I’m viewing this anime-original turn for Noragami as a positive because it seems to indicate a desire not to go places that will make a second season more difficult, and comments this week from director Tamura Koutarou (who’s doing a fine job in his first go-around as a series director) seem to corroborate that. Tamura-sensei also mentioned that mangaka Adachi Toka are involved in the writing of the new material, which further reflects a respect for the source material on the part of BONES.
I would take that view even if the new material weren’t up to snuff, but so far at least I’m also pleased with the finale arc in its own right. There are elements that need explaining (such as just how Nora does the things she does) and Rabo’s appearance still feels a bit of a Deux ex Machina, but there’s still the finale left in which to rectify that. And there’s an interesting thematic underpinning here, where Yato is trying to help Hiyori remember her past even as he’s clearly trying to forget his own.
How Nora (who displays yet a new name here, “Furu”) managed to do so isn’t clear, but it seems that the memory she took from Hiyori last week was only that of Yato – she still remembers Yukine just fine (though that changes later in the episode). All of this seems part of Nora’s greater desire to return Yato to his old self – presumably that of the Calamity God who wreaked a lot of havoc on humans and spirits alike. It’s to that end that she’s enlisted Rabo, who we see via flashback has something of a shared (and violent) history with Yato himself.
The relationship between Kami and Shinki feels very much reversed here. It’s clearly Nora who’s pulling Rabo’s strings, which seems to run contrary to the natural order that Noragami has established. It may very well be telling that Tenjin and Tomone seem surprised that Rabo could exist in this day and age – Nora seems to have concocted some sort of shenanigans to bring him back. But he’s clearly no slouch in the power department, as he and Nora appear clearly stronger than Yato and Yukine, and Yato comments that Rabo is as strong as he ever was.
Against this backdrop Yato and Yukine are struggling to help Hiyori remember, with the increasingly desperate Yato turning to applying his considerable art skills to a picture book to jog her memory (though Yuki’s naughty tendencies sneak out as he takes credit for it with Hiyori). Tenjin makes the case to Yato that Hiyori is actually better off this way (in fact he suggested it himself before this most recent development) because her connection to Yato drags her away from her world and closer to the far shore. And frankly, absent any sign that Yato has a clue about how to help her overcome her unscheduled OBE problem it’s hard to argue with the old scholar here. Still, it’s clear that there’s a strong emotional connection between Hiyori, Yato and Yukine by now and that neither the Kami or the Shinki are willing to give it up without a fight.
There’s somewhat less emotional resonance in this arc overall, because Nora and Rabo don’t have an entire series’ worth of development behind them. The buy-in was a little deeper during the Yukine arc, and indeed it’s the strength of that which gives the current developments their sense of consequence. Plot has edged ahead of character, where for most of the series they were in lock-step – but again, we still have an episode in which to fit Nora and Rabo into the larger picture in such a way as to give this arc similar weight. Since the whole point seems to be to leave the series in a place where it can seamlessly rejoin the manga, I’m not expecting anything particularly dark and tragic for an ending – the test will be whether it adds anything meaningful to the three-way character dynamic that’s the heart of Noragami, and would surely drive a second season.