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Monday, 1 February 2016

Noragami Aragoto.

Noragami Aragoto.

You know, I would have gotten this review up weeks ago, except the last few weeks have been surprisingly hectic as far as this blog's schedule goes. I watched Noragami Aragoto almost immediately after I was done with Noragami. downing all twelve episodes in about two or three days - I had, after all, really enjoyed Noragami, so there was no reason not to.

Set shortly after the end of the first series, Noragami Aragoto sees Yato, Yukine, and Hiyori in danger once again, as one of Bishamon's Regalias, Kugaha, colludes with Nora to manipulate Yato into killing a weakened Bishamon. Meanwhile, Ebisu, one of the Seven Gods of Fortune, conducts dangerous experiments on controlling Phantoms - experiments which will lead him to the Underworld and rouse the interest of Yato and Nora's mysterious father.

Let's start with pacing, because the two-arc structure doesn't really work out well for this series. The series is divided, very roughly, into two six episode arcs - one focusing on Yato's dealings with Bishamon and the conclusion of their rivalry, and one focusing on Yato's dealings with Ebisu and his enforced servitude to his father. They're both fine arcs, but the problem is, they both have about four episodes worth of content, stretched out. While this isn't necessarily so noticeable in the Bishamon arc, except towards the very end, it is especially prominent in the Ebisu arc, which drags - good grief, does it drag - and seems to do its absolute best to kill off any interest you might have.

We get some backstory for Yato, too.

Not to mention that it also creates a problem in that, well, the Ebisu arc maybe isn't a good place to end the series. In a show that heavily revolves around the interactions between the three leads, a final arc where the main character is mostly separated from the two other leads seems like an almost ludicrous choice. The interactions between Yato and Ebisu aren't quite interesting enough to work as a stand-in, and any tension built up by Hiyori starting to forget Yato kind of falls a bit flat, since we already had that subplot at the end of the first series.

The Bishamon arc, meanwhile, is the perfect place to start the series, picking up a dangling plot thread from the first series and seeing it to a satisfactory conclusion, as well as essentially making Bishamon a tritagonist for a spell of episodes. While it is a bit too long and could have done with being compressed, it has a compelling villain where the Ebisu arc kind of lacks one, and the conclusion that it eventually comes to feels satisfying, where the Ebisu arc's conclusion just feels kind of unfulfilling.

Having unfulfilling arcs is fine, especially when they're deliberately so, but they're a bad place to end a whole series on.

Many of the good things I said about the first series still hold true, though. Noragami Aragoto has a great soundtrack, is very well-animated, has good voice-acting, and usually gets the balance of angst to action to comedy just about right. It balances its various moods and genres well, and is, on the technical side, a very competently made production, with the pacing issues standing out as really the only big problem.

I kept thinking that was that guy's chest hair, but it's not, it's part of his clothes.

I remain heavily invested in the friendship of our three main characters, and apart from that one slightly vexingly rehash-y plot towards the end, the show mostly manages to avoid reworking old ground by having Yato, a fairly static character in the first series, being the one undergoing all of the character development in this one, with Yukine and Hiyori acting as more static figures who are guiding him through it.

Once again, the series manages to portray the Phantoms, and the Blight, as terrifying, eldritch things, and it pulls its punches probably even less than it did in the first series, with an arc entirely about Bishamon getting Blighted and including as one iconic shot a woman absolutely riddled with eyes. The addition of Yato's father, unseen (ish) until the very end when we get a big reveal as to his identity, was also an effective touch.

Aw, they're adorable.

The series ends on a slight cliffhanger, with Yato's father's identity revealed, and with a colourful parade of Phantoms, apparently invisible to everyone else, now following him around - but it also wraps up most of its loose plot threads, with Yato cutting ties with Nora and finding his purpose in life. It's enough of a definite ending that I won't be chomping at the bit if it doesn't get a sequel (as I do for so many anime), but there's also definite room for a third series here - and, since it seems like it's a pretty popular show, I would imagine it'll probably get one sooner or later.

Once again, while I didn't enjoy this with quite the zeal that some people do (although I did enjoy it), I can definitely see why people love this show so much, and I am hoping that there's a third series, preferably sooner rather than later.

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