Monday, May 19, 2014

Anime Review: Noragami

When I started the winter season I took a screenshot of the anime chart and put checks next to all the series I wanted to see and Xs on the rest. All except this show however, I drew a few question marks over it since I had read the first chapter of the manga, it really didn't click with me, yet I kept seeing people whose opinion often matched mine be really excited over it. I was also confused why the promo images kept featuring this girl who I didn't remember from the manga at all so I gave it another shot, checked out the second chapter and yep, there she is and hey I rather like the story focusing on her a bit more too. Of course this means I have to give the anime a chance now, especially given that it's the legal option to check out this story, and I was pleasantly surprised.


Our everyday, mundane world is called The Near Shore by some and when there's a near there's a far away. From the Far Shore come strange creatures, monsters, and gods, but they aren't all mighty and powerful, just look at Yato whose a practically forgotten god reduced to doing odd jobs to earn money to make his own shrine. It's one one of those jobs that regular girl Hiyori catches as glimpse of him and she's accidentally pulled into this odd world of both danger and wonderful, strange connections as well.

I've seen a few people compare Noragami to BONES' show from last winter, Blast of Tempest, not because of any thematic similarities but because once again they had taken a solid but merely okay story and managed to work it into a stronger product. Here the story is not quite a "monster of the week" story but it did have the "coolness" of that kind of story. Hiyori, Yato, and Yukine are constantly running across strange creatures, hidden pasts, and bringing humor into some very weird situations. Those character interactions were what made this show great and also where my greatest complaints lie. 

It crops up in two places, with Yukine and Yato. I do question how Bones handled Yukine here since his actions are the driving force of the first "arc" of the story and how the reader feels about him is crucial to how the story is pulled off. I read a bit more of the manga and I feel like the manga-ka really built up Yukine as this brat who deserves what came to him yet still made him a character that you wanted to see redeemed, not killed or worse. Here however Bones I think tried a bit too much to make Yukine more likable early on, probably to make the audience sympathize with him more when things got bad, yet instead it made it seem like Yukine switched from being an okay kid to a bad one overnight which I think threw off a lot of people and made his retribution seem harsher than necessary. And then on the flip side, instead of having this mini-arc reveal something about Yato's character and motivations it just makes him even harder to understand which I think was a bad move on the part of the original manga. The story does do a good job at pointing out that he's not human and therefore on some level un-understandable. But then I felt like this problem was exacerbated by having Hiyori as a very normal main character who asked all the same questions the audience was. There's nothing wrong with Hiyori but she made the problem's with Yato even more obvious which felt like weak writing.

I did have some major issues with the last arc of the story however, although it wasn't my usual problem with Bones original endings since this one actually didn't mess with the continuity (well, not much anyway). My problem is that not only do we have a villain with nebulous at best reasons for their action, which is never a good sign, but also gives Hiyori amnesia about Yato and Yukine which apparently means her personality completely changes. Gone is the inquisitive, hey-leaving-my-body-is-cool, Hiyori from the early episodes (which I just said was a great thing and useful for the story) and instead she's a band, almost damsel in distress character which felt completely out of place. You could potentially explain that away but you know what, I'm tired of seeing those tropes coupled with amnesia in characters so unless a story explicitly goes "hey here's exactly why this happened straight from the horses mouth" I'm not going to give them the benefit of the doubt and will instead assume that it was just a lazy choice to create and inflate the drama.

Regardless of the story, I know that some people were worried that since this is "Bones Other Show" that it would look subpar with all the resources being pumped into Space Dandy and thankfully this was hardly the case (partially because of how Dandy was done but that's for another review). In a word this series is stylish looking, it has the same polish to it that drew me to Blast of Tempest as well and it's applied to just about every part of the show. The fights are clean and well-choreographed, although I was less than fond of using the stock animation every episode instead of just every once in a while, the color scheme was impeccable with it's heavy use of blues, grays, and pinkish-purples, and I think that the opening was the all-around coolest opening of the winter season. Some of the music took a little while to grow on me, like background track played at the end of the fights and the ending song (I fell in love with the opening song on the first play) but by the end of the show it felt like a really nicely put together show. I feel as if I may have been a bit too hard on the show in this review since I really did enjoy it and plan on buying it from Funimation (who have it streaming on hulu) and it's convinced me that yes I want to read more of the story so I'll probably end up buying the manga from Kodansha this fall. I never would have expected all of that when the season started so kudos to Bones for once again taking a fairly solid story and jazzing it up without losing what they started with.

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