Noragami – 12 (Fin)

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Noragami turns in a decent but unspectacular finale that provides relatively sufficient closure but doesn’t quite deliver the same emotional or visceral impact as Yukine’s ablution. For one thing, watching two angry guys swordfight just isn’t as visually impressive as the ablution; also, the fact that Hiyori is mostly just sitting/lying around this week, though ironically had she not shown up at all, Yato might not have beaten Rabo.

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Most importantly though, this battle didn’t hit as hard because we never really cared about Rabo. He’s significantly less interesting than the more puckish Nora, and kinda comes off as that lame old friend yelling “You changed, man! You used to be cool evil!” at Yato constantly. We were far more invested in Yukine’s fate, and appreciated the fact everyone had to put aside their baggage and chip in to help save him. There’s no redeeming Rabo.

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Rabo ultimately just had a death wish, and wanted someone who remembered him to end his life that had become meaningless because no one else did. He also seems to figure out pretty late in the game that the key to getting Yato as angry as possible is by hurting Hiyori. About her: even though the memory orb shatters, she gets her memories back on her own, thanks to Yato’s smell. Scent being the sense most tied to memory, this kinda makes sense.

With Rabo taken out and Nora again masterless (we imagine she and Soul Eater’s Excalibur would get along famously), Yato begs Hiyori to cut her ties with him an Yukine. Not surprisingly, she flatly refuses. After all, the girl who can break out of a powerful shinki’s spell and beat the crap out of a calamity god for being too close is not the kind of girl to end her two most meaningful friendships just to live a “safer” life.

7_very_goodRating: 7 (Very Good)
Average Rating: 7.667
MyAnimeList Score: 8.29

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Noragami – 11

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So we got slightly ahead of ourselves when we said Iki forgot all about Yato and Yukine; turns out it’s just Yato she’s forgotten (at first). Therefore Yukine doesn’t panic, and assures his master she’ll remember him in time. Yato breaks out his awesome artistic skills to try to get her to remember, but doesn’t make any progress.

Then Nora shows up and shows them the memories she’s taken from Hiyori, and will give them back if they defeat her new master Rabo. Yukine has no idea who Rabo is, but sees how much he gets to Yato in their brutal (and very cool) fight. Then Yukine goes to Kofuku and Yato goes to Tenjin, seeking answers.

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Kofuku tells Yukine what she already told Iki: that Yato was a calamity god like Rabo, but has changed, no longer fulfilling bad wishes. Knowing that Iki was fine with this, Yukine is also willing to set Yato’s past aside. But then Tenjin tells Yato perhaps Hiyori’s amnesia is a blessing in disguise: the separation she needed from the Far Shore to stop becoming a half-phantom and focus on living in her own world.

While we’re sure he’s not happy about it, Yato concurs, and tells Yukine to stop seeing Hiyori. Nora may have inadvertently solved Hiyori’s problem is solved, right? Well, Yukine being Yukine, he shows Hiyori the picture book Yato had begun (but the last page of which Yukine had to draw in a, shall we say, more naive scrawl). When he hands the book to her, she loses her memory of him as well.

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So no, Nora wouldn’t inadvertently help anyone; she’s too evil. Instead, this is no longer a matter of Yato grudgingly closing the book on his friendship with Hiyori: it’s about restoring her memory before there’s nothing left but an empty vessel. While the stakes are higher, we think part of Yato and Yukine are glad they don’t have to say goodbye, having come to love her as much as she loves them. They’ll get her memory back and fix her tail problem the right way.

Yato and Yukine stop by Hiyori’s to tell her they’ll fix her memory. It moves her to tears she can’t even explain due to the amnesia, but she’s also moved to grabbing Yato’s shoulder as they teleport away, leaving her mortal body behind. Does this mean she’s willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and support them? Is that even wise, in her deteriorating condition? We’ll find out next week, when Noragami (or Noragami’s first cour; we’re not sure yet) wraps up.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Noragami – OVA 01

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We’re big proponents of the body-swapping episode when done well. In addition to being a refreshing change of pace, it is also an opportunity for the seiyus to show off their talent. Listening to Uchida Maaya successfully imitate the way Kamiya Hiroshi voices Yato is enough to justify watching this OVA (or OAD…whatevs). That’s not the only reason to do so, however. With the immediate crises of the main storyline set aside and the show placed in a sandbox, it decides to have a little fun, which turns out to be infectious.

With the aim of increasing his exposure to humans, creating new delivery god business, and simply staving off boredom and loneliness, Yato decides to impliment a “divine possession” of Hiyori. That would be stressful enough for her on an ordinary day, but he decides to do this on her first day of high school. Even if she’s in class with many familiar faces, she’s brand new to the other three-fourths of the school, so impressions matter.

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Yato’s field day consists of solving a hard math problem (making Hiyori look smart), acting very forthright and brash (confusing those who know her) handing out his number (making Hiyori look a bit loose), singing, dancing, kicking ass in soccer, etc. Kofuku also joins in the mischief, involuntarily causing dozens of accidents and mishaps. Eventually a (weak) phantom shows up causing a voyeuristic student to jump out a window, but Hiyori-Yato catches him heroically.

There’s a great impish energy emanating from Hiyori-Yato, and a gnawing frustration in Hiyori (and Yukine). Calling upon Lord Tenjin and Mayu backfires when the two appear on campus dressed to the nines and become engulfed in bewitched students (though they do eventually put an end to Yato’s fun). When Hiyori returns to school the next day, we appreciate that everyone remembers everything she said and did yesterday. All eyes are upon her, most of them full of admiration and respect. So at the end of the day, Yato did get her high school life off to an auspicious start. All it cost her was a dislocated shoulder!

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

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)

Noragami – 05

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Hiyori has taken a liking to Yukine, and doesn’t want Yato corrupting him, so she invites Yukine to stay at her gigantic house, where her maid and parents can’t see him, which is just fine for her. She’s also undeterred by the prospect of someone who is (or at least was) an adolescent boy living and at one point sharing a bed with her. To Hiyori, he’s a little brother that needs better shelter than the musty old shrines where Yato crashes. More importantly, he needs love and kindness, something she has in spades.

But considering Yato is the one who receives the stings whenever Yukine experiences temptation—be it for Hiyori’s boob or a five-finger discount skateboard—Hiyori has things backwards: it’s technically Yukine who is corrupting Yato, in terms of physical harm, at least. And while Hiyori may have a highly mobile soul, she remains a naïf when it comes to the extent of the god-regalia (or god-shinki) dynamic. Yato makes it clear that regalia are the conduit through which gods are able to fathom human morality, something gods aren’t subject to. It’s also a way of documenting the amount of sin a regalia commits, which goes into the calculation of their eventual divine punishment, something Yato warns comes to all, including Yukine.

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While we liked the scenes in which Hiyori was treating Yukine as her adoptive brother, and we know she’s sincere in her desire to care and protect him, the reality is she isn’t powerful enough to do so. In the darkness, trouble will always come looking for Yukine, and when he wanders off on his own, his own compassion almost leads to him being snatched up by a phantom. He meets the lost soul of a young girl killed by a hit-and-run (by the leading cause of death for young girls in animeland…anime drivers are monsters!), and witnesses her becoming possessed by a phantom. It’s a heartbreaking twist, but ends up serving as a powerful wake-up call to Yukine and Hiyori alike.

Neither of them are strong enough to stop the phantom, and it’s too late to save the girl, so when Yato arrives, the only course is to kill her, freeing her from everlasting hell. Even in sword form Yukine protests and wavers, but Yato uses him to rend the phantom anyway. Once the darkness takes someone, it doesn’t give them back. Under these circumstances, Hiyori is still being way too reckless with her body, while Yukine now appreciates that his best chance at surviving a dangerous world is by continuing to work with and learn from Yato. Meanwhile, a beautiful lion-riding, pistol-wielding god has taken notice of Yato’s activities and new regalia. That should be an interesting meeting!

7_very_goodRating: 7 (Very Good)