Anime: Noragami (DVD & Blu-Ray)
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: July 7th, 2015
Retail Price: $69.98
Aedan: From the premise of the anime series Noragami, you instantly know that the 12 episode anime series is bound to impress. Sure, it’s not the non-stop action series I was anticipating, but it’s so much more than that. The series is set to follow Yato, a minor god who is on the outskirts of success and can be found fulfilling wishes for a mere amount of money. He is viewed as lazy by most who know of him, and his average lifestyle has left him on the cusp of a plain life for that of a god. In this world of intrigue, supernatural creatures surround everyone on a daily basis and are invisible to the naked eye, but there are those (gods and other beings) who have the ability wo view them as they are, and often conflict with the dangerous spirits that reside nearly everywhere. There are tow locations known, the Near Shore which is the world of the living, and the Far Shore where the dead reside. Gods like our protagonist Yato can fulfill the wishes of the living beings, but are also present to combat darker manifestations known as phantoms with the help of a spiritual weapon created by the remnants of a pure and lost soul (These weapons are called Regalia.) Aside from Yato, we quickly come across two other characters that each bring a different focal point to the series, including Hiyori, a mixture of a human and phantom who only discovers this when her body is out of consciousness (after thinking she saved Yato from a potential accident). His other companion, and new Regalia in the beginning, is known as Yukine. Yukine is a pure hearted young boy who was taken too soon, and Yato claims him as his Regalia, giving Yukine some semblance of a life experience after having his time stolen from him. With the essentials introduced, and the story kicking off lets get into what makes Noragami such a fascinating watch.
The character of Yato is definitely aligned as the series lead character, which requires some heavy lifting. Being known as a god and the series lead, you expect a lot from Yato – which is a reminder that the character is actually written as a lovable loser so you experience moments of thinking “You should be doing __” but that’s part of what makes it smart writing. Yato is, and probably mostly will be, a man who works on his own time. For being a lesser known god, he begins to accept his “role” and really embraces the fun side of life. In fact, Yato is the main contributor when it comes to the comedic moments throughout Noragami, and it is completely necessary and successful on all accounts. In almost any scene Yato can pull laughter from viewers, and remind you that the series is overall a light/comedic anime which threw me for a loop initially. Aside from Yato’s love of humor, we do discover at a later point that he has much more to him and strength in unforeseen ways. Towards a last arc specifically, Yato’s past rivalry is showcased and branches out into a fight of epic proportions, with some of the best action of anime series in 2014. Sure, the scenes are limited towards the end, but it solidified Noragami as a series with depth, and it can layer characters beyond the surface.
When Yukine is introduced, he’s a young boy with a side of arrogance. We aren’t quite sure where it stems from, but theres is clearly an underlying trauma that has shaken Yukine’s demeanor (I mean…death isn’t fun, am I right?) His ways only begin to build as this “pure” soul begins to find his own darker side when he begins to toy with the notions of selfishness, honesty, anger, and more (including those sometimes unshakable pubescent thoughts.) Yukine is possibly the most interesting character in Noragami because we don’t actually understand everything he’s gone through, but he enters the series quickly and we discover that he can’t be labeled as one thing or another, because he is still in the process of discovering himself – something that is a universal theme for people. His arc also serves as one of the more enthralling few episodes, adding that Noragami humor, and suspense that keeps an air of mystery around his character. Unfortunately, he’s not as prominent in the remaining episodes but the fact that Yukine is still there means more of our favorite Regalia for season 2!
Rounding out the main characters is Hiyori, the third member of the core group established early on in Noragami. Hiyori is a character in transition in so many ways – when she discovers her abilities to leave her body in a spirit form, she takes the time to discover what that means. With the help of Yato, and finding her own ways to learn, she begins to show that her character is a necessity to adjusting to this world, and the nurturer they so clearly require. Hiyori is the character in Noragami who embodies the desire to help, at any cost. She cares so deeply for Yukine and Yato that her huge heart makes it a detriment to her at times, but makes her a completely lovable character to watch molded in front of you. Hiyori also has her moments of grief, going through a plot that hinders her and proves to us how important she is. With her in danger (trying to stay non-spoliery here) Yato and Yukine individually struggle to cope with what that could mean for them, and their group becomes prominently known that they now must function as a unit.
When it comes down to it, Noragami is massively impressive as an anime series. It has the ability to invoke humor in every episode or scenario, while surprisingly forcing you to recognize the action and drama that can be placed throughout this acclaimed series. The amazing voice cast by FUNimation that are evenly distributed, and the spectacular animation makes Noragami is a complete success in my eyes, so I am 100% ready to continue immersing myself in this world. I highly recommend you buy it as soon as possible, Noragami season 2 can’t come soon enough!
Amrita: Noragami is primarily seen as an action-comedy and although the series is loaded with hilarious moments, the action was surprisingly lacking. If anything, Noragami’s main genre focus was drama and comedy. The first arc of the series is quite subtle and the conflict present throughout this arc is gradually built up until it all comes to a head around episode 8. More than half of the series is spent developing the three main characters and there isn’t necessarily a “big bad” this season; at least in my eyes there isn’t. Audiences are introduced to two characters that are considered villains, but Noragami failed to flesh those characters out thus making them quite insignificant in the long run. The plot to the anime itself is quite interesting and it revolves around the god of calamity, who now calls himself a delivery god, Yato, his regalia Yukine and the half human-half-phantom girl, Hiyori. The main characters are Noragami’s driving force and are the reason I ended up loving Noragami in the end.
The strong bond Yato, Yukine and Hiyori share is truly beautiful and watching it grow and unfold made me root for these three even more. Any group scene, whether it was comedic or emotional, was a joy to watch and it’s clear that this beloved trio was fated to meet and one point or another. As much as I loved the group element, I unsurprisingly have a favorite amongst the trio; a character I love more than the other two. My favorite character of the series is Yato’s regalia Yukine. Yukine isn’t fond of Yato in the slightest and spends his time disobeying him at every turn. Having died at a young age, Yukine longs for a normal human life, which is something that’s beyond his reach.
The anime also implies that Yukine’s “human” life was far from pleasant, with abuse and neglect being hinted at. Yukine struggles to comprehend his new found life as Yato’s weapon and the first season is basically dedicated to showcasing Yukine’s inner turmoil and grief. Yukine repeatedly commits acts that hurt Yato physically and it’s these actions that bring the Yukine-arc to the forefront. Viewers may consider Yukine a whiny, bratty teenager, but to me he’s the heart of Noragami. It always surprises me how much people either dislike Yukine or simply don’t like him as much as they like Yato or Hiyori. For me, obviously, the case is the complete opposite with Yukine being the stand-out amongst all the others.
Yato and Hiyori are quite likable as well, but in the end I wasn’t as attached to them as I was to Yukine, but that’s not to say they aren’t amazing characters. Yato is the anime’s most comical character and his ever-changing, priceless expressions are truly golden. Any scene involving Yato conjured a good laugh out of me and his more serious scenes made me long for the return of the silly and humorous Yato. Hiyori is the mother of the group, which contrasts Yato’s role as the father with Yukine stepping in as the child, and spends most of her time worrying about Yato and Yukine. She plays an essential and influential role in both Yato and Yukine’s decisions, which was quite fascinating to see.
My only complaint about Hiyori was her status as the show’s damsel in distress. She starts the series off as a bad-ass, wrestling fan that has some kick-ass moves of her own, but as the anime progressed she lost most of her spunk and was instead placed in the wretched damsel in distress
role. It would have been nice to see Hiyori be consistently (physically) strong. This brings me to the character of Bishamon, who is consistently strong throughout the series and was yet another stand-out character. Not much was shown of Bishamon, in terms of her background, but I loved her character from what I did see of her. With a fierce grudge against Yato, Bishamon is determined to slay the god of calamity and I can’t help but admire her for her strength and unshakable resolve. Season 2 of Noragami, yes there is indeed a season 2, focuses on Bishamon and I simply can’t wait to see the character development in store for her.
In terms of the anime itself, I thoroughly enjoyed both the sub and the English dub. I initially viewed the series on Hulu way before it was dubbed and I must say the dub holds its own against the sub. Hiroshi Kamiya (Yato) and Maaya Uchida (Hiyori) truly excel in the sub, but Yuki Kaji steals the show with his heartfelt and tear-jerking performance as Yukine. As for the dub, Jason Liebrecht was the perfect choice for Yato as he expertly balanced Yato’s lighter, more comedic lines and delivered his darker lines with as much seriousness as he did for his role as Hei in Darker than Black. Bryn Apprill succeeded in capturing the optimistic and determined essence of Hiyori and Micah Solusod delivered the same impactful punch Kaji did in the sub as Yukine. When it comes down to it, both the sub and the dub are excellent and viewers will thoroughly enjoy both.
+Pros: The characters are incredibly likable and the audience is bound to find characters to root for. The biggest upside to Noragami is the character of Yukine whose storyline was by far this season’s best and invoked quite a lot of tears on Amrita's part. The trio all feel like essential characters, without any of them serving as a weakness to the plot. The character design as well as the animation is absolutely vibrant and crisp; the detail put into each character design separates the characters from one another, making each character unique. The soundtrack is also a huge plus side and succeeded in setting the mood for each scene. The opening theme of Noragami alone is a noteworthy song selection that can be played on repeat. Overall, Noragami is a humorous series and this humor is greatly appreciated; especially if the episode was a particularly dark one.
-Cons: The action is seriously lacking and the “fights” Yato has with roaming phantoms last for about 3 minutes. The action sequences do run on longer than those three minutes, but that’s only because 5 minutes are spent with Yato “strengthening” his regalia. These redundant scenes involve Yato uttering the same dialogues which are reminiscent of any Sailor Moon transformation. Once Yato is done talking, his regalia is strong enough to kill each phantom with a couple of easy blows; now, where’s the fun in an easy opponent? We need more than an appetizer sized battle to enjoy! The villain of the season, yet another god of calamity known as Rabo, barely gets any character development and isn’t even a prominent character till the last two episodes of the season. The climatic battle between Yato and Rabo is a huge let-down and relatively short; We found ourselves questioning “is that it?” by the arc’s end.
Noragami is far from a perfect series, but the goods definitely outweigh the bad!
PopTalk Overall Combined Score: 8.5/10