by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Noragami Aragoto ?
Now firmly in his dad's clutches, Yato agrees to delve into the underworld to rescue a conjurer. The underworld is a bad place, absolutely crawling with phantoms, but Yato and Nora manage to dispatch them without too many problems. The conjurer turns out to be Ebisu, who's on a quest to obtain something from the underworld's head honcho, a goddess named Izanami. Yato cuts his way to where she lives, but upon arriving in the goddess's chamber, he encounters something unexpected – Hiyori. You see, Izanami is a doppelganger of sorts. She takes on the form of whoever you're most comfortable with in order to get you to stay with her forever and ease her loneliness. (Ebisu sees the owner of his favorite restaurant.) When it becomes apparent that neither Yato nor Ebisu will stay willingly, she offers them a deal – she'll give one of them what they're after (in Ebisu's case, a Locution Brush capable of summoning Phantoms) if the other agrees to stay. They start brawling, and Yato quickly overpowers Ebisu, but then the God of Fortune pulls out his trump card – he also has a contract with Nora. Yato ends up disarmed as Ebisu has him cornered, but then Ebisu decides to just snatch the brush and make a run for it. He was touched by his unexpected connection to Yato (he made his contract with Nora five incarnations ago, and even she seemed to have forgotten about it), so he decides not to leave him behind. With an enraged and suddenly monstrous Izanami on their heels, our heroes (and Nora) high-tail it out of the underworld.
With Izanami's introduction, Noragami has finally touched on one of the really big figures in Japanese mythology. You're most likely to have heard her name in Persona 4, where she played the evil mastermind. For the uninitiated, here's the rundown: two gods named Izanami and Izanagi form the Adam and Eve of Shinto mythology. Alongside her male companion, Izanami gave birth to a bunch of important deities and all of the Japanese islands. Eventually she died while popping out a fire god, because that just sounds unpleasant. After her death, a distraught Izanagi journeyed deep into the underworld to retrieve his wife. When he found her, she was shrouded in darkness. She said it was too late for her to go back because she had already eaten food from the underworld, but Izanagi tried to get her out anyway. So he lit a torch, allowing him to see Izanami's new face: a disgusting bundle of rotting, maggot-infested flesh. Horrified by his wife's unsexy visage, Izanagi ran screaming from the land of the dead with an understandably pissed Izanami at his tail. He made it out, trapping her inside by blocking off the exit with a rock, and proceeded to spawn a few of the most important Shinto gods all by his lonesome. As retribution for her husband's escape, Izanami promised to kill 1,000 people every day. To make up for that, Izanagi promised to give life to 1,500 New People. And that's the Shinto justification for why people die. (And, I presume, the justification for why people divorce.)
Ebisu was Izanagi and Izanami's first child, and he was originally named Hiruko. Depending on the story, he was either born without his arms/legs or born without his bones. As a result, his parents sent him off to die in a boat. There, he survived by growing limbs/bones through sheer force of will, but he remained clumsy. This is reflected in his Noragami counterpart, who – despite being a very stoic and dignified man – can't do anything to take care of himself. His shinki need to do everything from fighting for him to tying his shoes. He's also constantly reincarnating due to a persistent obsession with the dark arts. We haven't gotten an explanation for this yet, but I bet it's a Freudian thing related to his abandonment and identification with Phantoms.
Meanwhile, Hiyori hasn't seen Yato in weeks. Her friends have scored some tickets to Not!Disneyland and set her up on a blind date with a classmate, so Hiyori agrees to go, but she feels bad that she's not going with Yato. Her date turns out to be that new boy she met last episode, Kouta Fujisaki. They have a good time, but Hiyori is preoccupied with the feeling that there's someone else she'd rather be with. When she eventually goes to buy souvenirs for Yato and Yukine, she can't even remember who they're for. As Fujisaki watches, she nearly breaks down in tears. During the parade, he takes her first kiss, and the episode ends.
Fortunately, Hiyori seems more troubled by her degrading memories than actively into Fujisaki, so there's hope for her recovery, but Yato had better get back quick. That's a real problem if a week's separation is enough to start chipping away at their bond. A god's life sure is tenuous! I can see why Yato is so needy for attention. It also looks like my “Ebisu is father” theory is busted, but this Fujisaki fellow sure got attached to Hiyori awfully quickly...
With three episodes left, it looks like Noragami Aragoto will conclude at around the 11th tankobon out of the current 15. If there's another season, it will probably come out in about a year. Production-wise, this was an awkward episode (Ebisu's face here puts it best :T) but the story keeps chugging along at an intense emotional register. I'm excited to learn more about Ebisu's motivations, Yato's “father,” and what note this season will end on.
Noragami Aragoto is currently streaming on Funimation.
Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.
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