Noragami’s story of the stray god Yato continues with one of its most thrilling additions yet.

After Mayu’s unknowing interaction with her daughter, Hiyori begins to wonder about the mysterious secret of the gods. However, she soon discovers just how terrible and important of a secret it really is. Meanwhile, Yato’s father is continuing to interfere with with Yato’s life more and more, and Stray is not taking being released very well.

Noragami’s current arc has begun to get serious in the latest volume, and many of the series’ strengths are really brought out. Noragami has always had a consistent level of quality in the past, but whenever the story arcs begin to take a turn for the more serious I always find myself drawn in to the story. This volume was no exception to the rule, and the series manages to deliver a powerful story while building up its characters and their relationships wit the same level of success as previous volumes.

The volume can be more or less split into two halves for the purpose of discussion, with the first half focusing on the present with Yato’s father’s progressive increase in his intrusion upon Yato’s new life. This part of the volume is less serious and more for the purpose of character building, and it accomplishes its goals quite well. Yato’s interactions with his father are as hilarious as they are serious. His father’s manipulation of Hiyori pisses Yato off, for lack of better words, and while his father’s taunts and Yato’s reactions to them are hilarious, the underlying sense of how Yato has been treated for all these years really begins to explain his present personality.

Hiyori, meanwhile, has been strongly affected by Mayu’s interaction with her daughter. As it turns out, Mayu died during a bombing in the war, and she sacrificed herself to save her daughter. However, when they meet, Mayu doesn’t even realize who it is she is comforting. This opens up the story for a serious conflict: “The Gods’ Secret”. At first, I wasn’t so sure how much I liked the idea that the gods knew their shinkis’ pasts but didn’t inform them. However, it is quickly turning out to be perhaps the most delicate and moving portion of the ever-evolving relationship between god and shinki. As the series mentioned in early volumes, shinki are made from non-corrupt spirits who have met untimely deaths. That’s the key though: untimely deaths. When they are made into shinki, the spirits can’t recall their pasts, and although the gods learn of them upon creating the shinki, concealing the past is their way of protecting their weapons. I really enjoyed the way Noragami went about explicating this relationship through the interactions between the gods and their divine weapons.

This exploration of The Gods’ Secret is a key point of the narrative in the volume, and the reason I liked how the story handled it was because of the diverse minor ways it was integrated in the storytelling through the conflict with Yato’s father and Stray. This is evident in numerous moments throughout the book, including when Stray and Yukine (who is oblivious to the secret) have a brief fight. However, the best part of the volume and the most detailed example of the importance of this secret is when Hiyori dreams of Yato’s past in the second half of the volume. This portion of the story was an effective example of why the “secret” is such a secret, although it does more than just that.

In the flashbacks to Yato’s past, Noragami finally explores Yato’s origin story in detail. Although moments of his past have been visited previously (see: Bishamon arc), this was the first time that the events of Yato’s early life were directly part of the story. In the beginning (since he was born from a wish to be a god of calamity), Yato didn’t perceive killing as evil, but this all changed when he met a shinki named Sakura. The manner in which he changed from his previous self to his current persona is highlighted effectively, and the story involving Sakura is very emotionally heavy. The way Yato’s world view was shaped by his past is very well integrated in this section, and made for one of the most interesting portions of the series yet. I was excited to see the backstory in the first place, but the actual tale itself was surprisingly dynamic and engaging.

Noragami’s latest iteration is an excellent example of some of the finest the series has to offer. The ramping up of the conflict with Yato’s father and the continual building up of the cast both are very well done. In particular, the exploration of Yato’s past is a highlight of the volume and one of the most affecting sections of the entire series. The amount of content successfully packed into one book makes it feel incredibly dense for a mere ~200 pages. I would definitely say this is one of my favorite volumes of Noragami so far, which is an accomplishment considering the competition.

What do our scores mean?

Noragami Vol. 12 was translated by Alethea Nibley and Athena Nibley and published by Kodansha Comics USA on March 22nd, 2016. The series is currently ongoing in Kodansha’s Monthly Shonen Magazine, and had an anime adaption by Bones which aired from January 2014 - March 2014 with a second season that aired in Fall of 2015. The twelfth volume was released in English on April 19, 2016.

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Check out our other Noragami reviews: Vol. 5, Vol. 6, Vol. 7, Vol. 8&9, Vol. 10, Vol. 11

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