Yato may be a minor god with few worshipers and not a single shrine to his name, but unfortunately for him he also has a bad history with gods that have lots of both. The famous goddess of war Bishamon has a grudge with Yato for something he did to her far in the past, and her anger has smoldered for many years. Because of this, however, she fails to notice forces working behind the scenes that spell trouble for more than just her and Yato, including mysteriously powerful masked ayakashi...
Expanding the Realm of the Gods
One of the larger problems I had with the previous season of Noragami was that, much like Overlord, the story felt like it took place in a world that was substantially larger than we ever got to see for ourselves. In Noragami’s case, this had to do with the fact that only four gods including Yato actually made a substantial appearance in the anime. Fortunately, this is rectified this time around as quite a few more gods make appearances and several play important roles in the story.
On top of that, the actual power structure of the gods is explored as the season progresses, so for once we get to understand a bit more how the world order actually works. While this sounds great on its own, it also helped provide a bit more immersion for viewers and thus serious events in the story actually had more weight to them when taken in the context of the larger world of Noragami.
A Healthy, Energetic Pace
Noragami Aragoto was one of the most interesting shows to watch this past season for me. Of course, there are a variety of reasons why that this could be attributed to, but at the end of the day the key is that it was extremely energetic and action-packed, so I always wanted to watch more. The show’s rate of adaptation was at twice the rate of the previous season’s, so little time is spared outside of delving right into the story.
In fact, the full run of thirteen episodes can be broken up into two arcs, each of which have enough plot development by themselves to be their own seasons if production studio Bones had chosen to do so. While for most series this might have created a problem with pacing in the sense of moving too quickly and making different elements such as character development feel rushed or under-done, Noragami manages to avoid this pretty much entirely, with events and characters that progress logically. This is a testament to the writing chops behind the show in general, as very few similarly styled works are able to accomplish such a task on the same level.
A Greater Feeling of Suspense
While the feeling of suspense can certainly be partially attributed to the excellent pacing as I mention above, it’s the actual content of the story that is the ultimate generator of intrigue. There really wasn’t much to be said in the first season in terms of an overarching story. It established the characters and primarily spent its time dealing with the dynamic between Yato, Hiyori, and Yukine only to toss in an anime-original ending in the last couple of episodes. At the end of the day, that was my primary complaint with the first season: not much actually happened in the whole scheme of things. I wouldn’t say that it is a huge knock against the series as I definitely liked the first season, but in stark contrast Noragami Aragoto has quite a bit that happens. The struggle between Bishamon and Yato, the mystery behind the masked ayakashi, and the exploration of Yato’s past all tie together to make a very tense and impactful story, one that might be of interest even if you weren’t entirely sold on the first season.
Character Exploration and Development
As I mentioned before, Noragami loves to explore how its characters interact with each other and develop over time, and Noragami Aragoto most certainly continues this trend. In particular, it take many threads of development that were either begun or hinted at previously and extends them.
This ranges everywhere from Yukine’s evolving role as Yato’s shinki to Yato’s past as a god of calamity, and makes for moving moments at times when Yato’s search for followers or Bishamon’s perceived guilt in her relationship with her previous shinki come to climaxes. The character development also ties quite nicely into the world building at times as the relationship between gods and their divine weapons from both viewpoints is an excellent element of the show. Noragami is a very character driven series, and although the story may have picked up substantially in Aragoto, it is definitely not at the expense of its cast members.
Bishamon and Ebisu
While it’s great that Noragami Aragoto spends time with many of its characters, I was particularly impressed with the gods Bishamon and Ebisu, the primary focuses of their respective halves of the season. Both of them serve as wonderful highlights to the differences between individual gods as well as the diverse and interesting cast of characters the series has in its arsenal.
Bishamon has numerous shinki who all feel pressured to be constantly happy to avoid stinging her, but many of them feel neglected because of her obsession with turning every spirit she can find into a shinki to save them. Bishamon’s anger at Yato and fear of repeating a past tragedy is what puts her very existence into crisis as her shinki grow discontent. On the flip side, Ebisu is prone to dying frequently due to his hidden reasons, yet never replaces his shinki when he reincarnates. He also takes little issue with using nora (shinki with multiple masters) despite the taboo associated with them, but still has earned the loyalty of many of his closest shinki. His minimal regard for his own life and unique relationship with his divine weapons is in stark contrast to Bishamon’s. These differing yet fascinating characters both make for interesting developments throughout the series.
An Unsatisfyingly Satisfying Ending
In a strange twist of events, I found myself both satisfied and unsatisfied by the conclusion of Aragoto at the same time. While it is perfectly possible that I just have multiple personalities, the more logical explanation is founded in the fact that the story manages to wrap itself up while at the same time creating anticipation for further events in a way that isn’t quite fair to anime-only fans as there is no guarantee (or high likelihood) of a third season.
The second arc (called the Ebisu arc for its focus on the god Ebisu) concludes in a satisfying manner. Instead of resting on its laurels and just casually leaving a couple of questions unanswered, however, Noragami Aragoto actually practically rubs future developments in your face as it has some final scenes along the lines of ‘evil puppet master is shown to have further plans’. At the end of the day, the ending wasn’t going to be perfect as the manga the series adapts is still ongoing, but the tantalizing final moments definitely left a bit of a bitter taste for what was otherwise a decent final episode.
Noragami Aragoto does what every anime sequel should set out to do: it plays the strengths of its predecessor while taking its flaws and, for the most part, alleviating them or even fixing them entirely. Quite a bit about the series was substantiated: the world was bigger, the drama more intense, and both the action and plot twists more frequent and dynamic. Whether or not the show worked for you, it is hard to argue that Aragoto is not an excellent or at least serviceable continuation of one of last year’s most popular and beloved anime series.
Noragami Aragoto is currently available for free and legal streaming on FUNimation in both the Japanese sub and English dub formats.
A hardcore metal thanks to Tim C. (Unimplied) for his gif talents, he can make my gif headers super cool.
This article is part of my review series for the Fall 2015 anime season. If my ravings and/or general depravity haven’t scared you off yet, be sure to check out the rest of this series and keep an eye out on AniTAY for more articles by Michael Burns. I tend to write my fair share of anime, manga, and light novel reviews, among other things. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on my kinja page.
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This is the first in my series of reviews for the Fall 2015 anime season. Here’s the full list (I will link them as they release):
- Seraph of the End: Battle in Nagoya
- The AniTAY Music Awards Fall 2015
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