When reviewing an anime adaptation, there are always two ways of judging it: as an adaptation and as an anime. I believe this distinction is quite relevant when it comes to reviewing the second season of Noragami, Noragami Aragoto. Hint: it was really good.
WARNING: This review contains HUGE spoilers for Noragami Aragoto
Many people were surprised when a second season of Noragami was announced back in Spring. Despite being faithful to the manga for the first half, studio Bones decided to end the first season with an anime-original ending, leading many people to believe that there wouldn’t be more seasons. It’s a very different case with Noragami Aragoto, as Episode 13 finished with an after-credits scene that, at least, showed that Bones is up for a third season. Now it’s just a matter of waiting to see how the sales go. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s talk Season 2 first.
Noragami Aragoto brought the adaptations of the Bishamon arc and the Ebisu/Underworld arc. Bishamon is a character that was already introduced in the first season, but all we knew is that she was the God of War and that she held a grudge against Yato for something that happened in their pasts. From the very first episode of Aragoto, it was clear that, this time, the show was going to delve into the plot and take itself more seriously. The build-up was palpable since the very first minutes of the season with the additions of Kugaha (and his relationship with Nora) and Aiha. We also got to know a lot more about Bishamon and her Regalias (still crying about Suzuha). In a way, this arc served to once again demonstrate how important the relationship between a God and their Regalia(s) is. We already saw it in a smaller scale in the first season when Yukine blighted Yato nearly to death. In Bishamon’s case, she has the additional struggle of having to manage A LOT of Regalias. This also served to explore the world of Regalias further with the addition of two new terms: Blessed Vessels and exemplars. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also some explanation on invocations and how they work, the importance of names, and the difference between loyal Regalias and Noras. Bishamon’s story also allowed us to find out some more about Yato’s past and how he worked as a God of Calamity next to Nora.
But we don’t really get to know more about Yato’s past until the Ebisu arc. Some of the new terms that were introduced in this arc where the existence of the Underworld, Izanami (and Izanagi), the brushes, Father, Yaboku, Heaven’s punishment with Takemikazuchi and Kiun, and some glimpses at Yato and Hiiro’s past. While the Bishamon arc felt like a more personal storyline where the conflict laid in her hatred towards Yato (and, in some ways, herself), the Ebisu arc expanded and reached to new frontiers for the Noragamiverse, opening many new possibilities for the future of the story. The character of Ebisu was especially interesting as both his introduction and his appearance in the opening are misleading. Ebisu is not a bad guy, in fact he might be the purest, most benevolent God in the series. I also have to give props to Bones for being able to have viewers not only really like him, but also weep at his death. To be honest, given how much they rushed his arc, I was afraid that his death wouldn’t be as impactful as in the manga, especially since they dragged it out for so long. If Ebisu’s death and Yato releasing Hiiro wasn’t enough, we also got the big revelation that Fujisaki is Yato’s father. Yes, that piece of garbage who has earned the title of ‘Trash Dad’ in the fandom.
Without spoiling anything, something that I’ve learned while reading Noragami is that many of the conflicts boil down to the characters and their points of view. Many people hated Yukine in the first season and were later surprised by his growth in this season. In a similar way, many viewers were pissed at Bishamon’s “irrationality” during her arc, but ended up admiring her when she appeared in the Underworld to save Yato looking like a cross between Fate‘s Saber and Fairy Tail‘s Erza. In a similar way, everyone assumed Ebisu was going to be a bad guy after seeing him attempt to buy Yukine, but everyone was moved to tears when he died in Yato’s arms in the finale. In many ways, the thing that makes Noragami stand out is its characters, the ways in which they are constantly evolving and how much they influence the course of the events.
Now for the not-so-good parts, and this is when I go back to the first paragraph of this review. As a manga reader, I loved the adaptation of Bishamon’s arc, but things started to go a bit downhill from Episode 9 onwards. Not only was the animation not so good (lack of time or budget), but they also started to change the order of many events or just skipping things altogether. Taking a quick look at the manga, I believe they could have done a much more faithful adaptation with the 2 chapters = 1 episode formula they had been following. Not only was everything much better explained and more emotional in the manga, but the anime also skipped some things that will be relevant down the road. That can hopefully still be fixed by adding some flashbacks if a third season is ever made, though. What I’m not happy with is with the fact that they skipped some lines or small details that, while they might not be that relevant to the plot, they certainly enrich the story, the characters and even foreshadow some future events. And no, those things weren’t skipped due to time constrictions, but because Bones wanted to invest more time in cool actions scenes to sell the DVDs/Blu-Rays and other merchandising. Oh well, I guess that really can’t be helped, especially if those are things that are going to take us closer to a potential third season.
Noragami Aragoto was an excellent continuation to the first season, not only because it included the elements that made the first season so special (the comedy, good character designs, AWESOME soundtrack…), but also because it kept building and branching out to new frontiers for the series. To sum it up, it’s like Season 1 was a pretty generic fantasy shounen that only introduced the main characters, and then Season 2 came and said “OK, now that you know the basics, let’s get real”. Things certainly got serious in Noragami Aragoto, and as a manga reader, I can promise you that it will only get darker and sadder from here. One thing is for sure: the hype is real.