So the Bishamon arc comes to a close, halfway through the second season of Noragami. I have a few issues with that way the final act played out, but on the whole the play was a rousing success. It was Noragami 2.0 – everything was enhanced and magnified, the stakes higher and the character development more intense. And it that’s not what you want from the second season of an anime, I don’t know what is.
Who fared best here? I would say Yato and Yukine, of a certainty. That’s ironic in the sense that the two of them were supporting characters here, after being very much the lead players (sorry, Hiyori) for much of Season One. As for Hiyori herself, she was pretty much an afterthought for most of the Bishamon Arc – even when she was important to the plot it was in a passive role. And as for the two main characters, they were both exposed for the very flawed characters they are.
Yato was pretty much on-point through the final two episodes of this arc. When Noragami is in its lighter mode Yato is typically on the business end of most of the humor, a sad sack of a God scrounging for nickels and begging favors. But while he’s always dialed the badass up big-time when the chips are down, he’s also very much the voice of reason here – the calm and unruffled enforcer doing what must be done and saying what must be said. And Yukine, of course, gets past his grief over Suzuha’s death and spontaneously levels up when the chips are down.
For all that, though, I can’t help but feel like all the principals involved in the story got off too easily. Not that Bishamon (losing much of her “family” again) Kazuma (being exiled and then critically wounded) and Kugaha (getting an unwanted manicure and being turned into a Nora) didn’t suffer consequences – but I think all three of them could have had it a lot worse. I even found myself sort of agreeing with Kugaha in sense – I don’t think Veena is a very good Bishamon, and she really did bring all of this down upon herself. But that doesn’t mean Kugaha isn’t a total scumbag for the way he tried to exploit the situation.
Equally as important, I think, is the question of whether Bishamon and Kazuma really learned anything. Bishamon decides to release Kugaha rather than destroy him (a debatable choice to begin with), and her behavior by the end of the episode suggests she may not really get the problem here. Exchange diaries are not going to fix the bigger problem, no matter what she’d like to believe. Kazuma does get it, I think – and understands how complicit he is in all the tragedies that have happened now and in the past – but his desire to be loved by Veena and be by her side is so strong that he’s easily lured back into the fantasy bubble she’s created around herself and her Regalia.
Ultimately, of course, the one pulling the strings here seems not to have been Kugaha, but Nora. Or perhaps I should say Nora’s father, who I don’t believe we’ve been introduced to yet. It appears she’s taking her marching orders from him, and that he’s some sort of non-corporeal spirit at this point – or I suppose it’s just as possible that he’s a figment of her twisted imagination. Nora has been teased as a villain since before even the Bishamon arc, so if she’s indeed going to take center stage at last perhaps the next arc could live up to this one in terms of stature. As good as this season of Noragami has been so far, I have pretty high expectations.