First Impressions – Noragami

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BONES Monday, phase two.

OP: “Goya no Machiawase (午夜の待ち合わせ)” by Hello Sleepwalkers

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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.

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ED: “Heart Realize (ハートリアライズ)” by Tia

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  1. N

    This premiere really reminded me of why I LOVE BONES! A shame it will be 1 cour, but at least I am certain that they will make a great work

  2. J

    I agree wholeheartedly. This Intro gave you everything you want in a good show. Definitely a keeper.

  3. i

    I'm now scared knowing it is only 12 episodes. I fear they will cram to much into the episodes, turning the flow into shit. Hopefully they take their time. But I really enjoyed this episode and I have high hopes.

  4. i

    Correction, I actually was thinking of Nobunaga the Fool when talking about the flow and 12 episodes and stuff. I'm not worry about Noragami more then most other shows in relation to that.
    I want a saki bottle half full of 5 yen coins.

  5. s

    While nothing truly noteworthy stood out for me in this premiere, I know a solid BONES series when i see one and i must admit, my attention was held throughout the entire run of the ep. There's something refreshing about the interactions between the two leads and it looks like this is going to be quite a nice little series.

  6. t

    this was typically BONES by the book (something we can't really say about the "bro", dandy XD)
    and indeed I was getting vibes of BONES style (from shows like soul-eater and ZNT) with brains base (blood-lad). but we shouldn't treat Noragami as hybrid. in fact, because it's so amorphous and we can't say what it really is..that is what makes Noragami simply as Noragami.

    I liked it, very much. characters are funny, pleasant, create the atmosphere of the series and made the show very enjoyable, whether they are together or not.

    looking this show is only 1cour, what makes it promising enough, since Noragami got to be a little under focus and control, yet it has space to do whatever it wants. whatever BONES wants 😛
    I just hope it'll be even funnier. I don't want it to be like: me seeing some scenes where I suppose to laugh and I end up not doing so.
    but I put me trust in BONES.

  7. M

    I don't have a lot to say except that this episode was deadly DULL. Fine work on the technical front, but the characters tried too hard to charm and so far the story offers little creativity – which qualifies as wasted energy. I may have liked it considerably more if Hiyori actually practiced some MMA, or judo…anything. I would love to see BONES flex their muscles in that arena.

    "Ah! but she's a highschool gurl so any unique extracurricular is simply unnecessary for such a character."

    I think what we have here is talent plagued by below-average source material with bare bones (pun intended) to work with. I'll save my final judgement for next week.

  8. w

    Ah.. That was nice. Not too flashy, but plenty enough that I'd be happy to come back tune in next week.
    Premise looks very solid, and I'd be happy to watch Yato make those exaggerated facial expressions all day. Now, if Toaru Hikuushi turns out great as well could be on for a real winner of an early week this season.

  9. i

    I liked it but more so I guess because of the inside joke that if Araragi claimed he wanted to be god this is how it'd turn out.

  10. B

    Nice first episode. Clearly the story hasn't even started but i'm definitely in for more, at least for now.

  11. Z

    A bit meh. Typical get hit by a bus plot device, now I'm just waiting for the "contract".

  12. R

    I was contemplating if I should watch this show, but I ended up giving it a try because of BONES and because of the many votes that this shows got. Turns out…I was entertained. This won't be a show that is packed with thought-provoking ideas or aesthetic charm, but if I want to pick a no-brainer show that will give me some laughs, this is it for me. The writing, the pacing, and the chemistry between the two leads aren't bad, and as a bonus…thank goodness that the girls aren't wearing mini-skirt uniforms. I will stick around for a few more episodes.

  13. C

    This is defiantly my favorite premier for the new seaso n. It's funny and has a lot of heart subtly woven into the main pair and premise.

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