And so we come to the end of another season of Noragami. And so we once again are left to muse on whether we’re going to see more. If pressed I’d say I’m somewhat less optimistic than I was last time, for a couple of reasons. First, it seemed pretty clear from the way Bones paced the first season that the idea of a second had at least been floated. And second, it seems likely disc sales will be smaller this time around (that’s usually the case with sequels, and Stalker supports the notion). I’m hopeful, certainly, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say optimistic.
If indeed “Aragoto” is the final season of the Noragami anime, it’s fair to say it’s going out on top. The Ebisu arc may not have been as consistently stellar as the Bishamon arc, but it was still excellent, And the season on the whole was a cracking effort, certainly better than the first (which was very good). This has been a bit of an under-the-radar series for me since the beginning, but Bones has done their usual stellar job of bringing it to the screen with flair and skill.
I think the Ebisu storyline ended up being a pretty surprising one. He was not remotely the character he appeared to be at first, a great bit of misdirection by the writing really. What was poignant about Ebisu is how little he changes when he reincarnates. He comes back as a wide-eyed and generous little boy, in love with the sea and determined to try and make people’s lives better because after all, that’s a God’s job. And he pretty much remains that person throughout his life, growing up physically but remaining that wide-eyed innocent inside. And really, what more could one want from a God of Fortune than that?
That makes the first half of this episode especially effective. Ebisu has died at the hands of the Gods, and in terrible fashion too – exploding inside his own clothes. And at the end Ebisu validates Yato’s belief that reincarnation is not a salve against death, that there’s something in the person Ebisu is in this incarnation that’s unique and worth hanging on to. The subject of reincarnation in Buddhism is a complicated one, not least when it comes to identity, and I think this is a troubling element that many followers struggle to come to terms with.
Yato’s friendship with Ebisu lives on even after Ebisu himself has died and returned, and it’s clear that Yato sees Ebisu as everything he yearns to be but isn’t. Indeed, Yukine and Hiyori are barely a presence in the A-Part, which is really a tribute to Ebisu’s essential goodness as much as anything. Yato takes him to the Olive Tavern, and Bishamon agrees to give shelter to his fugitive exemplar (despite Ebisu parroting Yato’s per name for her – “Crazy Lady“). The only mystery is the location of the locution brush Ebisu stole from the Underworld, which is nowhere to be found.
In the end, this arc ended up being as much about the tug-of-war for Yato’s soul as anything else. That can be viewed through any number of lenses – the old Kami vs. the one he wants to be. Yaboku vs. Yato, Hiiro vs. Yukine. In the end what matters it that Yato chooses the light, and that means rejecting Nora – who obviously wasn’t trapped in Hell after all. We’ve been down this road before, because Nora is like a bad drug habit Yato just can’t kick. But in formally releasing her after a rousing closing statement by Yukine, he’s certainly come closer than he ever has before.
So remember that Fujisaki kid? Yeah, turns out I was right not to trust him – though I’d be lying if I said I’d figured out he was Yato’s father. And he’s got the locution brush too – this, after having framed Ebisu for his own crimes and escaped the wrath of the Gods. We certainly have our basis for a third season, if one ever comes – and a pretty big clue about where the manga is headed either way.
With that, Noragami draws to a close. It’s a funny sort of series in that it was never one that was at the forefront of my consciousness but was never far from my mind – kind of like Kamisama Hajimemashita in that way. The balance of comedy and tragedy in this series is especially appealing, as is the fact that major characters actually change and grow over the course of the story. I like all of them (and any show that can make me like a Kaju Yuuki character s doing something right – as is he, as this may be is best performance), and it doesn’t feel as if their story has run its course in any way. The whole of Noragami is more than the sum of its parts, and these waters run deeper than they appear to at first glance. There’s a lot left to tell with Noragami, and I sincerely hope Bones gets the chance to tell it.