Noragami Aragoto – 08

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As a fully committed Ebisu creates more masked ones, Yato continues to bask in the elation of finally having a real shrine to call his own, along with all the honors and privileges that come with it, from official registration to a plot of land and admittance to Takamagahara. He also wastes no time lavishing an excessive amount of attention on Hiyori, who probably didn’t realize when she made it how big a deal a little shrine could be for a god who had never had one.

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That importance is driven home when Hiyori encounters Manabu at school (the bullied kid who appeared in last season’s episode 8), but he only thanks her, he doesn’t remember anyone named Yato. Gods are created from the wishes of humans. No wishes, no gods. Meanwhile, Yukine takes advantage of his new resident status to look up Kazuma and beg him to help him become a better exemplar to Yato.

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Because as annoying as Yato has been, Yukine and Hiyori both are glad to see him so happy. He’s so happy, he doesn’t even know what to do, because as he says while drunk in a rare glimpse into his deep past, his “father” told him he’d never need a shrine. This is because Yato is a god of calamity. His clients would never be long-lasting, but due to human nature, there would always be clients for his kind of services.

With his blessed vessel and shrine and Hiyori, Yato wants to leave that past behind and hold tight to these new gifts, and even arranges to release Nora AKA Hiiro, believing he no longer needs her, and since she has many other masters, she doesn’t need him either. But Hiiro reminds Yato that he made her a Nora, then sics her phantom dogs on him to demonstrate how much he needs her to continue existing.

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From there, Nora pulls him off the wagon altogether and back into the life they used to lead, with her as the sharp sword of not-always-righteous retribution. Yato sinks back into the rut all too easily, like a drug he thought he kicked. Because as long as he’s fulfilling the dark assignments of the damned, he continues to exist. It was instilled in him long ago that he needed Nora for that.

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In this way, a full month passes during which neither Yukine nor Hiyori see or hear from Yato. Hiyori goes to Tenjin asking if he’s seen him, and Tenjin reiterates his concern that she’s gotten caught up in too much god stuff and needs to spend more time enjoying her adolescence. Almost on cue, as she’s worrying about whether Yato’s continued absense will cause her to eventually forget him, she trips on a flight of stairs and a strapping young lad catches her.

And as Ebisu recovers from a bad reaction to his latest masked creation and Bishamon and Okuninushi are apparently ambushed in a parking garage, Yato is off in some house with Nora, playing out the same old destructive patterns. Only thoughts of Hiyori bring him out of his complacent trance and he demands he be allowed to leave. The door opens, Nora appeals to their “father”, who gives them one more job before letting him go: rescuing a conjurer from the underworld.

Something tells me neither Nora nor this father figure are anyone Yato can trust, but at the same time, they were and continue to be a part of him, and his perceived obligation to them isn’t something easily cast aside, no matter how much progress he’s made reforming himself. Even for a god, old habits die hard.

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Noragami Aragoto – 07

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To the delight of Kofuku, Yato, Yukine and Hiyori return to the near shore safely and triumphant. To the amazement of Tenjin and Tomone, Yukine has become a blessed vessel. But now it’s time to pay the piper: Tenjin only let Yato go to Takamagahara if he agreed to sever ties with Hiyori.

Fortunately, he didn’t give a hard deadline for doing so, and Hiyori herself (who should get a say, after all) wants to be with Yato and Yukine longer, even if it’s dangerous, as it certainly was when she got captured by Kugaha. She also passes her exam and advances to high school. So both Yukine and Hiyori got promoted!

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Back in Takamagahara, there’s a meeting of major gods (called a colloquy) who give Bishamon the third degree, but ultimately let her go, telling her to keep an eye on Masked Ones and attempt to discover the god who is creating them. Afterwards, she bumps into Okuninushi and the other Seven Gods of Fortune; all but one, Ebisu, who is on the Near Shore offering to buy Yukine from Yato.

Now, you know, and I know, that even if he jokes around, Yato would never make this deal. Sure, he wants money, but not like this. But what about Yukine? Ebisu offers to pay him handsomely as well; he even offers to “rent” him from Yato as a Nora. And let’s face it, if he does every job for five yen, it will be centuries before Yato saves up enough to build his shrine.

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Yukine is also momentarily seduced by all those Benjamins Fukuzawas, which Ebisu leaves with Yato, but once they get a new job stopping a phantom-infected thief from ripping off an old lady through bank fraud, he gradually loses his taste for the cash money.

It’s also a matter of him being told he’s an exemplar now, having an even deeper bond with his master, and uniquely charged with protecting him. Daikoku (who is Kofuku’s exemplar) instills this responsibility in him.

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He also figures he’s dead; and shouldn’t put his needs ahead of others’. A well-paying job with Ebisu might be nice, but Ebisu is not Yato, the god who inspired Yukine to put his name on the line for him, making him a blessed vessel in the first place.

When the phantom is too small to cut in its present form, Yukine decides to use Ebisu’s cash as bait to spur its growth, sensing it’s a phantom that’s drawn to money. And once it’s big enough to cut, it’s no problem for Yukine to expel his vast defilement. But all the cash goes back to Ebisu, leaving Yato with his bottle of 5-yen coins and his dream of a shrine deferred once more.

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It’s on this point that Hiyori comes to the rescue, remembering her brother has some building materials. When she visits Kofuku’s shrine to find a depressed Yato curled up in bed not eating, she cheers him up to the point of tears with a miniature shrine. No matter how much money Yato makes, what he really wanted was not to build his own shrine, but have a shrine built for him, which Hiyori does.

And it may be small (and adorable!), but it makes a big impact on Yato, who is speechless in his joy and gratitude. Really cool and sweet gesture by Hiyori. Most importantly, now that he has a physical shrine that is all his own, he’s that much less likely to be forgotten by her or other humans, paving first stones on the path to fixing her “Insta-snooze.”

As for Ebisu…yup, he’s the rumored god creating the Masked Ones, which makes Yato and Yukine’s united choice to refuse his offer automatically the right one. Since he’s a powerful god of fortune (as opposed to the nora-regalia Kugaha), he’s a far more challenging opponent—but dealing with him isn’t just Yato’s mission. It’s also Bishamon’s. Could we get the much-anticipated teaming up of these two, so soon after her grudge has been cleared up?

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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 – 05

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Last week, it was all coming up Kugaha: everyone was playing the roles he’d laid out for them, and everyone was tied up in a knot, culminating in the shattering of Yukine by Bishamon’s untempered-by-Kazuma hand. But Yukine is fine, in fact, he’s better than fine: his act of sacrifice to save his master led to his evolution and transformation from mere regalia to blessed vessel, the same thing that happened with Kuzama.

Now Yukine is two blades instead of one, and they’re both much sharper; all the better to protect his master. Let there be no more doubt about the depth of their bond not just as master and weapon, but family.

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Does the quick resolution of last week’s cliffhanger kill the tension? Not by a long shot. In fact, Yukine’s transformation still plays into Kugaha’s hands, because Yato is now in a far better position to take out Bishamon, who is riddled with blight once Kugaha’s medicine wears off. But if the corruption is weakening her, it’s sure hard to tell; she fights as hard as ever, and her regalia suffer, sharing every blotch of blight she’s enduring.

This won’t end well until someone acts outside of the chain of command and saves Bishamon and everyone else from herself.

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That someone is Aiha, who tells Kuraha, who was just wishing Kazuma was there, where Kugaha stashed Kazuma and Hiyori. As Kugaha lays waste to scores of Bishamon’s lesser regalia with a giant dragonlike phantom, the old lion conveys the two former captives to Bishamon and Yato.

Notably, Hiyori refuses to return to the living world and her body until Yato has seen her; just as Kazuma may be the only one to stop Bishamon, Hiyori is the only one who can stop Yato.

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As Bishamon endures the pain of losing more and more regalia, she refuses to give up the fight, and seeing who’s fighting her, doubles down on her belief Yato is the one behind all this, and is again trying to take everything from her. At the same time, Yato hears the voice of Nora imploring him to cut Bishamon’s regalia down before she entangles him with her scourge. Nora drowns out Yukine’s voice, Yato’s eyes go dead, and he aims for Bishamon’s throat…

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But Hiyori’s voice, now stronger than Nora’s ancient influence, and the reason he’s come, stops him. She shows she’s fine, and explains Bishamon didn’t kidnap her. But it’s too late; if he doesn’t kill her, she’ll kill everyone in a massive atom bomb of corruption. Again going exactly according to Kugaha’s plans, he plans to kill her, saying it’s “not such a big deal” as she’ll be instantly reborn. But it will be a big deal, because she won’t be quite the same Bishamon.

Fortunately, perhaps, Yato’s cut doesn’t kill her, and when she counters, Kazuma comes between the two and takes the full brunt of the attack, then embraces Bishamon and confesses what he deems his sins. He was always going to tell her that he ordered the killing of the Ma clan, but he was the only one left she could turn to, he simply couldn’t say it, and never did, until now.

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Still, I think Kazuma is being too hard on himself. He did what he thought he had to to save his master, and bearing that terrible secret also protected her. Having only Kazuma as a basis for starting over was more important than revealing the truth, which back then would have been the final nail in her coffin. Instead, he became an earring and her exemplar, and she became a better, kinder god.

As with Yukine last week, I can’t definitively speak to the status of Kazuma (though I doubt he’s a goner), but that was some intense catharsis right there, and it had the effect of calming Bishamon and prompting her to release all the regalia she was pushing to their limits.

Most importantly: Aiha’s turnabout, Kazuma’s intervention, Kuraha’s independence, and Bishamon’s catharsis were all events that weren’t part of Kugaha’s plan. He managed to kill a lot of regalia, but his primary goal was thwarted (for now), and now Yato is resolved to go after “the guy behind all of this.” Finally, a break for the good guys.

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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 Aragoto – 01 (First Impressions)

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Wow, it seems like it’s been far longer than March 2014 since I last watched Noragamibut its new second season effortlessly slips back on like a stylish glove. The lush, busy, bullish episode wastes no time re-introducing the terms and mechanics of the show, doing so with a sudden phantom attack by Yato, the delivery god’s, latest babysitting job.

It also shows how certain things are now established, like Yato and Yukine being a solid team, with the latter able to slice through the phantom without harming Spirit Hiyori or the babe.

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The pacing of this episode was quick and peppy, but not relentlessly so, also refamiliarizing us with the various character dynamics, and the feeling of family emanating from the core trio, extended to Kofuku and Daikoku. But this season aims to focus a lot more on the always-badass god of war, the Lady Bishamon, and her endless quest to rescue spirits in danger and make them her regalia.

There’s a great contrast between Yato and Yukine’s phantom battle, fought in the tight quarters of a flat, and Bishamon’s, who soars through the sky smiting the bird-formed phantoms and catching their victim in midair, all while showing off her vast array of weaponry. I also liked that the regalia she creates from rescued spirits aren’t always weaponry, as this latest one becomes a broken mirror.

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It matters not to Bishamon, who is tasked with battling evil, but her massive collection of regalia are starting to take a toll on her health, even as they make her more and more efficient and effective at collecting them. In other words, she’s a bit of a hoarder.

But that burden she bears, along with her longstanding beef with Yato (presumably for killing a lot of her regalia in the distant past) look to be the crux of this season. The seeds for the commencement of that conflict are already sown as the precocious, somewhat lonely Yukine (Hiyori and Yato are more like family), left to his own devices, befriends one of Bishamon’s many regalia, and a more senior regalia takes notice.

It should be a fun ride, helped in no small part by the phenomenal all-star voice cast (Kamiya, Uchida, Kaji, Sawashiro, Toyosaki, Ono, etc.), the crisp, sumptuous visuals (this show makes gorgeous use of light and color), and the thumping, eclectic Iwasaki score (didn’t hear any new tracks, but it’s early, and the old ones are still dope).

Finaly, Hiyori Iki is adorable as ever, but also strong and focused: she doesn’t let Yato forget he has yet to do job she originally paid him for.

Will Bishamon only be satisfied with Yato’s head, or will she learn to accept he’s changed, in no small part due to Iki and Yukine? Will a foe force them to work together? I look forward to finding out, and hope you’ll join me on the journey!

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Noragami – 10

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It’s great to see the ablution worked, as Yukine is no longer a demonic bomb, and even gets a part-time job helping Daikoku in order to pay him back. There’s also a sense that Yukine is far luckier than he imagined, as Yato was being uncommonly patient with him. Around the same time, Lord Tenjin’s regalia Miyu gave him one little sting, and for that she was banished without appeal. Harsh!

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The bond between Yato, Yukine, and Hiyori has never been stronger or more stable, and yet when Yato asks Tenjin for advice on how to solve Hiyori’s problem (we were wondering when he’d get around to that!), Tenjin tells him that could be the problem: Hiyori has grown too close and familiar with Yato, and his first task in ridding her of her cord is to cut off all ties. Of course, that isn’t something any of the three friends want.

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Even though Yato never gets around to her about it, we’re sure Hiyori wouldn’t be happy about the prospect of abandoning two friends that have become just as real as her living ones at school. By now Hiyori has a pretty good (if incomplete) idea of how perilous her existential situation is, but she still seems willing to continue taking that risk if it means she can still be with them, having fun and helping each other out.

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However, it looks like the matter of whether Yato will tell her what Tenjin said (or whether it would actually work) is made moot by Nora, who is royally pissed off that Yato not only squandered the best opportunity to ditch Yukine, but that Hiyori was integral in keeping them together. In return, Nora lures her into isolation and sics masked wolves on her. The wolves disintegrate at dawn, but Nora isn’t done: she apparently wipes Hiyori’s memory, eliminating her from the equation out of the belief she makes Yato weaker.

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Meanwhile, Yato is kept busy by hordes of scorpion phantoms set up by Rabo, another calamity god, who has come to kill him. Yato and Yukine deal with them relatively easily, but by the time they meet up with Hiyori, she no longer knows who they are…which is obviously not good! This could have been a pleasant (and well-earned) festival episode for the trio, but with just two episodes left, the show wisely kept the pressure on by immediately introducing the next threat.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

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)

Noragami – 08

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Last week Hiyori and Yato decided not to give up onf Yukine, but if they’re to survive, Yukine has to not give up on himself. That becomes increasingly difficult when Yato’s next request for help comes from Hiyori’s underclassman, a mercilessly-bullied kid named Manabu. Manabu’s whimpering disgusts Yukine, and when Yato calls him out for harboring similar feelings, he wanders off on his own.

The “Bullied Kid” mission may be relatively routine for Yato, but after we’ve seen a case of someone crossing over to the dark side (i.e. that lost little girl), the possibility Manabu could meet the same fate remains throughout the ordeal. The danger is only compounded by Yukine growing more resentful and alone as he observes the living students. Throughout all this Yato is looking far more sluggish to Hiyori; to the point her playful beatings actually end up hurting him.

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Yato decides to place Manabu’s fate in his own hands in the form of two utility knives: one for him, and one for the bully he confronts. A phantom grows behind Manabu’s shoulder, egging him on with a creepy chorus of voices that he himself joins. But while he scares the bully into wetting himself, he remembers Yato’s words to him: crossing the line means abandoning humanity.

Through his unpleasant school experience Manabu’s cultivated the wrongheaded belief thinking he has no place in the world; but if he used the knife, he really wouldn’t. And while Yukine’s angsty antics (angstics?) are starting to wear thin, there’s still ample motive for them continuing and escalating: unlike Manabu, Yukine has no place in that school.

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The frustration that comes from realizing that truth leads him to smash the school’s windows with a bat. That’s the bat that breaks Yato’s back, as he can no longer hide the blight that covers most of his body. Hiyori is shocked by its progress, but snaps to and heads for Kofuku as instructed by Yato if things turned bad. You can see and hear her bitter disappointment in Yukine, after everything she’s done for him.

Only things are worse than she can imagine, because when they arrive, dripping with blight, Daikoku throws up a borderline. It may only be a quarantine precaution, but it was still surprising, and a gut punch for Hiyori. Earlier Kofuku momentarily switched into badass mode when she told Bishamon there’d be hell to pay if she harmed Yato. But so far Yukine’s doing Bishamon’s work for her.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Noragami – 07

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Usually we like our anime series’ mythologies to be kept as simple and un-embellished as possible, but Noragami is a notable exception, where the more we (along with Hiyori) learn about the whys and wherefores of the divine world, the more rich and immersive the experience becomes. After bowing in respect to Yato last week, Bishamon’s right-hand (or to be precise right-ear) shinki Kazuma and Lord Tenjin expand our understanding of the situation quite a bit.

In short, Tenjin cannot take Yukine on as one of his regalia because that would make Yukine a “Nora”—shinki with many names akin to a stray cat. Such agents are apparently a necessary evil, as they essentially do dirty work gods don’t want to sully their own regalia with. Like Hiyori, we’d thought Nora was just Yato’s on-and-off shinki’s name, but it actually describes what she is: trouble. But even if Tenjin agreed to take Yukine in, there are other issues.

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Far more dangerous than Nora pestering Yato is Yukine continuing to think impure thoughts and commit misdeeds, forming the defilement covering Yato’s body that will ultimately kill him. The logical, pragmatic, and honorable Kazuma owes Yato a debt, so far from harming Hiyori when they cross paths, he lets her in on this truth, and how something must be done to prevent Yato’s demise. Kazuma believes killing Yukine is the best way, but when Hiyori saw the chemistry and teamwork of Bishamon’s regalia, she glimpsed another, less killy way.

Yato isn’t ready to give up on Yukine either, even after he attempts to steal the disaster charity donation box from the convenience store where Yato works the night shift. Before he and Hiyori find him for a phantom battle, Nora gives Yukine the “You’re Useless” talk that always proves so devastating to kids in his emotional state. But Yato chooses a dull, uncooperative Sekki to running back into Nora’s sinister clutches, and as Hiyori begs him, he looks poised to adjusting his behavior towards Yukine, treating him not like a tool or object, but as the person he is.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • We could say this about every Noragami, but this was a beautiful episode, especially the diverse use of lighting: Bishamon’s ethereal bath; the fluorescents of the convenience store; the robust sunsets; the pale city lights; the stark shadow in Yukine’s room.
  • We liked the episode opening with Bishamon, who is far from an overbearing tyrant, and Kuzama, whose scolding advice she actually takes to heart.
  • After hearing her sweet voice in Kyousogiga, it’s more than a little unsettling to hear Kugimiya Rie spewing such awful, if poetic things. She definitely evokes a healthy fear.
  • It’s been a Kaji Yuki-heavy week. He plays an angsty Yukine here we’ve heard a lot of him as Hope Estheim in Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII—the first (and hopefully not last) U.S. FF release with an available Japanese language track (and yes, that track makes the game infinitely more enjoyable; the English dubs are abysmal). On top of that, Kaji voices Shuu in Nisekoi and the Prince in the latest Space Dandy.

Noragami – 06

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Yato’s quick return to greatness is further impeded by two obstacles that rear their heads this week: the beautiful walking armory Bishamon (Sawashiro Miyuki doing her standard Tough Chick routine), and the increasing difficulties Yato is having with Yukine. You can hardly blame Yukine, who isn’t even sure he should be on Yato’s side, considering Yato’s Dark Past, which includes killing one of Bishamon’s regalia.

As Yukine continues to think impure thoughts and steal that skateboard he had his eyes on, he’s doing damage to Yato in the form of a growing “blight” on his neck, and we imagine would kill Yato for Bishamon if it gets out of control. For now, dealing with problems on all sides, Yato goes into survival mode, telling Yukine to shut up and shape up, and thanks to Sekki’s power, is able to avoid most of Bishamon’s whips, bullets, and…lions.

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Hiyori is as conflicted as Yukine at the moment about whether she can trust Yato, but she has no choice; she’s stuck between shores and needs his help if she’s to avoid full phantom-hood. So she remembers his advice to seek the help of Kofuku and Daikoku, and after some brief wrangling and some cool “Yatolocation” Hiyori and the cavalry arrive just in time to save Yato. Even Nora pops her head in to deliver an assist.

Even so, this rescue was provisional: Kofuku did it because Hiyori begged her for help, but Bishamon will be back and will be just as eager to kill Yato, and the compatibility problems with Yukine continue, to the point Nora pesters Yato to use her instead. Yato hasn’t once apologized for his past, and even said he killed Bishamon’s regalia because he wanted to. But something tells us he’d rather not have to rely on Nora too much. Almost as if Yukine is his fresh start.

7_very_goodRating: 7 (Very Good)