Synopsis: Middle schooler Hyori finds her soul torn from her body after Yato, a stray god living off of 5-yen odd jobs, saves her from being hit by a truck. Flickering between the living world and the Far Shore, she fends off corrupted spirits and malevolent forces, with Yato promising to find a way to return her to her body for good.
Noragami kicks ass. Thanks for coming to my TED talk.
In all seriousness, though, Noragami is some A-grade shounen gold. It’s got everything in spades, from lovable characters to incredible art direction and monster design, high-flying action scenes set to an electronica-meets-shinto-traditional soundtrack that totally slaps, all tied together with an impeccable sense of style and led along by a story rife with heart and emotion.
The show follows hapless Yato, (minor) God of Chaos and pompous idiot, as he battles demons in the afterlife alongside middle schooler Hyori, loosely attached to her still-human body, and his familiar Yuki who, frankly, would rather not be there if it was all the same to him. Daylight sees him pulling side-jobs for random passers-by in the hopes of winning followers, which, as a God, is his only way to keep existing in the world. Meanwhile a malicious force gathers in the sidelines, bent on erasing him entirely.
Now, Yato is great. To be fair, the whole cast of Noragami is great. Hyori’s punchy attitude and secret love for pro wrestling adds spades of hilarity, while Yuki’s whole arc has its own depressing gravitational field. Yato, however, is a force of nature (fitting, since he’s a God.) Voiced by legendary voice actor Hiroshi Kamiya, he is the star of every scene, whipping from ridiculous, over-the-top comedy to cool and calculated action, to tear-jerking drama with as much ease as he sails above the misty buildings of the Far Shore. Yato is a one-man show, made all the better given that he is in fact not alone but surrounded by great characters who exist in a most memorable world.
And what a world it is. In stunning sound and color Noragami’s lore is brought to life.The Far Shore itself is as beautiful as it is surreal – a mirror to Japan, or perhaps another layer resting atop the country and out of sight of mortals, the Far Shore is populated with gnarly, wistful, neon monstrosities that drift aimlessly through empty streets. The corrupted souls of the departed, they cling to life, muttering perverse desires as eyes swivel about all over their bodies. It’s these creatures that Yato and his companions do perfectly-choreographed battle with, the hypnotic chants of Iwasaki Taku’s “Noratan” thrumming in the background of fight scenes like a techno-heartbeat. This is honestly the coolest take on Shinto religion you’ll ever see.
The intensity of Noragami’s fight scenes belies its dark narrative. Yato’s goal is to keep existing in a world where no one recognizes him. Yuki, meanwhile, slowly realizes that he is, in fact, a lost soul in a story arc that is terribly sad. There are moments when this show is absolutely hilarious, as is the case with many shounen hits – but Noragami holds no punches when showing us just how desperate its characters really are.
From its stellar opening track to its breathtaking fight scenes, Noragami is not one to miss. Take a dive deep into the malevolence of the Far Shore – and leave a thank you note and a five-yen coin for Yato on your way out.
(+) Incredible sense of style, from sound to animation, choreography to lore
(+) Lovable cast and an exceptional performance from Hiroshi Kamiya
(+) Unique and unforgettable world
(-) The last few episodes kind of come out of left field