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ANIME REVIEW: “Noragami: The Complete First Season”

ANIME REVIEW: "Noragami: The Complete First Season"

Yato (voice by Jason Liebrecht), the hero of the broadcast
series Noragami (2014), is a god—an
extremely minor god of calamity, to be exact. He constantly solicits people,
offering to grant wishes for ¥5 coins. He desperately wants a shrine of his own,
so he won’t have to sleep on the grounds of temples of more prestigious
deities. He looks like a high school student, incongruously clad in an old warm-up
suit, leather boots and a ratty muffler.

Although he’s small change as gods go, he does possess real powers.
To realize them, he needs a Regalia, an attendant soul who becomes weapon at
his command. By chance, he meets Yukine (Micah Solusod), the lost soul of a high
school student who’s unaware of the formidable abilities he possesses after
death. Using Yukine as a living sword enables Yato to combat the evil phantoms
that haunt Tokyo. These weird monsters range in shape from gargantuan flying sting
rays to disembodied eyeballs.

Yato saves Hiyori (Bryn Apprill), a seemingly normal high
school girl, from being killed in a traffic accident. The rescue transforms her
into a hanyou,
a person who can leave physical body to follow Yato on his adventures.
But her transformation also puts her at risk from attacks by phantoms and
hostile deities. Her bond with Yato infuriates the jealous Nora (Lauren Landa),
a Regalia whom Yato has spurned.

Yato was apparently much more powerful in the past, and used
his powers to grant the murderous wishes of people engaged in war. The past
comes back to haunt him when the sinister Rabo (Mike McFarland), another god of
calamity, appears on the scene.

Director Kotaro Tamura and his crew can’t seem to decide on
the kind of show they’re making. Noragami
often feels like an upbeat, supernatural comedy-adventure along the lines of Soul Eater or The Devil Is a Part Timer. The weapon-wielder bond Yato and Yukine
share recalls the one between Soul and Maka and Tsubaki and Black☆Star in Soul Eater. If both members devote themselves to working together,
they achieve a level of strength neither could achieve alone.

Yato, like Mao Sadao Part-Timer
or Akira Takizawa in Eden of the East,
is an engaging guy, despite the past transgressions other characters hint at. Yato
has tried to divorce himself from his dubious past, and while he he’d hardly be
mistaken for an altar boy, his good nature and good intentions win the
audience’s sympathy.

Yukine bitterly resents having had his life terminated
prematurely. When he acts on that resentment and engages in theft, lustful
thoughts and other unseemly behavior, his misdeeds cause Yato physical pain. Blight
marks appear on his skin. Yukine has to be purified in a very dramatic and agonizing
ritual.

But nothing prepares the viewer for the attack of Rabo, who
uses Nora as a sword. He and Yato must duel to the death, charging at each
other like rival samurai in a Kurosawa period epic. Their battles aren’t bloody,
especially by anime standards, but filmmakers don’t provide the needed build-up
to the climactic confrontation. Their deadly clash feels too dark for the story
they’ve been telling. Worse yet, between blows, Rabo has to deliver long Morris-the-Explainer
speeches to sort out plot.

Noragami was based
on the manga “Noragami: Stray God” by Adachitoka, which is being released in
print and as an eBook in America. Despite its uneven tone, the series proved
popular enough in Japan  to spawn both a
TV sequel, Noragami Aragato, and an OAV.

Noragami: The Complete First Season
Funimation:  $52.49 4 discs: Blu-ray and DVD 

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