Four episodes in, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the Bishamon Arc can back up the build-up – this is good stuff on every level. Noragami is a series that integrates character and plot better than most, and disparate elements of comedy and tragedy too – when this series is working (which has been the case most of the time it was adapting manga material) it all flows together as a seamless whole. And this arc definitely presents as a logical ramp-up of everything that’s come before.
We’ve been building up to the eventual confrontation between Yato and Bishamon pretty much since day one (well, day two anyway) of the story, but in Noragami the past is a living part of the present. Many of the riddles of the past were answered here, starting with the incongruous “-ma” at the end of Kazuma’s name. Turns out that the suffix is a common way for a Kami to express the solidarity of their clan of Shinki, and Kazuma is the lone holdover from the prior clan – the rest of whom died, as we know, at Yato’s (and Nora’s) hand. The new clan is the “-ha” clan – though certainly none of them (bar one) are laughing at the moment).
The big mystery, of course, was the matter of just why Yato would have killed the -ma clan – and the answer is pretty much what’s been hinted at in the last couple of episodes. Bishamon’s habit of turning every stray spirit she finds into a Regalia seems inherently susceptible to the sort of problem that caused Kazuma to ask Yato to kill all of his clan, but the problem of course is that Bishamon has no idea why Yato did what he did – from her perspective, he simply slaughtered her family. And that slaughter and the guilt it sparked in her has made her even more reckless in inviting the same thing to happen again.
There’s a part of Kazuma’s story that’s conspicuously incomplete – which Regalia was corrupted, causing the cycle of discord that forced Kazuma’s hand (I also wonder why Kazuma seems to have aged, which I didn’t think was possible for a Regalia)? For now there are larger fish to fry – Hiyori is imprisoned with Kazuma and will die if separated from her body for much longer, and Kugaha’s plan seems to be working perfectly. The endgame of that plan, it seems, is for this Bishamon to die at Yato’s hand and a new one be born, subject to Kugaha’s control.
There are a lot of nice little touches here – Tenjin’s bemoaning that a great storm is about to happen at the height of plum blossom season (Sugawara no Michizane was known to adore ume blossoms), and his unspoken second condition for transporting Yato to Bishamon’s estate, Kofuku placing a bet on Bishamon in order to try and jinx her and help Yato. But the headline here is always going to be Yato and Bishmon clashing in battle at last, and it doesn’t disappoint. Kugaha has weakened Bishamon – via his “medicine” and Aiha’s corruption – but even weakened and without Kazuma to channel her other Shinki’s power, she’s still a God of War.
If this was the week you were expecting Yukine’s luck to turn, think again. I’m pretty convinced his plot armor is thick enough that he’s not going to die (for reals) four weeks into the season, but getting sliced in half isn’t going to do anybody any good. That said, there would be a certain poetic justice to Bishamon killing Yato’s entire family of Regalia – albeit that’s a family of one – after what’s happened in the past. Rather, though, I think we’re going to see her finally be forced to confront the truth, both about herself and Yato – a truth she’s been aware of on some level all along, and simply refused to believe.