Noragami Aragoto – 04

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Well, looks like Kugaha took Kurama too…Damn! That makes things trickier for Yato. Oh yeah, and Yato seems to believe, quite understandably so, that Hiyori was kidnapped under Bishamon’s orders, rather than Kugaha acting alone. Let’s just say Yato gets a little hot-blooded the moment he knows Hiyori is in enemy hands. He’s going to get her back; nothing else matters. When Yukine hears what’s happened, he’s quick to join.

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It’s a race against time, as Hiyori can only survive so long outside of her body. But she and Kurama are stuck, so it’s as good a time as any to explain the beef between Bishamon and Yato. Turns out, as we more or less knew, Bishamon’s entire cadre of regalias were wiped out by Yato, and Kurama was the only survivor. But Kurama also lets us know how a God can be resurrected after being destroyed, which is what Kugaha’s aim seems to be.

Kugaha wants Yato to kill Bishamon for him so a new Bishamon will be born: one he’ll be the exemplar for (rather than Kurama) and will likely be able to mold into more compliance than the current, “spoiled” Bishamon, whom Kugaha also believes is too “soft-hearted” to carry the mantle of God of War. And he may not even be wrong.

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Thanks to Tenjin, Yato and Yukine are able to travel to the realm of Bishamon’s mansion (in exchange for being kept out of it, plus one other thing Yato understands without him saying), and the fight begins. Because Kugaha is basically using Aiha’s corrupted body to weaken Bishamon, the lack of a steady exemplar like Kurama means her power flies out of control easier, which results in tougher attacks but at a risk to herself and her regalias.

Trapped in a dungeon and unable to intervene even if “Veena” heard him, Kurama laments the fact that it was he who got his fellow regalias wiped out by Yato. That’s right: Yato wasn’t only a rabid monster killing indiscriminately (though he was certainly in Nora’s thrall at the time): he was a rabid monster killing indiscriminately because he was asked to, by a young Kurama who didn’t know what else to do.

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When Bishamon’s body became riddled with corruption, and the regalia culprit wouldn’t come forward, discord was sown among them all, and all it took was one spark from someone who’s lost their temper to start fighting amongst themselves. Kurama couldn’t bear to watch Bishamon be destroyed in the chaos, so he exercised the nuclear option: hire a calamity god, Yato, to cut out the rot, to save Bishamon.

In the present, Yato seems to sense Bishamon is corrupted again, but Bishamon insists none of her regalias are betraying her this time—words that make Aiha tear up, because she and Kugaha are betraying her. In the past, Kurama’s quick, decisive action saved Bishamon, but I don’t think Bishamon wanted to be saved that way, even though things had gone to far to save her regalias.

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The collective pain of their fighting and deaths would have probably destroyed her, but better she die than watch them die. It’s the reason she takes on every lost soul she can, even if they’re not useful. She blames Yato, but she blames herself just as much for what happened.

Now, things are on the verge of going past the point of no return, and everything is going according to Kugaha’s plans, with Yato and Bishamon fixed on one another and their colorful pasts, unable to see the forest for the trees. Vastly outnumbered, Yato gets separated from Yukine, is encased in a tripartite barrier, and Bishamon’s killing blow for him is caught by Yukine, shattering him into pieces.

This was a brutally intense episode culminating in an equally intense cliffhanger. I can’t quite believe Yukine is dead, since that would surely be curtains for the unarmed Yato, but who knows? It’s a very unfortunate situation. Kugaha has truly made a mess of things, and it’s going to be interesting to see if and how it’s cleaned up.

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Noragami Aragoto – 03

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Aragoto essentially means “rough style” (of kabuki), and rough is exactly how things go for Bishamon’s chief regalia Kazuma in this fast-moving episode. He feels responsible for allowing Suzuha to die, and exposing his master to the agonizing pain of losing a regalia, even a minor one whose name she hadn’t spoken in decades. Dr. Kuga makes sure he feels bad, too. That leads Kazuma to inspect the site of Suzuha’s death, placing flowers at the cherry tree just as Yukine shows up for another playdate.

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When Yukine sees those flowers,  Yato can feel the resulting pain, which is when Nora appears beside him to say if Yukine’s “holding him back” he can always “cut her down;” she’ll help. Very helpful, as always, Nora. As for Yukine, he grabs hold of Kazuma and gets transported to Bishamon’s celestial manor.

In other words, the heart of his master’s mortal enemy. In another piece of convenient timing, Bishamon catches Kazuma with Yato’s regalia, assumes the worst—that she’s been betrayed—and considers stripping him of his name, but only ends up exiling him.

What’s so upsetting about this whole confrontation is that once again Bishamon is acting on pure emotion without getting the whole story, compounded by the pain she’s feeling both from the loss of Suzuha and all of her other grieving, uneasy regalia.

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As Bishamon’s other head regalia ponder what to do next, they let themselves be comforted and counseled by the wise and trustworthy Kugaha, who suggests they forget about Kazuma and concentrate on supporting their master. With nowhere else to go, Kazuma ends up at Kofuku’s where he learns the reason Yato hangs around there so much: Hiyori.

I like how Kofuku’s has become a kind of god-and-regalia orphanage. I also like the fact that Kazuma is now on the outside of the Bishamon citadel, looking in, having essentially switched teams not due to any conscious choice, but simple circumstances.

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Getting Kazuma out of the way was clearly Kugaha’s plan, and while he didn’t expect it to happen so easily due to Yukine’s appearance, he rolls with it and proceeds with his dastardly plans.

Those include siccing Aiha, his fellow regalia and clearly another victim of his manipulation, on Yato to separate him from Hiyori. Hiyori, for her part, leaves her body and tries to fight Aiha, but Yato tells her to stay back, and it isn’t long before Aiha and a mess of phantoms draw him further away from his friend.

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That’s when Kugaha swoops in and nabs Hiyori’s spirit, leaving Yato with only her unconscious living body. We’ve been here before, haven’t we? Only now Yato is as cognizant as ever that Hiyori is not only a dear friend and ally, but one of the only humans he knows who knows him, and whom he’s counting on not forgetting him.

She promised not to, and vowed to spend more time with him and Yukine, but now Kugaha has hit him where he lives, and with Hiyori as leverage, he has Yato right where he wants him, and Yato doesn’t have a whole lot of wiggle room. Still, with Yukine and Kazuma (assuming Kugaha doesn’t take him too) by his side, along with his own godly powers, Yato isn’t powerless, either.

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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 – 03

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Possessed of a shiny new regalia in Yuki and a cute semi-regular adherent in Hiyori, things are looking pretty good for Yato and his quest to gradually claw his way to celestial prominence. This week we learn just how far he still has to go, as his newest client is Lord Tenjin, the god of learning and something of a celebrity in god circles. Tenjin has is both ways: he can be a but of a condescending dick to Yato and flaunt his legion of regalias, including Yato’s ex-regalia Tomone (now called Sayu).

At the same time, he commands reverence and respect from Hiyori and Yuki. Yato really gets smacked around by all their “Wow, a REAL god!” carrying-on. Tenjin has summoned Yato to handle a phantom problem he doesn’t have time to handle himself, due to exams season; so Yato is taking on leftovers. Yato can’t turn down work, especially from a bigwig, so he takes the job, his first with Yuki. That’s when things get tense between him and Hiyori.

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The job involves people who are being possessed by phantoms and persuaded into committing suicide. Yato doesn’t express any sympathy for these people, saying basically “If they want to die, let them die.” That attitude cuts Hiyori to the quick, and the flees him in disgust, determined to carry out the mission herself. But tough and brave as she might be, Hiyori is not a god, and she’s no match for the phantoms, who have creepy dissonant voices that remind us of the Aku no Hana end theme. Yato saves her from being run over by a commuter train and takes out the offending phantoms with ease using Yuki.

Then Yato clears up his stance: he won’t let people whose should have been possessed by suicidal thoughts die in front of Yuki, Sayu, or any other regalia. After all, regalia are pure souls that exist and can be wielded by gods because they still want to live, even if they’re not sure why (indeed, Yuki remembers nothing of his life). Yato may look pathetic and embarrassing when standing next to the great Lord Tenjin, but he’s still a god, one that can to great things if given the opportunity. We can’t help but root for him.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Noragami – 02

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There’s a funny cutaway to Hiyori’s past when her mom first warns her about “useless members of society”, while she considers whether Yato is such a person. After all, her out-of-body experiences are really starting to be a problem (even if she has a group of dependable friends who laugh it off as narcolepsy), yet despite promising to “fix” her, he hasn’t done anything in two weeks. This is a classic introduction of someone “not at their best”, which makes both the skeptical party and the audience that much more impressed when we finally see them at their best, or something like it. Yato’s performance in the climax of this episode provides Hiyori with her answer: he’s not useless.

What we love about Hiyori’s predicament is that it’s a double-edged sword, not just a ‘curse”. She never knows when it’s going to happen, nor do we; the show manages to surprise us along with Hiyori with it every time. But when she’s in “Far Shore Mode” she’s also free of her human limitations: she can leap huge distances, run along power lines, and can put serious power behind her MMA moves. These new abilities fuel her confidence that she can help make her god less useless by finding the regalia he needs to cut Phantoms. Then, when she snags a giant tick-like phantom that then starts chasing her, she learns that finding an uncorrupted soul suitable for regalia duty is no simple matter.

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Meanwhile, Yato isn’t really useless, he’s just incredibly small-time at the moment, finding lost pets or scrubbing mildew from baths in exchange for 5-yen coins and the occasional beer. He’s not content with this, but if he wants that lavish, subway-adjacent lavish downtown shrine with three shrine maidens massaging him at once, he needs a weapon. Perhaps overwhelmed by the difficulty of that task, he seems to be slow in getting things moving. Enter Hiyori: it’s when she’s in trouble that Yato notices Mr. Right Soul from several hundred yards away, a little dot of light floating around a mailbox—right where it was floating in the very beginning of the episode, unbeknownst to Hiyori. Nice subtle foreshadowing there.

Our impression of Yato’s casual pace to life is bourne out of the fact that because gods live so much longer than mortals, two weeks is less than the blink of a bird’s eye. Yet his transformation from defenseless punk to tick-dominating badass happens before Hiyori’s eyes in no time at all. Unlike many situations like this in anime, where contracting with your weapon takes at least a whole episode, here it happens refreshingly instantly…and it’s Sayonara Ticky. Just as Yato proved that he’s someone Hiyori can put her faith in to (eventually) fix her, Noragami has proven it’s a show worth our attention; further elevated by Iwasaki Taku’s eclectic, thumping soundtrack, which is very assertive throughout the episode.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Noragami – 01

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There’s a pleasant affability to the opening episode of Noragami, owing to its straightforward, efficient, not overly-serious approach to storytelling, its crisp, fastidious Bones animation, and an always-welcome Iwasaki Taku soundtrack. It’s much more lighthearted than the promo art suggested, which merely shows that judging a show’s tone just by its promo art is probably a poor idea. Noragami takes a lot of stuff we’ve seen before in other shows, and tweaks things enough to maintain our interest, for now, at least.

Case in point: a girl being hit by a bus isn’t a horrific tragedy, but the catalyst that begins a transformation…and a friendship. That girl, Iki Hiyori (Uchida Maaya), is a cute MMA fan whose father owns a hospital. It’s quickly established that despite her normal looks her peers consider her a bit of an odd duck, so when her life takes a strange turn, what with the out-of-body-experiences and giant monsters, she takes it in relative stride, even defeating a phantom (the name of the baddies) with her MMA hero’s “Jungle Savate” kick. All this strangeness started right before that bus hit her, when she met Yato (Kamiya Hiroshi).

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Yato’s a down-on-his-luck god wandering the near shore (the living world) for followers. His “sacred treasure” (a weapon with human form, a la Soul Eater) dumped him like a ton of bricks, and he needs a new one to send the evil phantoms back to the Far Shore (the afterlife) where they belong. We liken him to Kamisama Hajimemashita’s Nanami in that he’s just starting out and will have to earn the respect and love of his peers and humans alike. He’s got big aspirations, and is aiming for the top as a god with hundreds of millions of devotees. But it all starts with a found lost cat.

While he does end up under her covers in the hospital and she freaks out a little when she wakes up being carried on Yato’s back, we can gratefully report that the relationship of Yato and Hiyori isn’t limited to her hitting him and calling him a pervert, and we hope the show will continue to show restraint both with that and the panty-shots (just one this week). Hiyori seems mindful that Yato is actually an okay guy, and after paying him the customary five yen, he agrees to tackle her wish to return to normal. So, a decent start, but with such well-tread theme, it didn’t knock our socks off.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)