The Fall 2015 Anime Preview Guide
How would you rate episode 1 of
Noragami Aragoto ?
Review: The first episode of the second season (which Funimation is listing as episode 13) provides basically everything that any established fan would want to see from a season-opening episode: more nice visuals, more sharp opener and closer, at least small snippets of most of the major players from the first season, expansion of the original story, and plenty of hooks which give suggestions about which direction this season might go. Really, for what the franchise is, this episode probably couldn't have done much better than what it does here.
The one curious thing that it does is to mostly ignore the OVA episode which happened in between the seasons. That suggested that Bishamon's severe attitude towards Yato had been softened a bit, but here she is back to avowedly wanting to see him dead. That she's having “old nightmares” suggesting that Yato cut down many of her Regalia in the past seem to be driving this notion. But she still goes about her business, saving yet another soul from Phantoms in dramatic fashion and adding the young woman to a community of Regalia that is vastly more extensive than was revealed in the first season. A community of that size is bound to have some discontent in it, and indeed, some does seem to be brewing, both involving another young woman (a high-schooler, perhaps?) and the herbalist who manages her baths; the latter in particular seems to have some kind of insidious agenda. And it seems to be affecting Bishamon's health.
But while nearly half of the episode focuses on Bishamon, Yato is still the star, and his current job is babysitting a baby who turns out to be Phantom-possessed. That gives both the still-body-vacating Hiyori and Yukine a chance to show off their skills. Naturally Kofuku and Daikoku make appearances, too, as it is at their place that Hiyori helps Yukine study. Only now she's finally realizing that Yukine may only be year younger than she is and not just a kid. Yukine also makes friends with another boy roughly his age who is a Regalia, but problematically, he turns out to be one of Bishamon's.
The second season certainly shows no drop-off in visual quality; in fact, it may have actually improved a little, and this was a good-looking series to begin with. It still emphasizes the striking eyes of its main characters, the new opener has a similar visual aesthetic to the original, and the animation seems crisp. Its distinctive take on fan service is also present: sexy but not crudely salacious or pandering, as so many more fan service-intensive series are. In fact, Bishamon is virtually fan service embodied no matter how she's dressed; the way she's depicted successfully combines gorgeous looks and a sexy body with both elegance and fierceness, a net result which more fan service-intensive shows can rarely pull off to anywhere near this degree of success. If I had to make a list of the most beautiful female anime characters, she would easily make my Top 5, and that's not the only reason that this first episode focusing on her is a strong point. She's also turning into an actual compelling character, too. Meanwhile all of the other major players shown are back in proper form, too.
Basically, this is the type of first episode which should vigorously refresh any established fan's enthusiasm for the franchise. If you have not seen all of the first series, though, then this is a very poor place to start.
Noragami is back and better than ever!
No really, I'm not just tossing up stock phrases out of laziness; this episode of Noragami is super-exciting. At its peak, this Bones adaptation of the hit manga was haunting and engrossing in a truly unique way, and the beginning of this second season wastes no time getting back to the heart of what made the first season special. Noragami originally pulled a bait-and-switch on its more familiar action/romance setup when it became a heart-rending story about forgiveness and family instead. (Not the family you're born into, but the weird little families you form for yourself as you grow up.) In its first season, the familial focus was on Yato, Hiyori, and Yukine, the lamest and yet most lovable triad of god, spirit, and shinki (spirit-turned-contracted-god-weapon) in Japan.
After conquering the greatest threats to their relationship by season's end, these three are doing much better in Noragami Aragoto, so their interactions actually form the weakest part of an overall rock-solid episode. Mostly, they refresh the audience on plot points and worldbuilding details they may have forgotten while fighting a throwaway Phantom of the week. Even the weakest and most rudimentary part of the episode has its charms, though. Not only is this Phantom fight (and all other action scenes in the episode) lovingly animated, it's also heartwarmingly themed around babysitting, as our three leads literally protect an infant as a family. It's sweet, but like I said, these guys aren't the focus this season. All signs point to this being the Fall of Bishamon (in more ways than one).
Bishamon is Yato's biggest enemy (that isn't explicitly evil), but she's incredibly noble at heart. Her wealth, power, and influence allow her to contract an entire mansion full of shinki, but that might be coming back to bite her in the butt. As Yato learned the hard way last season, a shinki going sour will gradually injure, corrupt, and weaken its master until that shinki's spirit becomes a Phantom, and its host god must either cut it down or suffer eradication. With dozens (maybe even hundreds) of shinki under her wing, Bishamon has no point of reference for which of her servants might be "stinging" her, falling to darkness and taking her along for the ride. All she can do is take her anti-corruption remedy and confide her worries to her most trusted vassals. To make matters worse, it looks like even her close allies may be in league with Nora, Yato's abandoned shinki of malicious intent.
Hopefully, this season could be the one that brings Yato and Bishamon together, but even if it isn't, I can tell we're in for a great ride. If you missed Noragami last year, this is the perfect time to jump on those first twelve episodes and catch up for the new season. It's a humble little show, but with its captivating art design, lovable characters, and powerful depth of emotion, I can't help but recommend it. It has the potential to be one of the heaviest hitters of the season, but even if it decides to go down a more casual and sentimental road, Noragami Aragoto is bound to be an enjoyable experience if it follows in the steps of this wonderfully entertaining first episode.
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