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.
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.
Rating: 8 (Great)
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.
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.
Rating: 8 (Great)
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).
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.
Rating:7 (Very Good)