Noragami is a series where phantoms flock to seismic emotions and the conflict of adolescence is a melting pot of anger, frustration and hormonal angst, making the high school setting wholly justified. The fact it’s exam week only makes the stress and anxiety that much more delectable.
Yato – brilliantly voiced by Hiroshi Kamiya - is a frustrated up-and-coming demi-god lacking a shrine but packing a finely honed sense of bad boy street cred. In his tracksuit, bandit scarf and boots he cuts a striking figure though less divine and more ragamuffin. After slaying a phantom that’s prowling around the school, his regalia – a bound spirit halfway between a weapon and assistant – unceremoniously resigns.
Desperate to earn enough cash to build his own bountiful shrine, Yato takes on odd jobs for a five yen reward. Without a regalia to hand, that aim becomes a lot more difficult. Nevertheless, he takes on a wish to find a missing cat by the name of Milord. Cosmic fate has him cross paths with Hiyori Iki, a martial arts otaku and high school student.
Following a near death experience trying to save Yato from an oncoming bus, Hiyori gets trapped somewhere between the near shore and the far – the twin planes of existence. Consequently, her spirit is prone to ditch her body like narcolepsy of the soul. As a living phantom, she’s a walking target. Once the duo come up against a patricianly insistent phantom, Yato finds his new regalia in the form of Yukine – voiced by the consistently great Yūki Kaji - an angst-ridden fourteen year old spirit, and then the family unit is complete. The trouble is, Yukine isn’t much of a fan of Yato’s lifestyle as a down and out vagrant deity.
The presence of the phantoms is prefigured by trippy visuals of bulging eyes against blood red and bruised purple backdrops. It brings home just how effortlessly Japanese animation can conjure a sense of terror and otherness. The phantoms themselves are neon coloured creatures with either an aquatic, amphibian or insectoid physiology. As if in keeping with the enemy, the music is every bit as barmy. With evocative ambience conjuring Angelo Badalamenti, stringed together with whiffs of new age and grime for a cool urban swagger.
As a metaphor for depression and anxiety, Noragami is a runaway success. Yet it also explores themes of friendship and parental relations in a sensitive and arresting way. The combat scenes and attention to environment showcase the remarkable animation, but it’s the central trio that tug most on the heart strings. It might cost you more than five yen a pop, but you’ll want to be cosmically bound to it nonetheless.
Special Features: Commentary / Textless opening and closing / Trailers
NORAGAMI – THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: KOTARO TAMURA / SCREENPLAY: DEKO AKAO / STARRING: HIROSHI KAMIYA, YUUKI KAJI, ASAMI IMAI, AKI TOYOSAKI / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW