Anime Reporter brings you my verdict on Noragami, the 12 episode anime series based on the manga of the same name.
Speaking of names, ‘Noragami’ translates to something along the lines of “stray god” which is a pretty good description of our protagonist. Yato is a pretty minor god, looking to collect enough cash to get himself a decent shrine by granting wishes for 5 yen each. These wishes typically consist of things that could otherwise perhaps be done by a schoolkid looking to make some spare cash, like hunting down a missing cat or doing some household chores, (but at 5 yen per errand, most schoolkids just couldn’t compete with his low, low prices!) His godhood occasionally calls for him to vanquish phantoms, pretty gruesome looking creatures formed from departed souls tainted by evil. (So, yeah, it’s a little bit similar to Bleach in that respect).
To take down these often gigantic baddies, Yato needs a Regalia. A Regalia is a clean human spirit that can transform into a phantom-fighting weapon when called into action by Yato. (So, yeah, it’s a little bit similar to Soul Eater in that respect.) Unfortunately, Yato’s Regalia has just quit, leaving him pretty helpless to do anything at around exactly the time that Hiyori could use his services most. Hiyori, a young student, has just developed an unfortunate habit of leaving her body behind her, leaving her vulnerable and afraid in a world filled with less than charitable spirits.
Inability to help aside, Yato accepts her request for his usual fee and eventually even manages to find himself a new Regalia. Things get ever more complicated from there though when Yato’s partnership with his newest weapon is revealed to have a few pretty heavy conditions attached and his own (ancient) history is said to be much darker than his layabout attitude would suggest.
Noragami is a well layered series, particularly for one that develops over just twelve episodes. Yato is a compelling character, both as a hero and as a god of some great ambition who nevertheless never thinks to ask for more suitable compensation or his deeds. Hiyori manages to walk the fine line between human-treading-where-mortals-were-not-meant-to-go and saviour-of-our-blushing-deity-in-distress. She maintains a likeable, positive attitude, without being relegated to bimbo-status and it’s a pleasure to see her adapt to her new reality.
The animation is gorgeous. It really is. There’s a great use of colour for the more other-worldly elements at play, but it doesn’t clash uncomfortably with the more grounded tones of the human world. Action scenes are intense and imaginative, but conversations and scenes of people just sitting around manage to hold up just as well, making every scene a pleasure to watch.
Overall, the series is great, blending intense action and ludicrous humour. These would have enough to make it a very good series, but it manages to insert a real progression of drama and emotion that only strengthens it as a story. Characters take their time in developing and the supporting cast of characters are varied and enjoyable, while still leaving plenty of room for this plot to develop in the future.
Noragami has elements of many series we’ve seen before. The concept of fighting evil or corrupt spirits has certainly come up in more than a few series, and it seems to have a few visual elements in common with Blue Exorcist and Bleach. The odd situation of the sloppy, money-obsessed god, down on his luck is pretty reminiscent of The Devil is a Part-Timer. That said, despite having several things in common with other popular series, Noragami manages to very much be its own thing. If you’re a fan of any of the other series I’ve mentioned in this review, you might just want to check this one out too. It’s no pale imitation, though. This one’s the real deal.
Noragami is available on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK and Ireland from Monday 21st September 2015 courtesy of Manga Entertainment. Don’t forget to check out their website for more details on upcoming releases!
Thanks for reading,