The Winter 2014 Anime Preview Guide
Review: Yato is not quite a god and his new friend Hiyori is not quite a ghost. After the demi-deity who dreams of being an all-powerful idol with millions of followers meets this strange girl on the precipice between life and death, he promises to return her troubled spirit permanently to the land of the living for a price of 5 yen, a traditional shrine offering. That's about all there is to it! And yet, Noragami stands out as one of the most fun and watchable shows this season. (Space Dandy aside.) Why is this? It's all about having a lot of fun with very little.
It helps that at no point does Noragami range into dull exposition about hierarchies of gods or how sacred weaponry or phantoms work. There's no tedious text blocks of worldbuilding between well-dressed supernatural bishounen and the demure ladies they've rescued as in many shows like this. We understand just enough to follow the action: this is a world with good gods and bad phantoms, invisible to the human eye but whose actions affect the world around them and drag in a few hapless mortals like Hiyori. At no point is this explained to the audience, we just sort of get it, and that frees up every other scene to actually do something, even if it's very little.
There are a couple action scenes, a couple comedy scenes, a few spare moments of danger, all in the interest of letting us know who these characters are and bringing them together. The dialogue is natural, snappy, and most importantly, character-driven. Yato and Hiyori already have leagues more personality than some characters in supernatural bishounen adventures get in entire series runs. Yato is a sensitive soul with a healthy sense of humor, ambitious but clearly has a big heart and a lot of patience. He doesn't fly off the handle having to be saddled with a dumb human girl, he takes it in stride, pokes fun at her a little, and endears himself to the audience very quickly. Hiyori is quiet and self-conscious but by no means a bland wallflower. She's nosy, quirky, and harbors hidden dreams of being a butt-kicking action hero, a wish that may very well come true if she keeps hanging around Yato. The two of them make a pleasant pair with great chemistry completely divorced from romance. (Although romance is certainly a possibility. Who knows?)
Noragami isn't a story with high ambitions, in fact it's hard to tell where the story is going at all, but the characters are immensely likable, and that's a plus. It's charming, well-animated, and fun to watch. If you're looking for a supernatural action series with a little spooky atmosphere and a skip in its step, definitely give it a look.
Noragami is available streaming at Funimation.com.
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Yato's a god without many followers just trying to raise a buck for his very own shrine. This means he'll take any prayer, a system which has led him to the search for a lost cat named Milord. While on his quest, he's observed by Hiyori, a high school student who is clearly not as ordinary as she thinks. When she sees him about to get hit by a bus, Hiyori throws herself at him, resulting in a newfound ability to leave her body and manifest as a cat tailed spirit. This plot flows smoothly from beginning to end (more than can be said of the video player), with interesting characters and small twists that keep it from feeling like some sort of Kamisama Kiss rehash.
Part of what makes this episode so enjoyable is Yato himself. We like to think of divine beings as selfless and helpful, but Yato is, at the end of the day, out for himself. Yato wants a shrine, he wants recognition, and while he's at it, he'd really like a divine weapon who won't quit because of his icky sweaty hands. In short, there's something entertainingly human about him. He also has some chemistry with heroine Hiyori, who he's not entirely sure how he got stuck with her. Not many people can see the gods, and now she's in a strange place between living and dead. Mind you, he's fully willing to help her...for a price. This greed of his could get old quickly if the show doesn't handle it right, so let's hope it doesn't become a driving force in their relationship.
The art is fairly simple, but nice use is made of bright contrasts, from the many-legged frog ayakashi's bright hues to Yato's ice-blue eyes, details stand out. Hiyori's ghost form's tufted tail seems to indicate that the cat Milord had something to do with her new ability, but beyond that things look fairly unremarkable. It really is the good pace to the episode and the interactions between the lead characters that makes this so enjoyable, and if Noragami can keep that up, particularly with the introduction of a third protagonist that looks to be coming up in episode two, this could be a good one.
Noragami is available streaming at Funimation.
Review: There's nothing particularly remarkable about BONES’ newest supernatural action/comedy. It doesn't kick loads of butt. It isn't terribly funny. Its premise barely qualifies as a tweak on current formulas. It is quite beautiful however, and its cast is pretty easy to like, and for now that's enough. Of course, there are only two cast-members (so far). Yato is our main character: a wandering god from the lowest echelons of Japan's expansive pantheon. He's got startling blue eyes, dresses in a beat-up jersey, and is poor as sin. He treks around granting wishes when called upon (which is seldom), charging the customary godly sum of five yen per service. Hiyori is a teen fan of MMA. When Yato is about to be hit by a truck, she saves him at the expense of her own life. Not one to let a debt go unpaid, Yato puts her soul back in her body. The problem? It kinda keeps popping back out. Though that can be useful when there're spiritual monsters to put some MMA hurting on.
There's no getting past just how gorgeous Noragami is. The series has a spare, cool kind of beauty—clean lines, quiet wintry palette, no wasted movement or detail—that is all the more striking for not consciously drawing attention to itself. When that beauty combines properly with the characters and their stories—particularly sweetly odd Hiyori's journey into the shadow world of spirits and gods—the effect can be potently alluring. Watching Hiyori move is worth the price of admission alone. Such confluences are rarer than they should be though. Early action sequences aren't properly earned and the tone of many scenes is indefinably off. The show is clearly better at simple things like humor and brisk lightness than complex things like feeling and suspense. You can already sense the series improving though, so its future may still be bright.
Noragami is available streaming at Funimation.com.
Rating: 3.5 (of 5)
Review: Yato, who looks like a male juvenile delinquent, is actually a god – or at least an up-and-coming one, anyway, who has aspirations of becoming the biggest and most worshiped god in all of Japan. To do that, though, he needs to build up his rep by answering wishes. The only problem is that he has trouble keeping hold of the Sacred Treasure that he needs to properly do battle with Phantoms, as the one he had for the last three months – a proper-looking lady who could turn herself into a blade – opts to leave him. While looking for a lost cat, Yato encounters Hiyori Iki, a teenage girl who can not only see him but also risks her life to push him out of the way of a bus. While she does not seem to be seriously hurt, something is different: she can hear things she couldn't hear before, seems to have improved reflexes, and oh yeah, her soul can become detached from her body and walk around sporting a long, catlike tail. She encounters Yato again and they wind up doing battle with a giant froglike Phantom. Hiyori's days as a normal girl may be over unless Yato can find a way to grant her wish to return to normal.
The premise here is hardly inspired; a powerful but good-for-nothing supernatural guy hooking up with a cute girl who may have supernatural qualities herself comes up at least a couple of times every year. Tossing in comedy antics is also par for the course. And yet something about this one works better than most. The key is that it has, so far, found a good balance between comedy, action, and more seriously creepy elements, but the chemistry evident so far between Yato and Hiyori, and the fact that both are likable individually without being outlandish also seems promising. Solid technical merits, both in visuals and in use of soundtrack, also don't hurt. And really, for a series like this, that's a potentially winning combo.
Noragami is currently streaming on Funimation.com.
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