I was always skeptical about Noragami, I don’t know why that was. Was it the hype everyone was placing on it? Was it how the characters acted? Was it that it was in the winter 2014 line-up? Well I can’t really remember the reason, all I know is that a year later I decided to give it a try. Going into the second season, this season of anime I decided it was about time and marathoned the entire first season outright. The good and the bad, I saw both in one interval and it left me with mixed emotions. Noragami seems to have a weird sense of pacing throughout the first season. Somehow in twelve episodes it decided to go through two arcs. Therefore I shall split this review into two sections, the Yukine arc and the Rabou arc.
Now in the Yukine arc it gives you enough time to see the god, Yato’s, desire to become famous. He does this while being quite poor in the process and there enters Yukine, his new Regalia or spirit weapon, and no this is not Bleach. So here we have to learn about both of these characters plus our main protagonist, Hiyori Iki. The shows resorts to minimal action in order to let the relationships develop and to showcase the world of these gods Hiyori Iki now finds herself in.
Noragami knows how to set itself up. With a large cast and small amount of time needed to give both hints towards future conflicts and mysteries towards each, it does it with a great sense of urgency. I love how things in the first season are being called into action in this subsequent season. That being said, the info dumping at points does get a bit stale as it has quite a few rules or moves or terms needed to be known. It doesn’t do this cleanly as much as the world-building does, but I digress you can’t love everything. In this arc we focus on three characters respectively. Hiyori Iki and her predicament as well as her new found relationship with both Yukine and Yato. Yato the god who, while fun and penny pinching, seems to hold a dark past. Then there is Yukine, the new regalia to Yato who has a lot of baggage back when he was alive. This arc did well to set up the inner conflicts of its main cast in order to watch their relationship blossom. Though for me my hat goes off to Yukine, and why I consider this the Yukine arc.
Yukine is the “Shinji Ikari” of Noragami, even if not as great in the sense of development and characterization. He is always cowardly, but always upset at something. His old mortal life taken from him only to be propelled into this horrid spirit world. A lot of “show don’t tell” moments show up in Yukine’s path to rediscovery as he commonly causes pain to the god Yato who gets stung (which is far more painful to gods) every time Yukine does something bad. This whole arc is about developing this complex relationship between god and instrument and does wonderfully in that regard giving Yukine a lot of examples of these types of relationships. He needs to find his own way with Yato in this world and it almost moved me in the last few episodes of this arc. Alright…once.
There are a few hiccups from this arc though. Yato’s comedy grows increasingly stale the more I see it and the way it is presented. Yato’s overall character and persona really rubs me the wrong way when it is one-note for comedy. There are two sides to Yato, the comedy side and his mysterious side and I’ll let you fathom which one is more interesting to watch. The comedy just at times seem out of place and therefore makes Yato out of place. Let us also not forget the catchphrase Yato says when he is about to destroy an Ayakashi, that was a big pet peeve of mine. Hiyori Iki and her wrestling fetish is kind of interesting as a character quirk, but a bit overused. That being said, these problems don’t really pull me out of my enjoyment.
Now onto the Rabou arc, and I’ll just preface this with a statement. I really dislike this arc. Now this doesn’t reflect on the series as a whole, but these last few episodes really wane on my enjoyment of Noragami. Figuring out that this is adapted from a side story that was only a chapter or two long turned into a few episodes made me see why. There is a lot of pacing issues in this arc by it moving far too fast. It is almost one big action sequence of events and if I’m being completely honest, didn’t even need to exist.
The Rabou arc is a tie into Yato’s past, but a rushed one at that. It goes further into it, but lacks a sense of necessity. The character of Rabou is probably the worst one of the entire season, lacking in depth or even subtlety. Rabou I guess plays as a foil to Yato, but even then it wasn’t executed well do to its rushed nature. I could only enjoy the fight between the two. There really isn’t much to talk about in this arc. It feels like filler, and is represented as such. An afterthought after the events of the actual story. The core development happened prior to this, the world-building happened prior to this, the only thing noticeable is a slight mention to Yato’s background.
Overall, Noragami has a great sense to its set-up to later events yet lacks a strong memorable finish. Ending on a low does not hinder my rating of the show as much as one would think, but I wouldn’t be lying if I said that it didn’t effect it. Noragami’s great set-up, world-building and character development/characterization in its core three characters is quite visible in the first arc. Though the Rabou arc does raise some alarms in my head of Noragami’s pacing issues, it doesn’t dissuade me from continuing further into the story. Characters may rub you the wrong way, and I know Yukine did for some people as Yato did for me, but I can’t deny how the set-up and struggle was done pretty well. Noragami has all the workings to be a good series, but it is quite visible with its final episodes all the issues we could have down the line.