Noragami is a title that’s been around for a while and is even still going but always seems to be hidden behind all of the other big ongoings. You just never see anybody ever talking about it and the same with the anime. This one isn’t even that old and yet I don’t remember seeing it make any headlines. It’s a shame because the production values on this show are really way better than I expected. Yukine single handily sabotages the show enough to keep me from calling it great all around but you’ll have a lot of fun with this one.
The show starts by introducing us to Yato who is one of the gods of this realm. He accepts any mission for 5 yen and one day hopes to have his own temple where people can come worship him. In the meantime though he is pretty poor and so nobody really wants to work with him. His latest regalia (partner) decided to quit so Yato is on his own one day. He gets someone else into trouble when a girl named Hiyori pushes him out of the way as a bus was about to hit him. Of course it wouldn’t have hurt since Yato is effectively a ghost but she didn’t know that and her spirit self was shot right out of her.
Hiyori now has a rare condition where she will just fall out of her body at times. Her spirit form can then run and jump across buildings but the danger is that it attracts evil spirits. She is now a prime target for all kinds of villains and so she hires Yato to heal her of this condition. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like he knows all that much about her situation so this may not be as easy as all of that. He does finally find a new regalia in Yukine but this kid has a lot of issues. Will they be able to form a true team and save Hiyori or should she turn to another god for help?
Right off the bat I like the setting for Norgami. It’s a very classic city but one that actually makes use of this. You have the characters fighting while jumping on buildings, checking out the sites, and the place always feels very modern. It’s very much the kind of place you would see in a slice of life title, only you’ve still got your consistent action here. Additionally, the gods dynamic is fun with how they’re always around and normal people just have a hard time seeing them. Whether the god stays alive and powerful or not depends on if people continue praying to them. It adds a sense of urgency for why Yato wants to keep on clearing missions and to get bigger. If he doesn’t then he’ll literally cease to exist.
Gods also have special privileges here like how they don’t suffer penalties for committing crimes and such since they are supposed to be above good and evil. You can see how the rules are slanted in their favor but they made the rules so of course they would do that. Season 1 doesn’t introduce us to too many gods yet but it’s clear that there are quite a lot of them running around. They’ll just be slowly incorporated into the mix.
Noragami also has a lot of really solid humor. One of the best gags was when a guy decides to finally end his life and gets to the roof. Yato approaches and you figure he’s going to talk this guy down but by mistake he falls on him and so the whole group (Yato, Yukine, Hiyori, and this guy) all fall off the building. So Yato is still talking him down as they are plummeting to their doom. They’re falling for close to 20 minutes and the characters even comment on this but Yato takes it in stride and never panics. There are some twists about how this guy’s life went so crazy and the show turns what would usually be a rather grim moment into something rather amusing.
The show just has a good sense of humor and a lot of that comes from Yato. He’s really an ideal main character who is strong but doesn’t take life too seriously. In a few ways he reminds me of Train Heartnet. The guy’s been in the game for a very long time at this point and so he has learned to not take everything too seriously at this point. He’ll eventually clear all of his goals so why stress about it right? It’s a pretty good motto tbh. Yato’s just a lot of fun and really does a good job in carrying his part of the show. He has a lot of the best scenes without a doubt and never gave up on Yukine even when it seemed like he should.
Yato’s certainly someone who owns his mistakes. Now he probably could have handled Hiyori’s case better, I won’t argue against that but for the most part he’s always on point. Then the show also has a really great soundtrack. It’s just epic and always has a very electronic kind of vibe to it. At the same time the slice of life moments can be low key. The opening song is really catchy and there are even a bunch of lyrical songs that play from time to time. This is close to a 5 star soundtrack for me and it just never lets up.
Then the animation is also a cut above the rest. It has aged really well and could hold its own with any of the newer shows. The fights are on point and I like the effects they use for when a villain is exorcised. The whole show has a lot of extra detail thrown in the whole way. A lot of care and effort was put into the presentation. There isn’t much in the way of fanservice also which is always nice to note. There is a bit here and there so I can’t say that it’s devoid of this but for the most part you get to dodge this issue.
So as you can see the show was just great all around. I thought it exceled in every area that a show can in order to enhance the manga quality. Of course it still does have to follow the story and the show’s only weakness is Yukine who can be almost unbearable at times. He doesn’t learn from his mistakes and just keeps on making them. I’ll get into him more in a moment but yeah the show would have easily reached an 8 without him. That kid just gets to be too much.
In fact, Yukine’s plot is most of the season. So his dilemma is that he is having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that he is dead. This can be an issue for a lot of characters for sure but he takes it really poorly. Yukine feels like he died so young that he never got to experience what it meant to be alive and to have friends. As he is a kid right now, that means that was the age in which he died so you can see how the whole thing was tragic for him. We’ll certainly find out more about that in the future but for now it’s a mystery and it wouldn’t be good for Yukine to find out more.
Yukine decides to rebel as a result. One rule I haven’t mentioned yet is that if a regalia feels bad, has malicious thoughts, or actually commits a crime, then this is all transferred to the god through a searing pain/curse. These stings will eventually destroy the god and so for that reason, most Regalia are tossed aside after a single burn. Yato doesn’t do that since he wants to stand by Yukine all the way to the end but unfortunately that just means that Yukine continues to do this without stopping.
Now, in Yukine’s only defense I feel like the characters could have been a bit more straight forward about how his sins impact Yato. Yato says it but in a way where everyone seems to think he’s joking at first. To an extent I’m not sure if Yukine ever actually believed Yato until Yukine mentioned it in the climax of the arc. That’s the one weakness of always joking around, when you’re actually serious people may not even believe you at the time. It’s something that Yato should really keep in mind.
This in no way absolves Yukine from what he’s doing though. He’s smashing windows, stealing stuff, etc. The guy has no moral compass and even came close to taking advantage of Hiyori when she was asleep if Yato hadn’t come around. These things are really tough to come back from and so Yukine was easily the worst character in the series. A whole lot of focus is on him too which hurts the season a bit. After a while we get it, he’s an awful person so you just wish things could speed up a little more because you want to go back to seeing Yato and his crazy shenanigans. That’s when the series is at its best along with the solid action.
Yato probably would have been better off with a different regalia. Meanwhile Hiyori is a good heroine. Jumping in front of the car to save Yato was very heroic and she takes her new condition in stride. Of course she isn’t thrilled about how Yato is always giving her the runaround but who would be right? He’s clearly just stringing her along and she knows that. Still, Hiyori takes the situation into her own hands several times like when she tries to fight some of the monsters in her ghost form or when she tries to find Yato a regalia.
Hiyori always throws herself into the plot and does her best to try and find a cure as well. I liked the fact that she wasn’t just waiting on Yato all day with no plan. Hiyori was doing everything that she could and that’s a good thing. Her two friends are also reasonable with how patient they are about Hiyori’s “sleeping bouts” (Which is what it looks like to people when her spirit form runs off) and her having to ditch them from time to time. I doubt they’ll ever get a big role but they’re nice enough.
Then we’ve got some of the other gods like Tenjin. He’s a fairly nice guy but probably not the god you want to work for. He’s quite extreme with how he’ll toss out a regalia over a single infraction. He also doesn’t seem like he would be quick to help Yato in his time of trouble. So in the end I don’t see him as being too reliable. Then you have Kofuku who is a lot more likable. She is the goddess of misfortune so she does tend to make the situation worse but it’s by accident so at least she isn’t trying to do that. I can certainly give her a pass and of course she is willing to help Yato in his time of need.
She steps in when Bishamon shows up and even threatens the war goddess. So Kofuku’s got Yato’s back and that’s appreciated since you probably couldn’t say the same for most. There’s also her regalia Daikoku who is decent enough. He’s very protective of her and always has a tough exterior. Ultimately he means well but his priorities are clear, Kofuku is the one who matters above all else. A fine attitude for a regalia to have since that’s their purpose and fortunately she likes Yato so he ends up helping out a whole lot as well.
Bishamon is one of the goddesses with the biggest role here. She has had a long standing feud with Yato for some time now over him apparently murdering one of her regalia. There’s clearly more to this story than it appears as her regalia Kazuma considers himself to be in Yato’s debt but she seems unaware of this. Either way she makes for a very solid antagonist as a result as she gives him no breaks or any room to explain himself. She just wants him dead at any cost. It’s not like he’s trying to explain himself anyway though, for some reason it seems like he wants to keep that a secret.
As for Kazuma, well he’s good in this season. He does aid the heroes even if he has to keep a secret and the guy comes across as being rather reasonable. It would be nice if he could explain exactly what the situation is to Hiyori, but it’s not like he’s under any obligation to do so. Ultimately he does still work for Bishamon and just helping out in the climax is good enough in order to repay his debts.
Nora is a mysterious figure who is also tied to Yato’s background. Apparently she used to work for Yato during his darker days when he was murdering everyone. Now Yato doesn’t want anything to do with her so she has gone further and further into the realm of the dark. Her role is rather large at the end of the season since she orchestrates the whole scenario with the heroes having to fight Rabo.
As for Rabo, I like this guy as a villain. He doesn’t have a whole lot of motivation beyond just wanting to fight Yato at his best and causing general mayhem. Rabo is a rather simple villain but an effective one. He has one singular goal and will do whatever he can in order to accomplish it. It doesn’t get much better than that for a villain. He’s also strong and his battles with Yato are really solid. Rabo even had the upper hand for good portions of that fight but of course you know that Yato would absolutely be able to claim victory if he was truly going all out like in the old days.
Now while I did enjoy the animation a lot, I do think the show could get a little lazy at times. There’s one flashback they show where Yato murders these two guys a ton of times. It was almost every episode after Hiyori found out about his past. They would play the same scene over and over and over again. It got old really quick and felt obvious as a way to save time on the animators part. In general I’m not usually a fan of recycled animation. Even when used stylistically, I can’t help but feel that it’s just really lazy. It doesn’t have to be lazy all the time of course but that’s just the vibe that I get. There is also recycled footage for when he’s entering into battles so it’s just a bit much.
Still, like I said the show’s excellent on a technical level. It’s just got really good vibes and is a blast to watch. Each episode is over in an instant and Yato’s such a good main character. This is a perfect example of an anime elevating the source material quite a bit. It’s all a lot more impactful than in the manga and if anything helps you to get more involved/invested in the current material.
Now that Yukine’s finally not acting like an awful delinquent making you cringe at every opportunity, I fully expect that season 2 should see a boost unless production values drop off or something. I can’t say I remember too well what happens next since I read this part of the manga so long ago but something cool should be around the horizon at least. Hopefully a lot of good action as well and then we’re really set. In general I also wouldn’t mind just seeing more of Yato being a nice guy. Even the small things like cleaning around the house and showing someone that violence was not the way when he was getting bullied were really good tips on his part. Yato actually does give good advice even if he acts aloof all the time.
I think part of what makes the series so much fun and what gives Yato time to shine is that this is an action show that still has time for its more day to day scenes. Who doesn’t like to see the main cast just hanging out and having a good time between the saving the world events right? I would argue that was always a strength in titles that happened to get huge globally like Naruto, Bleach, and other titles like that. While the action is still the biggest point for these titles, a strong case can be made that these got big because we got to know the characters on a personal level as well. For me the humor was just as important as the action in making this show a success. It really helped make the whole series an all around balanced title.
Overall, Noragami is a lot of fun. Yukine keeps me from calling it great, but it’s still a solid show that I would recommend to anyone. Whether you are a big action fan or just want a show with some good humor, you should have a good time either way. I see this show as being very accessible to everyone and that’s one of its many charms. I don’t want to overhype it or anything but it’s just got that calm vibe that really works out. I would compare it to Shenmue in some ways. We’ll see if Yato can ever reach his goal of being a really big god. He’s not close yet but at least the guy hasn’t lost heart.