「神祝き、呪きき」 (Kamuhosaki, Hosakiki)
“Divine Acclamation, Imprecation”
A powerful reminder of why I love this series.
This week’s installment of Noragami Aragoto delivered on some emotionally and thematically resonant material. From the expansion of the mythos to the revelations concerning Yato and Bishamon, this episode put out some mad powerful stuff. Though I was initially disappointed that not much was made of Yukine’s “death,” the rest of the episode quickly made me forget any sense of discontent.
One of the things I’ve loved about Noragami from the beginning was its restraint concerning the sort of powers and weapons attributed to these gods. It never goes the route of Shonen (which isn’t at all a bad way to go, but I appreciate its faithfulness and maturity to the subject). From the very beginning, the God-Regalia relationship could have just been some cursory explanation/gimmick for some neat superpowers and cool battles. Instead, the connection between a God and his/her regalia is approached in an allegorical and intelligent manner—the nature between servant and master, saved and savior, cared for and caretaker, mentor and student, friend and friend, and so on.
In this episode particularly, I appreciate how the ‘blessed vessel’ feature was handled. It wasn’t played up as some rad new power to kill things with as much as some new insight on how a regalia should treat their God—positive reinforcement for a shinki’s loyalty. We learned something new about what regalia are capable of in the world of Noragami, but also the way in which they are meant to interact with their masters.
The exploration of Kuguha’s motivations also shed some light on the God/Regalia dynamic. As the series has made apparent in the last couple of episodes, the sheer quantity of shinki which Bishamon has adopted disallows any means of intimacy between God and regalia. This service (to pick up any shinki possible) is Bishamon’s ultimate flaw—her hamartia, if you will.
Kugaha paints pretty clearly the picture of the situation. Bishamon’s regalia merely smile and pretend to all get along to keep up with appearances—to make their master feel happy and at peace. No matter what worry, grief, or concern they might harbor, they keep it under wraps lest they intend to harm their savior (via blight). As a result, Kugaha feels unsatisfied with the dissonance, as well as the resulting sullying of the war god’s mighty name—feeling it more appropriate that someone with his sensibilities take it.
This runs directly parallel with what’s really going on in Bishamon’s head and heart. As this episode makes obvious, she has been holding in some monumentally intense agony and grief for the loss of her previous regalia by means of suppression. She does so by utilizing Yato as an outlet through which to channel her suffering—by warping it into misplaced hatred. Previous episodes have shown us this in spades, particularly in the case with Kazuma’s banishment. She seems to hate Yato more than she grieves the loss of her former shinki.
In actuality though, she merely refuses to honestly deal with her emotions. She’s doing everything she can to avoid it—picking up any lost soul and protecting them with her life in order to compensate for her past failures in doing so and pretending everything is alright with her regalia, all the while blaming Yato adamantly—perceiving him as this devilish, morally repugnant entity (which he clearly isn’t anymore, at least currently) for anything wrong in her life. She pretends that everything makes sense on the surface—killing the god supposedly responsible is the only sensible action to take, simple as that—just as all her Regalia are all smiles in front of their master.
However, such sentiments are futile in authentically representing reality—Bishamon is keeping down a level of torment and grief which cannot be quelled, just as her shinki are masking the presence of some deep worries. They just keep building up in both cases, more and more, until eventually the bottom just falls out. Blight upon all is the ultimate consequence, as Bishamon is wholly corrupted—unrecognizable even—and as a result, is more directly involved with the death of her family.
She failed to appropriately deal with the problems at hand, just like with her previous ‘Ma’ family where she was unable to mitigate their squabbles, and through a long chain of events, was ultimately left with just Kazuma. Her inability still to deal with what’s pertinent—her undying grief and the unsatisfied sentiments of her servants—as well as really learn from her past mistakes, has led to history repeating itself. Through Bishamon’s actions—or rather, her inaction—we can learn the true importance of dealing rationally and effectively with our emotions and the matters at hand. Damn I love this series.
Kazuma’s death—apart from being sad 🙁—represents Bishamon’s ability to finally let go of the past, as well as learn from it. Though melancholy, it is ultimately necessary. Her last attachment to the past has been shed, and Bishamon can now move on and grow as an individual. It’s really powerful stuff—this is some truly intelligent and profound storytelling.
Apart from all that though, I still feel as if Kugaha is a somewhat bland antagonist. Though allegorically, he is meaningful—as the culmination of all the denial, unmerited anger, and ignorance on part of his master—I can’t help but be kinda bored with him as a character. I’m thinking this will be amended, though, with the subsequent episode, as Yato alludes to some serious ass-kicking that’s about to go down with the guy responsible for all this carnage.
Anyways, I’ve rambled on long enough about why this episode is so fascinating and enjoyable. I’m looking forward to how this season will continue to engage me emotionally and intellectually.