Make no mistake, Norogami Aragoto is really good. And it’s good in a myriad of ways – sure, it’s vastly entertaining and that’s ultimately the bottom line. But it also does a wonderful job of expanding the Noragami mythology and reshaping the way we look at the characters, putting them under new stresses and forcing them to change and evolve. A sequel should always, ideally, expand on what came before it – it should be more complex, more subtle, and more substantial because there’s been more time to explore the characters and premise. But in practice it doesn’t usually work that way.
Watching the Bishamon arc unfold has been interesting for a number of reasons. This is a tragedy, certainly, and I think it’s understandable to feel sad about it from every angle. But one thing it makes clear is that the victims in all this are the Shinki – most especially Bishmon’s Shinki. They’re the ones being used and manipulated in all this, and I don’t just (or even mostly) mean by the truly reprehensible Kugaha.
Part of the problem is the system here, no doubt. Kazuma sums it up perfectly himself – the role of his fellow Regalia is to smile for their master, no matter what they’re feeling. The relationship could be viewed as symbiotic if one were feeling especially charitable, but I think just as easily as mutually parasitic. The Kami gives the Shinki life when it would normally be over – the Shinki gives the Kami power. But each has the power to destroy the other – the difference being, of course, that the God can destroy the Regalia without destroying itself if it so chooses.
But more than the system, I think a lot of the problem here is Bishamon herself. I could go on all day listing her character flaws – she’s most certainly a hypocrite for starters. I would argue that the main reason she keeps gathering all these Shinki is ego – she loves the idea of being some kind of “great mother” to her “children”. In the case of the -Ha clan a lot of it is obviously also guilt over what happened in the past (which was her own fault to begin with). But when the chips are down she keeps using her “children” in her fight with Yato even though she knows she’s been corrupted and doing so is destroying them in agonizing fashion – her hatred of Yato is more important to her than her so-called motherly love.
As usual, it’s Kazuma who seems to be in the unique role here, because he knows more of the truth than anyone else but bears the responsibility of living the lie for so long. He’s the one who asked Yato to kill the -Ma clan, then reveled in being the sole recipient of Veena’s love in the aftermath and withheld the truth from her (which, to be blunt, she could have figured out on her own if she weren’t so blinded by her ego). Make no mistake, Kazuma at the very least allowed – and maybe even caused – the current tragic events to happen. As vile as Kugaha is, at least he’s clear in his objectives – he wants power. Everyone else involved on Team Bishamon is hip-deep in self-deception.
From Yato’s perspective, of course he’s being used too – just as he was the first time, with the -Ma clan. Yato is a small man and a small God in many ways, but there’s something a lot more honest to him than Bishamon. And against all odds something of a real bond has formed between he and Yukine, as witness Yukine’s transformation into a “Blessed Vessel” when he’s cut in half. Remarkably, something not terrible seems to have happened to Yukine – and his transformation helps explain why Kazuma looks different than he did as a stripling nail in the distant past. Will Yukine get a similar new look, I wonder?