Review for Noragami Aragoto - Collector's Edition
We have another instance of a franchise changing labels, following shows like Sword Art Online, Fairy Tail and High School DxD leaving Manga for All the Anime and Funimation. This time it’s Noragami, which had its first season released by Manga Entertainment, but now gets a UK release for its second season Noragami Aragoto directly from Funimation. I liked the first season, the way the characters were developed, and how it managed to hold the attention, deliver in terms of entertainment. I wasn’t quite as happy with the way it developed its story though, as it was rich with concepts and ideas, and it set up quite a few plot threads, but in terms of execution it played it safe, and stuck to ‘domestic’ storylines regarding the main characters. It let the larger storylines, the more interesting antagonistic relationships remain tantalisingly unexplored. It was a case of too much story and not enough time to tell it, and at the time I hoped that the second season would concentrate more on these interesting plots. Well, now that the second season is finally here, I get to see if that is the case.
Yato is a stray god, a Noragami, who unlike his more well-off and well-known peers, lacks for followers, doesn’t get any offerings, and certainly doesn’t have a shrine to hang his hat, if he could afford a hat. But while he may look like a layabout who has lived in his tracksuit too long, he has big plans, even if he can’t hold onto his Regalia, spirits contracted to serve as his weapons. One day he will be worshipped and adored, and he’ll get it one 5 yen offering at a time, answering the wishes of the desperate that aren’t picky about which god answers their prayers.
It’s while he’s trying to find a little boy’s lost cat that he runs into high school girl Hiyori Iki. Actually it’s the other way around, as for some bizarre reason, Hiyori can see Yato when he doesn’t want to be seen. And it’s when he crosses the road after the cat, into the path of a bus, that Hiyori pushes him out of the way to save his life, and gets hit by the bus instead, her soul leaving her body. Fortunately, it’s not a permanent affair as she wakes up in hospital. But thereafter, her soul develops a habit of leaving her body at random, and Yato’s world of divine gods, wayward spirits and ominous phantoms becomes all too visible to her. That isn’t a good thing, and if there is one thing that Hiyori needs from Yato, it’s to make her soul permanently attached to her body once more. Getting the slacker god to answer that particular prayer proves difficult, while Yato’s life gets harder when he finds a new Regalia, a spirit named Yukine who has an odd view of right and wrong. And as Hiyori learns, the world of gods isn’t all that heavenly...
13 episodes of Noragami Aragoto are presented across two Blu-rays from Funimation. The show is also available on DVD.
1. Bearing a Posthumous Name
2. One of Her Memories
3. False Bond
5. Divine Acclamation, Imprecation
6. What Must Be Done
7. How to Worship a God
8. God of Calamity
9. The Sound of a Thread Snapping
10. A Certain Desire
12. Your Voice Calls Out
13. The God of Fortune’s Message
Noragami Aragoto gets a 1.78:1 widescreen transfer at 1080p resolution on these discs. The image is clear and sharp throughout, the animation is smooth, and the usual anime blight of digital banding is really only restricted to scene fades. The line art, the detail in the backgrounds, and the character designs all warrant the HD presentation, while the colour palette, while subdued and mostly autumnal, still surpasses DVD quality. Noragami’s visual aesthetic has been compared to Darker than Black, and that is certainly warranted when it comes to the character designs and production values. It’s a well animated show, that is given due presentation on Blu-ray.
You have the choice between Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround English, and 2.0 Stereo Japanese, as is the norm for Funimation Blu-rays. Also as is the norm, the volume levels are particularly low, easily remedied. I merely sampled the English dub to ensure that it exists (which it does), and what little I heard seemed agreeable enough. The Japanese audio was my preference, with the actors suitably cast for their roles, and Taku Iwasaki creating a somewhat singular score for the show, really standing out as a music soundtrack, although the theme songs were comparatively nondescript. The action sequences too come across with a useful degree of impact in the stereo. The subtitles are accurately timed and are free of typographical error.
You get animated menus on these BD discs.
Disc 1 autoplays with a trailer for Wolf’s Rain. The sole extra on this disc is an audio commentary on episode 8 with Eric Vale (Kazuma), Bryn Apprill (Hiyori), and Micah Solusod (Yukine).
Disc 2 autoplays with a trailer for Scrapped Princess.
You get a video commentary for episode 6 with Jason Liebrecht (Yato), Elizabeth Maxwell (Bishamon), and Phillip Parsons (Kugaha).
The audio commentary is on episode 13 features Jason Liebrecht, John Burgmeier (Ebisu), and Apphia Yu (Little Ebisu).
There are 2:10 of Promo Videos for the show, two textless openings and three textless closings, and trailers for Red Data Girl, Fairy Tail Part 22, Assassination Classroom Season 2 Part 1, Unbreakable Machine Doll, and Wolf Children.
If Noragami was the set up, Noragami Aragoto is where the story starts to deliver in spades. This is very much a story that’s in it for the long game, and if like me, you were somewhat disappointed with the first series, Noragami, this is where you start to eat crow. Noragami Aragoto is very good indeed, really building on the characters that were introduced previously, and paying off on at least two major story arcs, one of which began in the first season, and the other which begins in this second.
But I did have my issues with that first season, mostly because it didn’t pay off in its 12 episodes. It introduced us to this fantastic world where gods co-exist with humans, began setting out the rules of those interactions, as well as building more on the nature of this world, the Phantoms that plague the world that gods have to battle, the requirement for each god to have worshippers, to be recognised, to empower their existence. There was also the concept of regalia, spirits of the dead turned into tools of the gods, weapons even.
Yato was a layabout, non-descript God of War whose Regalia were few and whose followers were non-existent, until he met Hiyori, the girl whose spirit developed a habit of flying free from her body, and who got involved in the world of the gods as a result. There was a whole lot going on in the background of the show, especially relating to the god Bishamon’s troubled past with Yato, but my complaint was that Noragami Season 1 kept things comparatively mundane, relegating the bigger picture, more epic storylines to the background to instead concentrate more on the relationships between the god Yato, the girl Hiyori, and especially Yato’s regalia Yukine, a brat of a spirit whose behaviour and actions tended to affect Yato negatively, causing him to become blighted. The series concentrated a lot on resolving Yato and Yukine’s issues, a storyline that I felt was quite domestic in comparison to what the show promised.
That concept of Regalia blighting their gods by their actions really feeds into the start of Noragami Aragoto, where the story finally delivers on the Bishamon character and her grudge towards Yato. Unlike Yato who has only the one Regalia, Bishamon takes in spirits into her family almost without question, and they have a duty to remain pure of thought and action to keep their god healthy and pure in turn. But with so many Regalia, Bishamon lacks the time to attend to her ‘family’ and that leaves an opening for the ill-intentioned. At the same time, Masked Phantoms start appearing with far greater power and more lethal intent than the regular Phantoms, the masks indicating that they are being controlled.
As the conspiracy unfolds, and Bishamon becomes increasingly more blighted, the truth comes out about her prior history with Yato. It turns out that this isn’t the first time that Bishamon has had trouble with her Regalia, and that was resolved by Yato, although not in any way that she would have hoped. She’s blamed Yato ever since, and now that it looks like history is repeating itself, a final confrontation between the two is inevitable. If there is one thing to take from this half of the series, it’s that gods can be manipulated by lesser beings, and that feeds into the second half of the run.
This is where the focus really turns to the masked phantoms and who is responsible for them. Suspicion alights on one of the Gods of Fortune, Ebisu, and when he can’t be found, that suspicion turns to a witch-hunt. This coincides with another low point in the Yato-Yukine-Hiyori triangle as Yato’s reticence about his past once more threatens the trust between the three. Yato has tried to keep his past as a god of calamity separate from his present status, but with the Nora still around, his past has a habit of catching up to him. We also learn that he has an obligation to his ‘Father’ and Father insists that Yato return to his old vocation for a while, partnered with the Nora, the wayward spirit that sells her Regalia abilities to whichever god is willing to pay. The second half of the season culminates in a ‘mission’ for Yato and the Nora to go into the Underworld to rescue Ebisu, but this coincides with the host of the heavens issuing an edict against Ebisu, who they suspect of creating the masked phantoms.
Two really gripping and satisfying story arcs are finely balanced with the ‘domestic’ aspects of Yato and his friends’ lives, far better than in the first season. What’s more, this season also introduces the conspiracy behind the Masked Phantoms, the level of politicking and intrigue among the gods in heaven which points to an interesting storyline there, and the show also introduces Yato’s ‘Father’, really starts expounding on his history and back story, and that character certainly bodes ill for the storyline. Noragami Aragoto makes the first Noragami series worthwhile, it satisfies in the stories it tells and it also sets up a continuation. Hopefully a third season of Noragami comes sooner rather than later.