Gods may not play a huge part in American entertainment, but in Japan, with all its mythos and belief structures, they become popular players in the narrative. From the omnipotent button pushers to the struggling masses like you and me, gods aren’t hard to find in anime. Does that mean, however, that we want to see the struggles and interplay between them, while dealing a spirit world? Well, if it worked for Yu Yu Hakusho, anything is possible.
Let’s take a look at Noragami Season 1.
A review copy was provided by FUNimation Entertainment
Teenage girl Hiyori saves little-known god Yato from an oncoming truck. However, because she needs to be saved from transitioning to the “far shore” (i.e. the afterlife), Yato brings her back with the side-effect that sometimes she will jump out of her body without noticing. You know, zany comedy maneuver number 543. As she grows closer to him and his spirit weapon, a young soul named Yukine, she becomes embroiled in the affairs of gods, and one very jealous spirit weapon who is out to watch it all burn.
I’m not going to say this show has a tone problem, but there’s definitely some issues in the transitions from the different emotional set pieces. One of the big storylines of the season is that Yukine becomes disillusioned with the fact that he is both dead and tied to a penniless and immature god. This comes on the heels of several introductory comedic episodes so when we suddenly shift into some more serious topics, the change never feels smooth or well planned. Because the tone shifts so quickly and goes so dark, that when it tries to do light hearted or sweet moments, it feels just the slightest bit jarring.
As such, Yukine was one of my least favorite characters for much of the show, as I don’t think they were able to effectively portray the hurt and loneliness he was feeling. Sure, there are a couple of emo scenes here and there, but ultimately he comes off as being more selfish and crass rather than hurting. Thankfully, he gets over himself, so at least going forward he won’t be quite as annoying. Yato and Hiyori, the two leads who looks like they’re going to be stuck in the will-they-won’t-they dance for the next season, are both well rounded and smartly designed characters — they have strengths and weakness, all of which were consistent and genuine. The other spirit weapons and their gods are pretty interesting, including the god of poverty Kofuku and her reiki Daikoku.
I know I am usually pretty split when it comes to sub vs. dub, especially with short shows like this, but I have got to hand it to the dub, the voice actors fit the characters incredibly well. Jason Liebrecht, who plays Yato, and Micah Solusod, as Yukine, sound more age-appropriate than their Japanese counterparts. Hiyori’s voice actresses, Maaya Uchida and Bryn Apprill, both do an excellent job, so that one is a split for me. The supporting characters both sound great but I feel like the English cast had better emotional chemistry. The music is also pretty well done, with the opening theme Goya no Machiawase by Hello Sleepwalkers pumps you up for the battles about to ensure and Heart Realize by Tia, ends the show by highlighting the emotional and softer themes of the show.
The animation is pretty good, though it still uses the comedy-excused animation shortcuts like everyone else. They use some computer animation for the more fluid/supernatural aspects of the show but they do so sparingly, and it looks quite good. The character designs are unique for an anime series, but the action scenes are really where this series shines. It’s clear that they were concerned with making the fights between gods and demons heavenly (pun absolutely intended). There wasn’t as much fighting in this season, likely because it was more about setting up the world, but the ones that occur are gorgeous and I can’t wait for me.
All in all, Noragami is actually a pretty fun series with some interesting ideas that doesn’t quite execute them all the way this time around. The second season has a strong foundation to, hopefully, continue to build on this stable foundation. As easy as it is to poke fun at it, the series is incredibly enjoyable, from looking good to having an engaging cast of characters to creating an incredible world to explore. I can’t wait to see season 2!
– Good sub and dub.
– Great animation.
– Great world building and characters.
– Some issues in tone.
– Yukine starts off as incredibly annoying.