US Distributor: Funimation
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More Info: Anime News Network

Ah, Noragami. Let the record show that the supernatural genre is my favorite. I am inherently predisposed to liking a story that fits into spiritual-related fantasy, or one that features unseen worlds. Some of them disappoint me with their pedestrian and uninventive flavors on a topic for which the sky isn’t any sort of limit whatsoever. But Noragami, despite its average everything, was not such a title. In fact, I like to hold it up as a shining example of perfection: average done right.

Noragami is based on Shinto, and the idea of yaoyorozu no kami, or eight-million gods (sometimes translated as “myriad gods” due to the infinite nature implied). It features Yato, a little-known and unpopular god who has to be remembered by granting human wishes. As long as even one person can hold him in their memory, his life is safe. But if he’s completely forgotten by humanity for a single moment, whoosh. Total life-snuff. Alongside Yato is young Yukine, his shinki or holy regalia. In this universe, shinki are transformable human spirits who choose to serve the gods as tools or weapons. And completing the trio as the sensible emotional anchor is slightly-above-average teenager Hiyori Iki.

While Yato is out granting a wish to find a lost cat, Hiyori happens to see him chasing said cat across a busy road. Mistaking Yato for a mortal, she pushes him out of danger and is hit by a bus instead. The collision knocks her spirit from her body–and so she begins her enduring association with Yato and company. As a half-spirit straddling the line between the mundane and supernatural, Hiyori gets a unique view of the equal-parts wondrous and terrifying spiritual world. The camera doesn’t exclusively focus on Hiyori, however. It seems to equally feature our three main characters. About a third of the first season is dedicated just to Yukine’s character development, a third to Yato’s mysterious circumstances, and a third to Hiyori’s function in their lives.  The appearance of diverse, lovable side characters enhances and defines a hidden world filled with the divine, the depraved…and the divinely depraved as well.

Balance is beautiful in any genre, and Noragami has it in spades. The story features action, drama, intrigue, humor, and slight romantic tension in such a way that it never seems to get boring.  That makes it an awesome gateway supernatural shounen and re-watchable at the same time. It’s also neat because it presents researchable subjects for people who are interested in Shinto or world religions in general. For fans of the Japanese language, it contains lots of great puns and wordplays that don’t translate much in the anime.

The production is lovely. Opening and closing songs are catchy, especially for Noragami Aragoto. I totally purchased Kyouran Hey Kids!! (狂乱 Hey Kids!!) by THE ORAL CIGARETTES and Nirvana (ニルバナ) by Tia.  Fans of Adachitoka’s manga and their original character designs are sure to be pleased, for the anime is very faithful to the source material in both its art and writing. Directing does nothing to irritate the viewer–without going for any awards either–which makes it a pleasant and entirely level viewing experience.

Speaking of awards, Noragami deserves more recognition than it got in Japan, even if it’s just decent representation in the sales charts. Unfortunately, it seems that fans appreciated it far more in the U.S., where it received an awesome dub treatment by Funimation. I’m a picky eater when it comes to dubs, and even I liked it (despite it yielding the rad name mechanism controlling the regalia transformations in favor of inviolable mouth flaps). If you can’t take my word for it, feel free to look up how Jason Liebrecht won 2015 “People’s Choice: Best Male Lead Vocal Performance in an Anime Television Series/OVA” from Behind the Voice Actors for Yato, under director Mike McFarland.

We critical fans of Noragami may struggle to describe just what makes this average shounen so…consumable. It may be the solid balance within the story, the consistency of the production quality, or the characters–which are written well enough to cause investment, but not dramatic enough to stimulate pesky strong emotions. Mostly. But regardless, the most common sentiment expressed by us is: “Just go watch a few episodes. You’ll probably like it!  And even if you don’t, Noragami is impossible to hate.”