ANIME & MANGA - Review
15:35 - 25th November 2015, by NEO Staff

Noragami

When Hiyori Iki saves a shabby-looking young man from getting hit by a bus, she probably never expected her only injury to be a worryingly loose connection between her body and spirit. Or that the guy she saved would turn out to be the ex-war god Yato, now a hard-up ‘Delivery God’ with a bunch of unsavoury habits. Along with his cranky teenage partner-turned-ghost-turned-katana Yukine, he takes any job, from slaying malevolent spirits to cleaning bathrooms as he pursues his dream of becoming a famous and beloved deity.

Though he’s not the most reliable of contractors, Hiyori turns to him for help fixing her unique spiritual problem, and as she gets drawn into the unseen lives of the gods and goddesses who live among humans, she finds out that being a supreme being is a lot more complicated than you’d think.

Noragami is a smorgasbord of shonen staples – you’ve got your gods, monsters, spirits (some of whom transform into magical weapons) and of course, flashy clashes between high-powered characters. However, though it initially looks like this series is going to follow in the footsteps of the shonen giants that have come before, it actually wanders off the beaten path and goes in its own, refreshing, direction. Whereas most series of its ilk have to have at least one blisteringly-paced action scene per episode, Noragami thinks nothing of slowing the plot down for a while and taking a little time to develop the characters, or to simply build the world a little without resorting to large swathes of exposition.

Though the leisurely pace might be a little jarring to those who go in expecting a dozen action-packed fight scenes with some talky bits in between, almost all viewers will come to appreciate the series’ meandering approach to its storytelling. In fact, while most paragons of the genre are well known for having many hundreds of episodes – meaning the plot can often feel stretched a little thin at times – it could be argued that Noragami’s fault lies too far in the other direction: the 12-episode series occasionally feels almost too short to do the story and characters justice. However, as a result of its brevity, each episode ends up feeling important in some way – even if there wasn’t a climactic twist just as the 24 minutes was up, you’ll still feel like your time was well-spent.

The shorter length of the series also feels like it allows the animation studio – the highly-skilled and experienced Studio Bones – to really focus on making every scene look as good as it can, and they’ve definitely succeeded in this. The characters pop with life and energy, and the backgrounds and scenery art look amazing, and are incredibly diverse for a show with a single, primarily urban setting. If you have the player for it, the Blu-ray release of this one is highly recommended, as it makes a great-looking series look even better, with the sharper and more vivid quality of the format.

In the voice department, the actors on both sides of the dub / sub divide do a great job. It’s not easy to deliver a consistent performance in a series that moves quickly between daft antics and poignant seriousness – as Noragami does – but both voice casts prove themselves to be more than up to the challenge, skirting those twin emotional poles with great execution.

It’s always a treat when a relatively brand-new series surfaces and manages to hold its own against the huge and well-loved franchises of the genre – and luckily, Noragami is definitely an example of this. With interesting characters, great visuals and performances, and a well-thought out world – right from the first episode – this short but sweet series is definitely one of the best releases of the year.

Noragami starts incredibly strong, racing past established series to carve out its own niche in the genre.
SCORE: 4.5/5
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