Noragami returns for another round of godly antics and suspenseful moments surrounding the hapless stray god Yato.
Following his attempted rescue of Ebisu from Yomi, Yato barely managed to escape the underworld. However, although on the surface it appears that the recent problems have been resolved, Bishamon, Tenjin, and other familiar gods have realized that there is far more going on behind the scenes than the others seem to be aware of. Meanwhile, Yato sets out with Yukine to accomplish his new goal: to become a god of happiness. One of his primary targets in his quest to provide good times for is Hiyori, but he quickly discovers that the idea is easier said than done.
Noragami’s eleventh entry jumps into the next arc of story, and has many structural similarities to the previous arc’s beginning volume, volume seven. Essentially, elements of the story are set up for future conflict and the primary narrative focuses more heavily on comedic and slice-of-life moments with the characters. Fortunately, much like the seventh volume this one also has quite a bit of high quality emotional moments and developments mixed in to make the book a very interesting read.
Yato has had a series of very dramatic events happen to him recently, between his fight with Bishamon and his flight from Yomi with Ebisu. Over the course of these serious issues, Yato’s past has been brought up in more ways than one. In being forced to confront his previous history, Yato has hit some critical moments of diverging choices. While the decisions themselves have made for interesting reading, the eleventh volume attempts to convey how much these changes have affected him, and it does this to a moderate degree of success. Although Yato behaves very similarly to his original goofy good-for-nothing persona that has been established since the very beginning of the series, his newfound drive to become a god of happiness and Yukine’s role as his guide along this path have been effective character shifts for both of them that feel like decent payoff for the readers.
Yato’s past and Hiyori’s present mix in some interesting and seemingly foreshadow future conflicts. Yato’s “father”, apparently somehow a mortal (well, a being that takes different mortal forms periodically), turns out to be the boy who kissed Hiyori at Capyper land. This served as an effective use of dramatic irony, as only the readers are fully aware of who the boy actually is. While Yato’s father himself has yet to get aggressively involved with Yato and Hiyori, the effects of his earlier involvement made for some excellent emotional moments between the two. The sudden dynamism of the panels and the use of detailed emotional illustrations during these moments are quite moving in picture form and really sold the effects on the characters to me.
The most serious sections of this volume were the moments of exploration for some of the side characters, in particular Kofuku’s shinki Daikoku and Tenjin’s shinki Mayu. Daikoku’s past as a shinki is discussed in detail, and in discussing it, it creates a bit of development in his and Kofuku’s relationship both story-wise and for the depth-wise for the readers. Mayu’s past before becoming a shinki is equally emotional, and hints at a darker element in the relationship between god and shinki. This relationship of theoretical mutual benefit has been a primary focus of Noragami and has been a huge source of uniqueness for the series. I enjoy how there seems to be never-ending complexities to this eternal bond, as the narrative benefits heavily from it.
As always, Yato’s amusing shenanigans are excellently inserted throughout the volume. I’m a fan of series that manage to place comedy around serious moments, which is a very difficult thing to properly balance while avoiding emotional whiplash. The eleventh volume of Noragami, fortunately, managed to expertly balance the comedy with the seriousness in a way that makes the book feel even more substantial than it is. Many of these jokes and humorous moments also benefit heavily for English audiences because of the translation notes Kodansha includes in the back of the volume. In this volume in particular, there are many fun facts included that help Western audiences understand the Japanese meaning and add flavor to the text in a way that would be far more difficult otherwise.
Noragami, as always, is a solidly excellent read in its eleventh volume. Although it is the beginning of a new arc, this volume contains quite a bit of excellent development for the large cast and hints at much more to come. Additionally, the moments of levity and emotion are balanced excellently and feature the usual gorgeous illustrations long-time series fans have become accustomed to. Most simply, the eleventh volume is a very good read.
Noragami Vol. 11 was translated by Alethea Nibley and Athena Nibley and published by Kodansha Comics USA on February 23rd, 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 will be released in English on March 22, 2016.
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