his heart and soul to be his final act of love to his children, but the only love Koto wanted was to experience the love of her family all in one piece, including him, sharing sunsets, meals, and other good times.

For all its whimsical extravagance of its fantastical setting, Kyousougiga always remained true to its staunchly human, immanently relatable themes of love and family. It was a story that left us as warm and fuzzy as, well, a rabbit.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)
Final Cumulative Rating: 8.400
MyAnimeList Score 
(as of 12/22/13): 8.08

Kyousougiga – 09

kyouso9

Koto pleads her case with the chief priest that the mirror world should survive. She doesn’t make any headway, but Inari embraces and praises her for becoming “the other [him he] always wanted”. He stabs her with his sword, putting her in a trance, and she starts to destroy all of the planes. Myoue wakes up in a cave with Kyouko and Kurama, who tells him he was always supposed to rule the mirrored city alone when he was ready. Armed with the beads that contain the power of creation, Myoue rushes to find Koto, snaps her out of her trance, to create a new beginning together.

It only comes as a minor surprise that Inari is indeed a god, the brother of the cheif priest, who was tasked with creating the twelve planes and looking over them for their “lazy dad.” Inari got bored with that existence and a bit too creative, resulting the thirteenth plane, which was outside of his mandate. When he finally returned, preceded by Koto, it was to put an end to the current order of things and start over. He instigated the end, which is in progress as of the end of this episode, while it’s up to Myoue to see to it there’s something after that end. As Kurama tells him in a subterranean pep talk, the world won’t change if he doesn’t.

Kurama’s always been the one to deliver him cold truths, from the time he says he and Yase are “false siblings” to the day their parents leave. It’s fitting that the big bro, false or not, is there to give a sulking Myoue a slap in the face. For so long Myoue’s been fixated on the past and his own denied death. But the truth is that life is gone and won’t be coming back. But he does have Koto, and his prayer beads, and he won’t let everything end the way Inari has set things up…”probably”. Inari pulls a bit of an infodump early on, and the score goes big and movie-like, almost bordering on sappy at times, but after last week’s standoff it’s good to see things on the right track to a favorable conclusion.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Kyousougiga – 08

kyou08

As the Mirrored City continues to crumble, a portal opens and the Chief Priest of Koto and Inari’s organization arrives with his adjutant, declaring that the city, or “13th plane” was illegally created for Inari and Lady Koto’s own selfish purposes, and it must be destroyed to keep the other 12 planes from being destroyed. Aun and Inari’s familiars turn against him, and Lady Koto is wounded protecting him. Koto despairs at everything being her fault, but before the familiars can get to her Myoue shields her and snaps her out of it. With her hammer at the Chief Priest’s head, Koto demands he help her save her mom and the Mirrored City, or she’ll destroy all the planes herself.

“I feel no uncertainty. I know what’s most important to me.” So says Inari after smashing his fox mask, and with it the “observer” position he surpassed long ago. His boss isn’t moved and dismisses his speech as nonsense and stupidity, but then what he deems most important is far different than Inari. He seeks order and balance among the planes he looks over; the Mirrored City is an anomaly that threatens all that. But Family was what was most important to Inari, a family he was never meant to have but made anyway.

While out preserving the world he built for it, he and Lady Koto had a daughter, who inherited her mom’s not insignificant powers. Once Koto stops blaming herself for being born, it’s simply a matter of properly leveraging those powers to get what she wants: to save her family and preserve the city. There’s no shortage of people telling Koto how special she is, and the time has come to prove it. Is there a way to get what she wants without the rest of the universe suffering? Surely there must be.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

 

 

Kyousougiga – 07

kyou7

Koto returns safely to the Mirrored City with her mother Lady Koto in tow. After a reunion and tour of the city, Lady Koto says it’s time for her to go back, surprising everyone. She tells Koto to help her older brother Myoue, but later that night a distraught Koto breaks down in Myoue’s room. Meanwhile, a portal opens in Kurama’s temple, and Koto’s first “sensei” Inari emerges. He arrives at Myoue’s house and removed his mask revealing himself as the original Myoue, Yakushimaru’s adoptive father. As a result of his entrance, the Mirrored City starts to disintigrate.

For something as momentous as Myoue, Yase, Kurama and Koto’s mother returning after who knows how many years away, her return is surprisingly low-key. Koto and Yase are the ones most outwardly excited, but Myoue and Kurama are more reserved. She’s glad everyone is all right, is pleased with what they’ve done with the place, and asks forgiveness for being gone so long. But she doesn’t solve everyone’s problems; in fact, she creates totally new ones. The original Myoue must’ve sensed her arrival and came back himself, causing serious damage to the drawing in the real world and thus the Mirrored City.

So what, is he the bad guy all of a sudden? Is he improvising, or was this all part of his original plan? Did he even have a plan? Is the city toast? There are just three more episodes to answer those pressing questions, but for now, despite the foreboding tone of the ending, we’ll be cautiously optimistic. After all, the family is finally back together; how could that be bad? Also of note this week: Koto finally protesting being constantly used and asked to do things when nobody is willing to give her any answers about her past. With her sensei back in the picture, that might change.

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)

Kyousougiga – 06

kyou6

Yakushimaru isn’t happy about being revived and adopted by Myoue and Koto (of the “monster temple”) and tries to kill himself again, to no avail. Gradually he gets accustomed to his new life and even starts to enjoy himself, as the family grows to five with Kurama and Yase. In the present, Koto confirms that Lady Koto is her mother. During the Mirrored City’s festival, Kurama and Yase bring Koto before the Council of Three against Myoue’s wishes. Kurama takes A and Un hostage and make Koto fight the robot Bishamaru, as the three siblings fight each other. Bishamaru’s mouth opens to reveal a portal to another dimension through which Koto falls, floating through space before being found by Lady Koto.

The more we learn of Yakushimaru’s past, the more it seems like he was the unwitting victim of a mad scientist, or rather mad priest. His rightful fate—the same fate as his original family—was torn from him, and a new, far more complicated fate assigned to him. That Myoue’s act was more one of selfishness than mercy. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been right to allow Yakushimaru to die, but making it so he can’t die ever? Keeping him from joining his family in the afterlife? Locking him in a world where more and more he and his siblings get on each others nerves as their methods for reaching their goals conflict? Yakushimaru didn’t sign up for any of this.

But he’s stuck. Kurama and Yase are in no hurry to die, and are done waiting for Myoue and Lady Koto to return. After sizing her up, they’ve determined that their ‘sister’ Koto and her magic hammer are the key to locating and reuniting with their parents. As Koto says, this all happens very fast, and there’s a striking contrast between the playful bliss of the siblings’ past and their over-the-top sparring in the present. Myoue’s beads, Yase’s brawn, and Kurama’s tech smash into each other in a brilliant amplification of rough-housing. They’ve remained children in their dream-world, and now they need a time-out and a scolding, so it’s fortunate Koto finds their mother after all.

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Now all that past pomegranate imagery makes sense: Myoue drew a magic one and Lady Koto fed it to Yakushimaru to revive him.
  • The rabbit, frong, and monkey drawings are taken straight from the real Choujuugiga scroll in Kouzanji.
  • Nice touch: A and Un are stuck in a Nintendo game.
  • There have been times in this show when we thought the background score was a little to loud or schmaltzy, but it worked perfectly this week, including return of the techno battle music from the Yase-centered OVA.

Kyousougiga – 05

kyou5

In the past, a young Myoue watches his house burning, lamenting his parents, and commits seppuku, but Myoue Shounin find him and brings him home as his son, later passing the care of the temple to him. In the present, Myoue waits by the station for his parents to arrive; Kurama compares him to Hachiko. A frustrated Myoue lashes out at Koto, but after spending a night alone, finds her at the station. They take a scooter trip to the fields outside the city, where Myoue tells Koto the rabbit she’s looking for is probably his (adoptive) mom, and asks Koto to kill him when they find her.

The Kyousougiga OVAs that ran last year were only brief tastes of what was to come, but they were enticing ones. Even a year and several dozen series since we last watched the fourth, the gorgeous environs at the end of Myoue and Koto’s scooter ride remain clear in our minds. This week represents the last of the material the OVAs previewed, in which we delve into Myoue’s story, which proves more complex than either of his non-human siblings. In fact, after keeping him on the margins for the previous four episodes, this episode establishes him as the unequivocal heart of the entire show. Everything revolves around him, and he’s the product of his father saving him from that fire. It’s not crystal clear whether Myoue Shounin saved ‘Lil Myoue’s life back then, or if he somehow resurrected him (that was a lot of blood), but we know Myoue would surely have died without Shounin, hence no show.

Myoue got a new life, new parents, a new family, and a new home; the parents left, and he’s lived in Mirror Kyoto for a very very long time ever since, waiting for them to return. We see Myoue’s increasing fatigue with his unending life, and when Koto arrives with the “beginning and end” his father promised before leaving, he apparently believe’s Koto’s presence to be the beginning of his end. They’ll find the rabbit – his mother – and then he’ll be released of his immortal burden, having lived a full and wonderful life—unlike that suicidal boy surrounded by flame. Up to this point the world was so wondrous and fun and peaceful that it never occurred to us Myoue would be ready to move on to…whatever’s next, but there it is. The episode closes before we can see Koto’s reaction to his asking her to kill him, but we wouldn’t be surprised if she wasn’t okay with it.

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)

Next Week: A live-action tour of the temple that inspired the series. So lifelike!

Kyousougiga – 03

kyou3

Koto visits the Kurama temple, lending Shouko her hammer, Aratama, and meeting with Shouko’s assistant Fushimi and the Chief Priest Kurama. In a flashback, Yakushimaru meets the siblings his father created for the first time. Kurama excels at his studies, calligraphy, and woodworking, and his father creates the Mirrored World so Kurama and Yase can visit the capital. Shouko loses her PSP, in a retelling of the second OVA. Meanwhile, Kurama is hopeful the arrival of Koto could lead to the fulfillment of his dream: to see the outside world.

This series is taking events from the earlier OVAs and adding material around them that augments and refines the overall story. It blends events in the present with Koto to events of the distant past with the three siblings, this time from Kurama’s perspective in both timelines. He was clearly designed to be a model older brother; when his siblings sobbed when their parents were suddenly gone, he took up the dual mantles of family head and watchful guardian of the town. He keeps Myoue and Yase in the loop, but he runs things.

Kurama sees Koto, the first-ever visitor to the Mirrored City, as his possible key to the outside world. He envied his brother’s actual humanity; and envies Koto’s as well. He’s pretty much achieved all he can in the Mirrored City; and yearns to leave the drawing and return to the real world he only had the slightest glimpse of as a child. That could have untold ramifications for both worlds, but we really can’t see Kurama as a villain executing a grand evil scheme here. He has just as much right to follow his dreams as Myoue, Yase, or Koto.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Kyousougiga – 02

kyouu2

This episode documents the young Koto’s life prior to entering the Mirrored Kyoto and becoming the ward of Myoue. Abandoned at a very young age, she was taken in and trained by Inari (AKA “The Fox”), and despite early complaints by his peers, she proves to have a great deal of talent. When Koto suddenly appears in the Mirrored Kyoto with her two familiars, A and Un, the Council of Three (the siblings Kurama, Myoue, and Yase), they debate whether she is related to them, or could actually be the reincarnation of their mother, who shares her name and eyes.

It’s just a fact of anime that whenever there are two characters with identical eye color (in an anime where not all characters have the same eye color, that is), it almost always means they’re related. So it’s no coincidence that lil’ Koto has the same red eyes as the departed Lady Koto or Myoue Shounin, just like it’s no coincidence that Inari also has the same color eyes. The narrator in the very first moments of the episode is also quite clear: “This is the story of one family’s love and rebirth.” Meaning Inari and Koto could well be Shounin and Lady Koto, reborn.

Mind you, the episode doesn’t come right out and confirm anything one way or the other, while the dream-like sequences of Koto and Inari in the secret room with the drawings of Mirror Kyoto and Koto the rabbit don’t make things much clearer. But whether she’s Myoue/Kurama/Yase’s mother or sister, she’s definitely a member of their family. Her appearance represents a sea change, both in their lives and in the world they preside over. The first major change since their parents left. We’ll see how each of them end up dealing with it.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Kyousougiga – 01

kyo11

In ancient times, monk Myoue Shounin leaves Kyoto to resid in the mountains of Takao. What he draws can come to life, including a black rabbit named Koto who falls in love with him. Koto makes a deal with a Buddha who gives her human form. She and Shounin have a family made up of Kurama, a drawing, Yakushimaru, a human, and Yase, a demon. This strange family garners derision from the town, so they move into the drawing of Kyoto, “the Mirrored City”.

They live there for hundreds of years, until Koto starts to dream of the world’s end, a warning to return her human form she borrowed from the buddha. She and Shounin depart for parts unknown, leaving their three children. Fast-forward to the present day, when Myoue Yakushimaru has replaced his father as Takao monk. The sky fills with unusual lightning, which he thinks could be a sign of Shounin returning, but it turns out to be a girl named Koto from a parallel dimension, looking for her guardian.

kyo12

This stylish, engrossing, inventive series has been teasing us with small tastes since December of 2011, but has finally gotten a run of ten episodes in which to expand its already dense and tantalizing story. We’ve been licking our chops for some time, and this first non-recap episode takes us all the way back to the beginning with Myoue’s father. It’s a charming, romantic tale that turns bittersweet when Koto, the rabbit who became a lady, then a wife and mother, has to leave that ideal life. There’s an alarming abruptness to going from happy family to three kids on their own, but Mirror-Kyoto is devoid of war or suffering, so the kids fare fine.

Once we’re in the age of cell phones and video surveillance (this episode covers a formidable length of time), the three now run the city like their parents once did, in the configuration we’re familiar with from the OVAs. Then, out of the blue, a girl who vaguely resembles their father suddenly makes a big, Terminator-style entrance, flanked by twin demon brothers, brandishing a big hammer, hunting a black rabbit we know to be Myoue’s mom’s original form. Just as suddenly as he lost his parents, Myoue gains a family.

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)

Kamisama Hajimemashita – 13 (Fin)

Tomoe sends his fox flames to scour the town for Nanami, but she’s wearing a concealing talisman. When she hears two girls excited about the upcoming shrine festival, she races back to the shrine. By then, the seals around a box are dissolved by Otohiko’s miasma, unleashing the even larger, more powerful misasma of the Earth Spider, defeated by Mikage centuries ago. With a little help from Mikage himself, she uses a Kagura dance to re-defeat the spider, and the shrine is restored to pristine condition. Humans and spirits alike amass at the night festival to watch Nanami’s Kagura dance. After it’s over, Tomoe praises her and “contracts with” (kisses) her, this time from the heart.

Last week we wondered why Nanami totally ran away so suddenly, but then we realized she’s still very young and prone to rash not always rational action. Tomoe also could have been a little more tactful in telling her to sit tight, so she wouldn’t feel useless. Fortunately, she snaps out of it before the earth spider totally levels the shrine. And as it turns out, there’s a lot more power within Nanami than anyone imagined. Everyone except Mikage, of course, who chose her (and left the spider in the box behind) for just this situation. Is the shrine and its grounds fully restored a bit too easily? Sure, but these are supernatural forces at work, so we’ll give it a pass.

What’s important is that Nanami came through in the clutch. Her Kagura standoff with the Spider shows that she’s willing and able to face and battle threats to the shrine rather than cower and let others save her (though she still trips). The festival is a nice way to end, with cameos by all the other deities, spirits, and classmates whose lives she’s touched. And in the end, Nanami gets what she’s always wanted from Tomoe: a nice long kiss that expresses his love for her, not just his obedience. Her deadbeat dad may have abandoned her, but in doing so, Nanami was able to find a purpose and a home that are truly her own.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Kamisama Hajimemashita – 10

The first half is the story of how Mikage met a listless Tomoe, shortly after Yukiji died. Mikage brings him to his shrine, nurses him back to health, and makes him his familiar, with emphasis on “taming” him and making him more friendly to humans. In the second half, Nanami is dragged to a karaoke mixer, but Mizuki, Tomoe, and Kurama are keeping an eye on things in the next booth. When one of the guys makes a move on Nanami, Tomoe takes him out and tells her they’re going home. Nanami thinks he’s irritated because she was with another guy; he doesn’t deny it.

Ah, a two-story episode…and a good one at that, with both halves more than pulling their weight. In fact, while the events vary greatly from one to the other, the first informs the second very nicely. Mikage comes across a wild, hopeless, defeated Tomoe, overcome by grief from Yukiji’s death. Mikage saved him and drove him to become stronger. Tomoe professes that he’s come to detest humans because they’re so weak. But threatening to devour nice young ladies only trying to thank him…is weak. Mikage teaches him this, then  suddenly disappears, and Nanami takes his place 20 years later. You can’t help but wonder what the old earth god’s intentions were.

Tomoe thought he’d put both romantic entanglement with (Yukiji) and outright contempt for humans behind him, but whether he’s starting to feel something for Nanami (who very obviously adores him) or he’s just afraid of another master abandoning him, Tomoe is never far from her side, even at a karaoke mixer. Rather than scold him for stalking her, she’s actually flattered that he’s so irritated by her hanging out with other guys (at least that’s what she thinks is the case). We’d be loath not to mention the best segue to the ending yet, with an unexpected karaoke-style rendition of the ED courtesy of Kurama. Seriously, that kicked ass.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Kamisama Hajimemashita – 05

The thunder deity Narukami pays Nanami a visit at school, offering to take the shrine and Tomoe off her hands. Nanami declines, so she takes her deity mark and turns Tomoe into a child with the hammer Daikokuten. She runs into Kurama, who lets her crash at his place. Tomoe’s body is too small to handle his demonic power, and he is disgusted by his uselessness helplessness, so he goes back to the shrine and hides there. Nanami bets that if she finds him, Narukami will return him to normal. She finds him in Mikage’s mirror, and Narukami withdraws. Nanami returns Tomoe to normal and he kisses her, resuing their contract.

The florid narrator says it all this week: severe storms lie ahead for Nanami. Narukami swoops in, and in less than eight minutes Nanami is out of house and home, has no familiar, and is no longer an earth deity. We had no idea it was so easy to strip her of her godhood, but the thunder deity is as powerful as she is impatient. It’s rather amusing that she just found out Mikage’s been gone for twenty years, and wastes no time taking over the shrine. Only once she has it, she’s miserable, because the place is a run-down mess without Tomoe, who has no intention of being her familiar.

If it wasn’t for suddenly bumping into Kurama (convenient, that), Nanami would’ve likely had to spend the night out on the street. Kurama for his part almost seems to relish hosting her and lil’ Tomoe, despite his veneer of annoyance and put-outness. It’s his chance to show Nanami – deity or not – that he’s not merely a villain. But most importantly, the ordeal switches Nanami and Tomoe’s roles for a week: she proves to him she can protect and care for him in his moment of vulnerability. There were moments when he was about to lose hope, but she pulled him out of that mirror and resolved the situation. He wastes no time re-contracting (kissing) her to show his gratitude.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)