Simply put, Noragami is a story that puts a heavy emphasis on ‘people as well as gods can change, for the better’. We all have been in that situation where we don’t know what will happen next. We get lost and scared. It’s not the darkness that makes us anxious but the idea that we are alone in a scornful journey. Noragami narrates the tale of what if we had people who were willing to go on that journey with us.
The protagonist Yato will indulge himself in any chore for 5 yen. Why? Because he wants to be remembered by the people. He has a dream that one day he will have a shrine with his name on it. And it will be a world where he won’t be forgotten.
Noragami is a story of a Useless God, Phantom Hiyori, and Lonely Yukine; the trio re-discovering themselves. But it’s not simple as it looks, there’s a facade behind it all which unravels later on.
Narrating a Character-Driven Story:
Noragami, on the surface level, seems like a pretty simple story: a good-for-nothing God who does goofy things all day. Adachitoka like to introduce and establish the characters first before diving into the main plot. And this helps in the narration of a highly character-driven story.
The beauty of these types of stories is that the characters define the plot. They help to shape up the further ramifications of their actions which feels very natural. It also makes the story altogether more interesting and engaging as well.
An Enticing Setup:
The very first chapter starts with a sense of loss. Then it is quickly put away by a different set of events that play out afterward. This transition helps to create a world where the facade of the seemingly nonchalant characters doesn’t break. Adachitoka wanted to create a world shrouded in mysteries and they did it in a very meticulous manner.
The worldbuilding is fantastic and it’s always fun to see how new events untangle themselves.
The Stellar Art:
If I were to define the manga’s art in one word – it’s transcendental.
From the great paneling to amazing character designs, every little thing looks detailed and beautiful. The expressions are very vivid and the action sequences are mesmerizing. The spreads are gorgeous too.
The Profound Themes:
‘People should appreciate what it means to be alive at all’
Noragami brims with several intense themes that iterate the meaning of life and death. It also hovers upon the idea of the subjectivity in justice from the position of gods and humans. The amalgamation of abuse, trauma, death and loss imbued with the light-hearted tone of the manga works out fabulously. It doesn’t shelve off any mature and dark theme but instead examines it thoroughly with the characters. In all, the manga makes fantastic use of implicit and explicit depth.
However, the theme which often gets overlooked is ‘unlearning fear’. At times, the notion is very apparent yet masterfully subtle. But it is present at every major happening.
It is this inclination towards the distress which helps the characters to mould in a better manner. For a long time, Yato always thought that his fears were the roots but turns out they were the chains. They held him back to live a life that was ‘right’ to him. And when he broke the chains, he was able to see everything in its entirety.
First things first, the story stretches itself in the beginning chapters. And it might put off some readers and they would end up getting a wrong impression out of it. It’s a fatal flaw for character-driven mangas. The thing is that it doesn’t matter how good one establishes their characters but if it doesn’t intrigue the reader, it’s all over. But if you are giving it a chance then I would like you to stick with it for a while. The payoff will be worth it.
It’s time that Adachitoka start to give Hiyori some more panel time. She has been on the sidelines for most of the part up till now. It’s like her school life is being neglected so that the other protagonists can shine. There are repercussions for not going to school. Also, it was told that her mother was the sensitive type but it seems like she doesn’t care much about her child. Despite all these, she is not your usual female character.
I also want to talk about Yukine. Look, I understand that he has a traumatic past and an amazing characterization but sometimes he still itches me. He complements Yato very well but as a standalone character, I don’t have much interest in him. He had a great development but there needs to be something more that solidifies him as an excellent character, at least for me. But yes, credit where it’s due, he does acts in a very mature manner at times.
Conclusion – You are not alone:
It’s not been long since I completed it but the manga still lurks in my mind. And from time to time, I remember the characters, their hardships, and smiles. And with them, I smile too. They all feel more like real people and less like some fictional characters. This idea gives a warm and fuzzy feeling that I am not alone in my journey. It makes me happy and sad at the same time.
So, do I recommend it? Yes, I highly do. It’s a manga worth investing your time in.