Space Dandy’s second episode has competition now for the best by any new series this season, as BONES stablemate Noragami delivers easily its best ep yet (and the first three were darn good). I’ve noted the consistency this series has shown in its first three eps, but if you’re going to break that up this is definitely the right direction to go – everything was turned up a notch at least, and the overall result was an outright winner.
The good bloodlines have been evident in Noragami since the very beginning – great music, outstanding cinematography and background art, typically strong BONES animation, and a distinct style. While it’s true that one thing that set this week’s ep apart from the first three was that the content itself was exponentially more compelling, that’s too simple an explanation – as good as the series has already been on the technical side, that levelled up in a big way too. This was some of the cleverest and most creative visual work I’ve seen since Kyosougiga and Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge.
Noragami is definitely an all-arounder as opposed to a niche series – you get a bit of everything in terms of drama, action, pathos and humor. This week was the best example, for while it was loaded with some of the most effective comedy of the season it also paid out last week’s bet that the series was going to a darker place. It starts out innocuously enough, with Yato literally dreaming of grandeur (I still love the fact that he’s so downtrodden that even in his dreams of avarice he drinks cup sake from the konbini), and Yukine growing increasingly irritated by it. Sleeping rough is bad enough – Yato’s incessant sleep-talking is the icing on the cake.
Hiyori continues to press for some actual service from Yato, and something always happens to cause her to forget. The episode takes its first substantial turn when Yato takes she and Yukine to visit Inokashira Koen and a girl, Kofuku (Toyasaki Aki) whom he introduces as his girlfriend before borrowing ¥30000 from her. It turns out she’s actually Ebisu (although that too later that turns out to be false, as she’s actually a Binbougami posing as one of the Seven Lucky Gods), and she’s attached at the hip to her overprotective Regalia Daikoku (Ono Daisuke). Apparently they live in one of the shops in the park – I’ve no idea why – and the visit is slightly bizarre and quite hilarious. Yato cautions that Daikoku “has a thing for kids”, and Kofuku offers the puzzling and slightly disturbing defense that he “likes to stare at them till they disappear from sight” (and Daikoku does take a strong interest in Yukine). Stay tuned for more on this, maybe.
Kofuku has some disturbing information for Hiyori, but that’s deferred until after Yato deals with the job he’s just gotten – which he only got because a man named Yuusuke has called him by mistake when trying to say goodbye to his parents before killing himself. I’m not sure how what follows is going to be received, but I loved it – a ridiculous and ridiculously long fall from a tall building during which Yuusuke (Ono Yuuki) recounts his sad story, wherein he’s met a young girl (who’s been assigned the outraged Hiyori’s face), fallen in love, and had nothing but bad luck since. It’s the Binbougami of course, but the interplay of the brilliant cinematography and animation with the machine-gun absurdist dialogue totally works. It’s an audacious scene that comes close to breaking the fourth wall, but it ends up being one of the best scenes this season and certainly Noragami’s best so far.
I really like the way this show juxtaposes comedy with its dark and unsettling subject matter. There’s a lot that’s pretty grim here – the show keeps returning to suicide as a theme, and we get constant reminders of the way the world of death is always lurking at the edge of our vision. Yukine’s story seems certain to be a tragic one when it’s finally revealed, and then there’s Yato himself. We knew he was a God of War already, but Kofuku clues Hiyori into some of his bloody past – when the only way a lesser God could keep from being forgotten was to take any wish, no matter from whom. It seems Yato has done some terrible things (including destroying one of his own Regalia) and that adds an interesting dimension to his character. Clearly this is no conventional protagonist, but also not just a loser God who can’t find two ¥5 coins to rub together. A dangerous Yato is definitely more compelling as a character.
This episode finds Hiyori both getting her strongest taste yet of how sinister the world she’s become entangled with is, and showing the first signs of possibly being attracted to Yato. That could end up being a very complicated situation, and muddling things even further is the presence of Nora (Kugimiya Rie), the dead girl we briefly saw at the very end of Episode #3. She’s taken quite an interest in Yukine (she’s clearly not alone there, and his ability to “sever” Yuusuke from Kofuku is a clue that he’s not a normal Shinki), but she also has a connection to Yato – her insistence that he refer to her by the name he gave her strongly suggests she used to be a Regalia as well. Taken together, this is all both immensely entertaining and quite intriguing stuff. We have all sorts of interesting things starting to happen now, and with the story catching up to the execution Noragami is flashing enormous potential – I only wish it had more than one cour with which to develop it.