Noragami – A Stray That Found a Shrine in America

Noragami Volume 1 cover.

In New York, publishing is a god here. There are many publishers who call the Big Apple their home and conduct business here on a daily basis. That being said manga publishers are no exception. This year at New York Comic-Con, there was a larger emphasis put on comics, especially manga. While Masashi Kishimoto of Naruto fame drew a lot of attention with multiple appearances in New York City leading to NYCC, Kodansha Comics continued to show off their plans for this decade’s giant hit (pun intended), Attack on Titan. They also brought attention to a manga series that’s become a surprise hit for them since its debut in the United States.

Adachitoka’s Noragami: Stray God debuted in America last year in print and the anime was streamed before the manga’s release on FUNimation. The 1st volume of the manga sold very well and surpassed sales expectations for Kodansha. This year, Kodansha brought the series’ editor, Yohei Takami, to New York Comic-Con for their panel and an autograph session at FUNimation’s booth. Noragami is a title that cleverly brings the world of Japanese mythology to a modern urban setting and makes gods feel more human than anything else.

Noragami is about an unrecognized Japanese god known as Yato, who goes around promoting himself as a “delivery god” of sorts. His goal in life is to become an official part of Japanese mythology and will do any request people give him for 5 yen. The problem is that this doesn’t cover any necessary expenses to get a home to live in, so he sleeps outside in the street like a bum. Yato meets a teenage girl named Hiyori Iki, who saves him from being run over by a bus. Hiyori becomes a spirit afterwards and demands Yato to cure her condition. The two become friends and the reader gets absorbed into a world where gods, spirits, phantoms, and humans all collide in between the human realm and the realm of the dead.

The fun part of following Noragami is learning more about Yato. His appearance is a bit strange as he wears a bib, tracksuit, and boots. Yato is portrayed to be oblivious to his faults as a person, as he seems to anger his peers and is shown to be desperate for money and attention. The 1st 3 volumes of the series help to set up Yato and Hiyori’s character development, along with a third character. Yukine, Yato’s Shinki, a spirit who can transform into a weapon or item that can be of use to a god. Yukine is a young boy who was killed around the age of 14. Yato christens him as his weapon of choice for battling the Ayakashi, phantom monsters who prey on people afflicted with negative emotions. Both Yato and Yukine have a testy relationship in the beginning as Yukine hates Yato’s laziness and Yato dislikes Yukine’s rebellious attitude. Both go through a crazy rough patch, but this shows the importance of the relationship between the Gods and their Shinki as they both need each other to survive. The series brilliantly shows how vulnerable gods can be despite their commanding presence over society.

A number of Japanese gods are presented, including Tenjin, the God of Learning, and the Seven Gods of Fortune. Other gods’ Shinkis get spotlighted as well, as they have a variety of interesting personalities. One of the seven gods and their Shinki become the stars in an arc that the 2nd anime season of Noragami (titled Noragami: Aragato) focuses on. Bishamonten, the god of warriors, is a major supporting character who is considered to be Yato’s main rival. In the series, Bishamon is portrayed as a blonde woman who rides a lion (who is one of her Shinki) and often wears a revealing outfit (also another Shinki) to battle. She despises Yato for killing many of her Shinki centuries ago and is determined to kill him at all costs. The Bishamon arc is considered to be the story where fans begin to love Noragami. It is full of action, drama, and tear-worthy moments as there is a lot of character development and the battles are heart-wrenching. This was the story that convinced me to be a fan of the series to the end.

Here’s a teaser clip that avex networks put up and was shown at the Kodansha Comics panel at NYCC as well.

If reading manga is not exactly your thing, the anime adaptation of Noragami is produced by BONES which is a studio noted to creating high-quality animation. The anime is actually quite well-done and in a way, the anime has a better introduction to the story than the manga. The manga starts off somewhat dark and complex and doesn’t introduce the Hiyori character right away. The anime jumps right into the action and begins to get into her story early on in the series. The anime captures the emotions of all the characters from the manga and the beauty of a modern city lit up by gods and monsters running around quite well. The voice acting (on the Japanese side) is top-notch and the soundtrack is solid. The openings for both seasons are both garage rock style songs set to drive home the furious action of Noragami. The endings are soft pop pieces, both of which have been composed by the popular Vocaloid-inspired group, supercell.

If you want a series that tells the tale of a lovable and relatable godly loser and has good pacing throughout, Noragami is sure to be the blessing in disguise that the gods never paid attention to, but should.

The Noragami manga from Kodansha Comics can be purchased at Amazon and wherever fine books are sold. The anime can be seen and/or purchased at FUNimation’s official website.

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