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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