This week’s episode of Noragami was a big step up in every way. I always enjoy this show, but there are times when it seems to kind of recede into the background of my consciousness a bit even as I’m watching it (last week was one of those times) and others where it grabs me by the throat and demands my undivided attention. It’s not always easy to explain why that is, but it’s always easy to tell which show we’re getting at any given time.
The balance of comedy and tragedy is definitely one Noragami’s foremost strengths, but it usually (though not always) seems to be at its best when the darker side of its personality is dominant. When one stops and really looks at these characters and this premise, Noragami is actually pretty bleak. The comedy takes on the feeling of whistling through the graveyard when one does that, and the characters seem quite self-aware about that.
It was pretty much a given that Yukine’s new friend Suzuha (Nishiyama Koutarou) wasn’t long for this world (well – that world, I suppose) as soon as he and Yukine hit it off. Being Yukine is suffering – if anything is clear in Noragami that is – and there’s nothing Yukine seems to cling to more than the fleeting desire to grasp at some sort of normalcy. It seems cruel to finally give him what seemed like a very normal friendship with another boy his age only to take it away – so you pretty much knew it was going to happen. The only question was the circumstances.
Suzuha’s story, like Yukine’s, is a pretty sad one. We don’t know how he died so young, but we know he’s been touched by the reality that any contact he makes with those on the Near Shore is fleeting. It’s why he loves trees so much, it seems – they don’t have anything to forget. We don’t know why not even his mistress Bishamon has called on Suzuha for many years when she normally seems so considerate of the needs of her Shinki, but we know Suzuha has been forgotten by her for a very long time.
In telling this story to Yukine, of course, Suzuha hammers home just how ephemeral Yukine’s friendship (and hopeless infatuation) with Hiyori really is. Hiyori has a far stronger connection to the Far Shore than any living human should, of course, but anyone in Yukine’s position would naturally assume he’ll suffer the same fate – being forgotten by a loved one who ages even as they’re frozen as a child.
It gets worse, though, as Suzuha is apparently killed (faster than I expected), by Nora and her partner in crime, Kuguha (Hoshino Yakanori). Kuguha plays the role of the caring doctor to Veena and her Regalia well enough that he has even Kazuma fooled, but he’s playing a deeper game here – he seems intent on destroying Bishamon and her “family”, and poor Suzuha’s death is a way to stir unrest in that family. What’s his angle? A best guess at this point would be that he feels Bishamon has betrayed her legacy as a God of War by turning into a den mother for all the lost souls of the Far Shore. And he sees Yato, too, as a tool to help make that happen…