Noragami continues to be a dark ride. Even when it’s in comedy mode, despair always seems to be lurking in the background, as if these are characters that fate simply won’t allow to have a free pass. There’s a strange kind of duality of tone to the series as a result of that, a feeling that’s quite distinct from any other anime I can remember.
The most literal manifestation of that, of course, is Nora, who actually does seem to be hovering in the shadows all the time. She’s been the mysterious darkness that’s accompanied Yato since the very beginning of the series, and though things seem to be looking up for Yato when the episode starts, it comes as no surprise when she shows up to spoil the party. Yato finally has his Shrine, he’s actually gotten it permitted by the city government (persistence pays off), and it seems he may finally be on his way to a respectable Divine existence. But a respectful existence is exactly what Nora doesn’t want Yato to have.
The A-Part is fairly low-key, but with Noragami, you assume light moments have dark implications. When Manabu-kun, the meek boy Hiyori and Yato helped survive bullying in the first season, shows up to try (unsuccessfully) to confess to Hiyori, it’s a light and cute moment. But the larger import is that Manabu has forgotten Yato – the implications of which are central to this plot. When Yukine goes to train on invocations with Kazuma, it’s further evidence he’s maturing into a stalwart young man and leads to some excellent comic bits. But you can bet that Yukine is learning skills he’s going to be forced to rely on for survival (his own and Yato’s both) in the coming crisis.
The gist of the situation is this – with no believers, a Kami like Yato simply ceases to exist. So why has Yato survived all these centuries? Daikoku significantly muses that Yato must have “some other believers somewhere”, but the weight of responsibility clearly feels very heavy to Hiyori. If Manabu and those like him forget Yato, it won’t take long for her to do so too – and what happens to him (and Yukine) if she does?
Trouble arises on two fronts. Ebisu is experimenting with using phantoms as Regalia, and this is obviously connected to Nora, who summons Yato (by text message, no less) into the night and proceeds to force him down a path of murder and revenge like the Calamity God of old. Why is it that Yato is willing to submit to Nora (he uses her real name of “Hiiro” at last)? Is it because of the “Father” she keeps obliquely referring to, a figure even more adept at lurking in the shadows than she is?
We can say this much at least – a disappearance of a week isn’t long enough for Hiyori to start forgetting about Yato. That doesn’t stop him from fretting over it though, and it’s the fear over that which finally seems to snap Yato out of his bloodlust trance. This is really the first time we see Nora actually holding Yato aganst his will, but it’s not clear that on her own she’d be able to withstand his full force of rage. She doesn’t have to though, as “Father” finally appears (sort of) and tells her than Yato can go free if he performs a job – rescue a conjurer from the Underworld. And that, seemingly, will be the major plot driver of this arc…