Times are tough for Yato (voice by Jason Liebrecht), the minor god of calamity who’s at the center of the broadcast series Noragami Aragoto (2015), the sequel to Noragami (2014). He’s still knocking around Tokyo in an old warm-up suit and busted boots, offering to grant wishes for ¥5 coins.
Yato may be broke, but he’s got his posse. Yukine (Micah Solusod), the lost soul of a teenager, serves as his Regalia: He transforms into a living sword on command. High school student Hiyori (Bryn Apprill) became a hanyou, a person who can leave her physical body to join these supernatural beings, when Yato saved her life in a traffic accident. But this power makes her vulnerable attacks from phantoms and hostile deities.
The two adventures that make up Aragoto are darker and more violent than the first series, which featured more slapstick. In the first arc, returning director Kotaro Tamura and his crew explore a murderous episode in Yato’s past that was hinted at in the previous series. The ongoing enmity between Yato and Bishamon (Elizabeth Maxwell)—referred to as “god of war” despite her gender—is rooted in that past, when Yato was a far more powerful war god.
Bored and lonely, Yukine meets Suzuha (Dallas Reid), a friendly, rather neglected Regalia who’s tending a damaged cherry tree. Yukine is delighted to find someone to talk to, and they quickly bond. The viewer learns that both Deities and Regalias fear being forgotten. Over the years, Suzuha has befriended many children who grew up and abandoned him. If a god is completely forgotten, he ceases to exist, which explains why Yato so desperately wants a shrine that will preserve his name.
The sinister Kugaha (Phil Parsons) uses the friendship between Yukine and Suzuha to draw their masters, Yato and Bishamon, into an elaborate plot that threatens their existence in both this world and the one beyond. At the climax of their spectacular battle, the enemies are forced to ally to ensure as many of the innocent as possible are protected—and that justice is done to Kugaha. By risking his own life to defend Yato, Yukine transforms into a “Blessed Vessel,” a more powerful and higher-ranking form of Regalia.
The second story brings Yato into the orbit of Ebisu (John Burgmeier), the god of good fortune–one of the Seven Lucky Gods of Japanese Buddhist tradition. But this version of Ebisu is elegant and icy in a Italian suit—a far cry from the chubby, jolly figure that’s usually depicted. He’s also bitterly disillusioned: As he’s a god of wealth, people always ask him for money, only to discover it doesn’t really make them happy. He’s started dabbling in dark arts that are forbidden even to gods: making monstrous phantoms do his bidding.
As the story progresses, it grows increasingly baroque and gory. Yato joins Ebisu in the Underworld. His friends and former enemies have to ally to save him from the grotesque clutches of Izanami, the Queen of the Underworld. Ultimately, only Yukine can save him, by uttering the irresistible Soul Call. But for the spell to work, she must call his true name—something Yato has hidden from her and Yukine.
The key to saving him will make sense to Japanese audiences, but may be difficult for English-speaking viewers to follow. Japanese uses three alphabets: Hiyori realizes she’s been reading the second character in Yato’s name as the katakana character (used for words taken from other languages) “to” instead of the Chinese-based kanji ideogram “boku:” He’s not really “Yato,” he’s “Yaboku.” When she calls that name, he escapes the hideous Izanami and returns to the human world.
By working with his two friends, Yato is able to craft the present—and future—he’s always desired, as a beloved god who makes people happy by granting their wishes. As he did as the voice of Akira Takizawa in Eden of the East, Liebrecht makes Yato an very likable, engaging guy, despite his past transgressions. Although they record their lines separately, he, Solusud and Apprill create a warmly believable sense of friendship that keeps Noragami appealing, even in its grislier moments.
A mini-sequence that plays at the end of the final credits suggests another Noragami adventure may be in the works.
Noragami Aragoto: Season Two
Funimation: $52.49 4 discs: Blu-ray and DVD
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