By Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)
When we take a step back and reflect on history, we’ve evolved much as humans. Gone are the days when we pray in the night for the gods to bring the sun back around in the morning. Gone are the days when we would sacrifice children to deep holes in the ground or slaughter the innocent in hopes that a drought would end and the rains would return. But the belief in a higher power still persists across many religions and cultures around the world. But what if the “gods” walked amongst us? What if they were still here? Studio Bones brings us Noragami, which takes this general principle and expands upon it.
Life can be difficult for a god in Japan. Some gods still have shrines dedicated to them, maintained by devout followers who still have daily visitors come to pray to them for whatever they may require. But then there are the other gods that seem to have been forgotten. Enter Yato: a lesser-known god who takes on any job for anyone who would pray to him for a mere five yen piece. One day, while working on a job any other god would deem below them, a young middle school student saves Yato from being hit by a bus. However, she in turn suffers a close call, bringing her to the existence between the world of the living and the dead. Now she has the ability leave her body (a la Ichigo from Bleach) when the need arises, but she wants her normal life back. But no worries – for a paltry five yen, Yato is on the job!
Noragami just happens to be one of the more complete anime series to come around in some time. What do I mean by that? There is a perfect balance of comedy, drama, action and overall character development. But it all hinges on the story and the characters. Yato has a past, which is fleshed out more as the story develops, but he’s changed his ways. He wants to become one of the most famous gods and finds no job / prayer too small. Besides, this is for the human people. Without them, the gods may cease to exist. Hiyori is a typical middle school student who has a life changing event take place. She has a great heart and is finding her identity in the world, while still maintaining some of that child that is inherent at this age. Yukine, too, is a child who works with Yato. Yukine died far too young and provides arguably the most emotional side to the series, dealing with his youth and the fact that he was never able to have a normal childhood, and now never will. They also incorporate better known gods like Bishamon, adding another dimension to the series. How all these characters come together and grow episode to episode is a true delight to observe.
Visually, Noragami looks wonderful as the majority is hand-drawn with few CGI elements. As the series goes on, the visuals tend to get darker, matching with the world around the characters. But the artwork is masterful in execution. The character drawings fit the character personalities spot on and the comedic exchanges, matched with the character facial expressions, are absolutely hilarious. And the story is exceptional, especially in the way it masks the seriousness that later arises with the levity and lighthearted comedic elements early on.