Noragami had been on my ‘short list’ of anime to watch with my wife for some time. When I heard that Noragami would be getting a second season, I figured now would be a good time to catch up with the first season. Running the risk of spoiling the whole review, I’m glad I watched this with my wife and we’re excited that the second season is up and streaming on Funimation and Hulu.
Noragami follows the story of Yato. He may just be a minor god now, but he’s determined to make it big and he’s got a plan. Unfortunately, things just don’t seem to be going his way. He doesn’t have a single shrine dedicated to him, his partner has just quit, and now he’s got to find a new divine weapon. Just when things look bleak, he meets a girl named Hiyori and changes her life forever. - Description from Funimation
This is not a formal review, but rather a more intimate look at what the two of us found enjoyable or otherwise, collaboratively written from both our viewpoints. Neither of us had watched this anime prior to us watching it together.
We Liked: Compelling World Building
As fans of Kamisama Kiss, Fruits Basket, Zakuro, and their ilk… my wife and I enjoy modern takes on Japanese mythology. Noragami falls into this vein of fiction. Yato is an ancient god of calamity, but is struggling to find his place in the modern world. When Hiyori gains the ability to walk the boundary between the living and the dead, she discovers Yato’s world of danger and intrigue. Yato is by no means the only god, and the series introduces a number of other varied gods into the mix. On top of that, the gods seem to be at war with evil phantoms and all have special ‘regalia’ to assist them in these battles. There is a logic and order to the spirit world, and everyone plays by the same rules. Just like Hiyori, you won’t know the rules at first… and we won’t spoil any of the particulars, but Noragami does an excellent job of drip-feeding you relevant information.
A number of shows seem to attempt this method of world building (Tokyo Ghoul and Attack on Titan come to mind), but Noragami follows two golden rules that make this method of storytelling compelling: First, Norgami builds its narrative in a manner where the next rule you need to know is the rule it tells you. It never tells you ‘Rule C’ which means you need to also know ‘Rule B’ and ‘Rule A’... which leads to an exposition dump. When you need to know something, Noragami usually provides you the information at that point. Secondly, Noragami respects the rules it establishes. It never tells you a ‘rule’ and then has a character break that rule as a cheap way to raise the stakes. Once you know a fact about the Noragami universe, you can expect it to hold true. Working in tandem, these rules of world building reward the viewer for investing in the world of the show, which then serves to enhance the narrative. It’s skillful narrative construction such as this that has my wife and I excited for the next season.
He Liked: Beautifully Animated Action
My wife and I have been watching a number of shojo anime together that were light on action, and although I had hoped Yona of the Dawn would spice things up, I was disappointed with the lack of action. Noragami finally scratched my action itch. There are beautifully animated, skillfully choreographed fights throughout the entirety of the show. The direction uses a mix of wide shots allowing the viewer to place the combatants in space and close shots displaying the weight of impact of the traded blows. It’s been some time since I’ve seen fights handled in such a satisfying manner. On top of that, the fights are incredibly varied. Yato does battle with evil spirits of all kinds and even other gods… and the fighting styles and equipment of those other gods differ as well. Noragami does keep the shounen trope of having the main character ‘power up’ with some repeated animation and dialogue, but thankfully this show does away with the trope of having each character yell their attacks’ names before using them. Simply put, Noragami does high-powered fights right.
She Liked: Cat-Girl Combo
If you have picked up on anything from my section of this blog, I love animals. If there is something cute and fuzzy on my tv screen, I am happy! What I loved about Noragami is that our female heroine gets “caught” between the living world and dead world thus giving her a special “parting gift”. She sprouts a tail similar to that of a cat. AWESOME!!! Yes, it is actually a “cord” that links her to both worlds, but who wouldn’t want a cat tail?! And, what is even cooler is that she gets badass abilities that go along with her new appendage. She is able to make crazy jumps onto tall buildings, fight like a boss, and see all of the gods and undead creatures. Sure, she ends up leaving her human body like everywhere when she uses her sweet cat tail form, but it always gets put into a safe space.
We Disliked: Why Not Raise Your Price?
Yato works for 5¥ at a time (about 5¢) and is attempting to save enough money to erect a shrine to himself. He always seems to do a good job when hired to do work worth well above the 5¥ fee he charges. If he has adapted to the modern world in so many other manners, why not charge more for his services? We understand that this aspect of Yato’s character is played for laughs… but it creates a lot of headaches that could easily be solved if Yato had more than a bottle full of change to work with.
He Disliked: Teen Angst
Noragami is squarely aimed at appealing to Japanese teenagers, and as such has teenage characters. This leads Noragami to include an aspect of teen-focused shows that I just don’t find compelling anymore: teen angst. While I understand that I am not the target demographic, I find character arcs with overwrought ‘tortured’ inner monologue to be eye-rolling at best and headache inducing at worst. In Noragami, Yukine is the spirit of a dead boy and has been bonded to Yato as his master. The downside of having this new lease on un-life is that Yukine has to be well-behaved and good-intentioned… otherwise he will ‘sting’ and weaken his god and *SPOILERS* possibly be turned into a evil phantom. Yukine’s ‘troubled’ sub-plot bubbles beneath the surface and becomes the protracted second-to-last arc of this season… and I hated all of it. While Yukine never reaches the levels indecisive introspective uselessness that Shinji displays in Neon Genesis Evangelion (one of the worst offenders of this trope in my memory)... it was annoying nonetheless.
She Disliked: Her Bitchy Friends
Her friends are awful. Every time they came into the frame, I cringed. They are super judgemental and just treat her horribly. It’s really no wonder why she likes to hang out with friends that no one else can see. Her “visible friends” tear her down at every step, but her otherworldly group lift her up and empower her to be the strong female heroine that she is. Girl, dump those bitches.
Because this is not an official Ani-TAY review, we have eschewed the normal review card.
My wife and I fully endorse Noragami. It has equal elements of suspense, action, and light romance… and it blends them together artfully. While the series does have a dark undertone, it lightens the mood with appropriately placed and timed humor. The entire season is beautifully animated, the plot advances at a healthy pace, and there is even a satisfying climax and conclusion. The only concerns are a few moments of tactfully covered nudity and quick fanservice-y panty shots… but none are too egregious to warrant us giving Noragami a ‘Proceed With Caution’ rating. If you’re looking for a well-rounded show to share with your significant other that’s bound to please both male and female viewership, look no farther than Noragami.
Noragami can be watched on Hulu and Funimation streaming service. Noragami is based on a manga series by Adachitoka that began serialization in Kodansha’s Monthly Shōnen Magazine. The series was adapted to anime by Bones and is licensed for regional release in North America by Funimation Entertainment.
Interested in watching anime with your significant other? My wife and I have written a guide based off our experience watching anime together that offers some tips.
Note: With the return of American broadcast televisions fall line-up, my wife and I have been watching anime together less frequently. Expect fewer ‘Watched with my Wife’ articles for some time.