The Bishamon arc comes to a close (though she’s still a factor in events) and Noragami Aragoto moves into its next phase with an episode that marks a considerable change in tone. As great as that arc was, it was pretty serious – Noragami has been no laughing matter lately. And while tragedy is where this series seems most at home, it does comedy pretty darn well too – and it feels good to get back to a more balanced approach once again.
The Shichi Fukujin are still in focus this week, but the spotlight shifts to another one of their number – Ebisu (Okiayu Ryotaro). He’s portrayed here as a slick-dressing young power broker with a cool mask collection, and he’s taken an interest in Yukine – presumably after hearing the details of what went down between Yato and Bishamon. She’s been called onto the carpet by her divine colleagues over that incident, but seemingly gets off with a slap on the wrist (which is pretty much how it went down with the writing too).
The repercussions of that event are still being felt all over the story. Tenjin reminds Yato of his second condition for his help getting to Bishamon’s compound – cut all ties with Hiyori. Tenjin is playing the responsible adult role here – it’s Hiyori’s own welfare that motivates him – but there are emotional ties that aren’t so easy to cut for any of the interested parties. What’s interesting to me in this exchange is that Tenjin seemingly lets Yato off the hook when he doesn’t have the stomach to keep his commitment – maybe it’s Hiyori’s protests that stay Tenjin’s hand, but he doesn’t seem like the sort of guy to just let something like this slide.
There’s still a major plotline to unspool here – whoever was pulling Kugaha’s strings (the “conjurer”) may just be the real big bad for the season. But this episode pretty much belongs to Yukine. He’s at the center of its most pressing conflict – Ebisu offers to buy him from Yato for a tremendous amount of Yen – and it’s he who has most of the signature moments. Yukine’s role in the story has already changed with his new status as a blessed vessel, but Ebisu frames the change in even more stark terms – Yukine is now, in effect, an Examplar.
Yukine really impresses here – it’s obvious long before Yato points it out that he’s really changed, and his response to Ebisu’s pronouncement is to really level up in terms of maturity (which was already happening anyway, at a slower pace). Yukine hasn’t had much good happen for or to him, and I view these developments with a certain measure of suspicion – Noragami seems quite unwilling to let him have more than a moment that’s free of abject misery. But for now he’s the standout character, the one who’s grown the most over the course of the season.
There are plenty of clouds on the horizon – Ebisu’s seeming determination to make Yukine his, the ever-unsettling presence of Nora (who Yukine has figured out Yato keeps around as a fallback in case his Regalia bolt on him as they usually do). But the episode ends on a pretty heartwarming note – Hiyori presenting Yato with the gift of a small shrine she’s crafted for him. The symbolism of this is obviously huge – it’s the lack of a shrine that effectively makes Yato a ronin God, and drives his relentless (and futile) quest for followers and money. And Yato’s reaction – so very out of character – reveals just what the gesture means for him, and just how unlikely it is he could ever bring himself to comply with Tenjin’s demand. Which, given what we currently know, seems destined to end badly for Hiyori.