OP: 「狂乱Hey Kids!!」 (Kyouran Hey Kids!!) by THE ORAL CIGARETTES
「死後の名を冠し」 (Shigo no na o kanshi)
“Bearing a Posthumous Name”
If there’s anything Noragami Aragoto‘s first episode means to do, it’s give us more of the same—but that’s not an entirely bad thing.
Conventionally speaking, the beginning installment of any season should establish the tone and conflict which will permeate accordingly into the ensuing chapters. And episode 1 of Noragami’s sophomore effort does an incredible amount to re-affiliate its viewers with the prominent character dynamics and relationships which distinguished the prior season.
Nothing’s really changed here, for no significant developments seem to have occurred in the gap period. Yato (Kamiya Hiroshi) remains a minor and unknown god striving for big time praise and glory, Yukine (Yuuki Kaji) is still being tutored in standard subjects of academic curriculum and remains a tad bit critical but nevertheless respectful towards his master, and Hiyori (Maaya Uchida)—oh sweet Hiyori—continues to be afflicted by metaphysical narcolepsy while contently appreciating her life and all the friends and acquaintances who fill it. The crew seems to keep in good contact with Kofuku and Daikoku, and their visits exhibit the same quirky fun and camp that we saw the first go-around. The first battle of the season refamiliarizes the viewer with the same beautifully animated and stylized action sequences which complemented the first season’s drama. Hell, even the music is virtually the same.
And that’s just it really, while this episode goes to great lengths to exposit the unchanged landscape of this universe, it offers very little in the way of concrete development of conflict and incentive for the season to follow. You really have to pick at the implied and the implicit to identify any changes to the audience’s current understanding of the characters and come up with any idea of what issues and dilemmas the crew will face this Autumn. If it wasn’t already revealed that this season would dive deep into the complicated past and struggle between Bishamon and Yato, I wouldn’t know what this season would entail. However, the analysis of Bishamon and her actions this week is the viewer’s sole window into the potential future of this season.
The episode opens with quick and perfunctory flashes of the past strife between Bishamon and Yato—though brief and cursory, these images connote an intriguing new contribution to the dynamic between these two characters. We already know Bishamon hates the bejeezus out of Yato for some distantly historic occurrence or struggle, and is an absolutely dominant physical threat to Yato and his friends. What’s fascinating about the opening glimpses, however, is the wholly unfitting passivity which describes Bishamon—a character who we know now as nothing but fire-willed and adamantly strong—and the continuing images of a completely unrecognizable and powerful Yato—an uncompassionate and merciless figure of macabre.
This complete flip of the current status quo (even though very brief), I think, adds an entirely new dimension to where Bishamon stands with our ditzy, goofball protagonist. Perhaps the reason why she is so unrelenting in her search and hatred towards Yato is because of the intense anguish and weak-willed helplessness which he brought her in the past. Maybe she’s hunting down and lashing out at Yato not just for whatever it is he did, but because he reminds her of the insecurity and weakness which characterized her centuries ago, and maybe just a little guilt for not being powerful enough to stop him.
Furthermore, the minor development and exposure to Bishamon’s character throughout the episode’s latter half speaks boldly of the severity surrounding the actions of Yato’s past self. Though we’ve seen brief glimpses before, here, we are exposed to a far more compassionate and self-sacrificing Bishamon—an individual who would compromise her immortal health and life to provide a good home to comparatively aimless and previously hopeless spirits. Someone this charitable and kind-hearted hates Yato? Even though he’s pretty cool now? Dude must have done some really raw stuff in the past to get this kind of unmitigated hate. The fact that she might’ve snapped at her most trusted and beloved acquaintance if she truly realized his collaboration with Yato is a scary thought.
Who knows what we’ll think of Yato by the time all is said and done.
Besides this, though, this first episode didn’t do much else in the way of introducing conflict. Sure there were quick flashes of mystery and ominous characters, but nothing in the way of substance or solid development, aside from that which was implied.
However, I’m not wholly opposed to the idea of this season taking its time.
It seems that Noragami Aragoto intends to resolve some of the very questions which I was disappointed that the first season left unanswered. Who was Yato in the past? What did he do to make Bishamon hate him so much? What made him change so drastically into the guy he is today? Why is Kazuma so indebted to Yato? And so on.
If a slow first episode is all that’s compromised for an otherwise well-paced and fully fleshed out addressment of these pressing matters, then I have no qualms. If anything, I’m just happy I got to spend time with some of my favorite characters again. We’ll just have to see where it goes from here.
ED: 「Nirvana」by Tia