BONES Monday, phase two.
OP: “Goya no Machiawase (午夜の待ち合わせ)” by Hello Sleepwalkers
Gods, but it’s good to have BONES back. They were uncharacteristically silent in 2013 – nothing on TV after Zetsuen no Tempest ended – but they were apparently marshalling for a big 2014, with at least five TV series plus the Neppu Kairiku Bushiroad movie (via their satellite, Kinema Citrus) on tap. The first two to hit the streets are Space Dandy and Noragami, while the former has all the hype – and shows plenty of potential – in terms of execution it’s the unheralded series with the first-time director that clearly comes out on top. It sure seems to happen that way a lot.
It’s no secret why I love BONES. They’re one of the last holdouts against two trends in anime which I strongly dislike – marketing to an increasingly specialized viewer base and heavy reliance on CGI. Their series hit and miss just like everyone else’s but they score points for ambition, and their overall track record – both in terms of visuals and overall quality – is well above-average. In truth the premiere of Noragami actually comes off as a hybrid of BONES and another of my favorite studios, Brains Base, in terms of style – they too don’t over-rely on CG, and have a special way with facial expressions in comedic moments.
This premiere was pretty much a winner for me on all fronts – casting (well, no Kaji Yuuki yet), direction (Tamura Kotarou is a first-timer but has worked on some fine series), animation, backgrounds and character design. And, most importantly, writing – this was snappy and funny, briskly paced, and it held my interest from the first frame to the last. It seems we have a solid premise and the cast and staff to back it up – the question is what BONES and Tamura-sensei will be able to do with a 12-episode manga adaptation.
The story of Noragami – like so many anime – focuses on a God and a girl. The God is Yato (Kamiya Hiroshi), who’s not much of a Kami but at least he works cheap – ¥5 gets you any wish answered to the best of his (limited) ability. The girl is Iki Hiyori (Uchida Maaya), a high-schooler with a passion for MMA. Yato can’t even keep his “Sacred Treasure” – a girl (Imai Asami) who transforms into a weapon at his summons – working for him. She quits and leaves him defenseless, which is why his next gig – searching for a little boy’s lost cat – seems like good timing. But when he dives out in front of a bus chasing “Milord”, Iki – not realizing he’s an immortal, understandably – leaps out to save him and in the process gets herself stranded between the human world and the afterlife. The “Near Shore”, and the “Far Shore”. And thus, their fates are linked.
We’ve certainly seen plenty of manga and anime about two-bit Gods with delusions of grandeur (actually at current exchange rates, Yato would have to level up 5X to become a two-bit God) and their relations with teenaged girls, so it really all boils down to the details. Is there enough of a twist on the premise to make it interesting, and is the execution good enough to give the story life? Noragami scores on both fronts. First off the main pair are winning from the get-go. These are both actors I have a very hit-and-miss history with, but when I’ve liked them it’s been a lot – and Kamiya and Uchida seem perfectly cast here. And the plot is spun in such a way as to entice a real curiosity about where it’s going to go next.
More than that, though, there’s a great energy and sense of fun to Noragami. The facial expressions really are fantastic (including Milord’s), and the timing – both in terms of the dialogue and the physical comedy – is absolutely dead-on. The episode felt like it lasted about five minutes, and for a first episode with characters I have no buy-in with to keep me hooked for 22 minutes without a moment’s boredom is a fairly rare thing. BONES is back in the game, and the anime landscape is a whole lot more interesting because of it.
ED: “Heart Realize (ハートリアライズ)” by Tia