Noragami, which translates as “Stray God”, is based on the manga by the same name, it is the only original work of mangaka Adachi Toka. It is animated by Studio Bones, who have recently delivered such enjoyable titles as Space Dandy and, more recently, Chaika – The Coffin Princess. It is directed by Koutarou Tamura, who recently worked alongside Mamoru Hosoda as Assistant Director for Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki. This release marks an exciting change for Manga Entertainment, utilising NTCS masters for the DVD release, rather than the usual disappointing PAL masters. This is a change we hope to see more of in the future; Amazon do already have Danganronpa listed as NTSC.
Noragami focuses on a trio of characters, Yato, Hiyori, and Yukine. Yato is the stray god after which the series is named; despite being a god of war, his time is spent going around answering five-yen prayers for a variety of people. These prayers are more often than not simply menial odd jobs, though some do involve dealing with the defeat of phantoms, essentially dark spirits that can cause havoc and influence humans. To promote his services as a “delivery god”, which he calls himself, he leaves his phone number in public areas in case someone needs help. He is aiming to build his own shrine to ensure he is not forgotten by humans; this is likely to be a tedious task when earning 5 yen per job.
Hiyori is just an average middle school girl with one slight problem; her soul often slips out of her body, leaving it asleep while she roams as a soul between the human world and afterlife. Her objective is to cure herself of this, though she does develop an attachment to Yato during their time together. Yukine, the most childlike of the three, is Yato’s regalia, effectively a sacred treasure; having died young, he is now a spirit, and takes the form of a katana when called upon by Yato, his name being Sekki in this form. Whenever Yukine sins, Yato is severely affected by it, which causes issues throughout the series.
Rather than assaulting your perception with outlandish visuals, the series employs detailed backgrounds, with characters feeling almost plain in comparison. This perfectly emphasises how removed from the human world the phantoms are; their vivid colouring clashes, and CG animation feels disjointed, with everything else. Phantoms and godly powers aside, not much sticks out when it comes to the world of Noragami, emulating the normality of life to which Hiyori is accustomed. She is our envoy to the mysteries of the afterlife, much like Yato is hers; making everything seem plain allows us to relate to her.
The video presentation is a marked improvement for a Mange Entertainment release. The NTSC masters, from FUNimation, that have been used give a much smoother video than we are used to, with none of those pesky PAL conversion anomalies that we have grown used to. Subtitles are white, though still limited by the DVD-Video format. The credits sequences feature solely English text, but this is to be expected from a FUNimation master.
The soundtrack is rather weird, in that some of the score seems like it could just be someone’s phone alerting them to a text. Strangely, this works for the show, and, damn, if that track looping on the main menu of the DVD isn’t catchy. That said, other tracks are wholly immersive if a tad low in the mix. The opening theme song is “Goya no Machiawase”, performed by Hello Sleepwalkers. The ending theme song is “Heart Realize”, performed by Tia. Neither track is that interesting, but the visuals are somewhat impressive; it should be remembered that the story is where Noragami really shines through. The dub is healthy, though issues are present that will eat away at the sanity of some viewers. The issue that really deterred me from the dub was affectionate naming; Yato-san becomes Yatty, while Hiyorin remains as Hiyorin. This issue is also present in the subtitle track, and you can hear that they’ve changed it that way.
The title does feature a healthy amount of extras, even if a substantial number of them are just trailers. Disc one opens with a trailer for Tokyo Ravens part 2, this is skippable and is a title unavailable in the UK. There is also a commentary for episode 6 with Mike MacFarland, the ADR Director, and some English cast members. Disc two, meanwhile, opens with a skippable Inari Konkon trailer, and features a commentary for episode 9, and a video commentary for episode 4; this has the episode playing picture-in-picture at bottom right, alongside textless opening and closing videos. The US trailer for Noragami is present on this disc, and can, amusingly also be found on Anime Limited’s Tokyo Ghoul release. Other trailers are as follows. The only Manga Entertainment title to see a trailer included is The Devil is a Part-Timer, which they released last year. However, The Future Diary, which is a Kaze title, being released as Mirai Nikki later this year in the UK, also has a trailer present. Is This a Zombie? Of The Dead has a trailer present, and is an MVM title in the UK. Two of All The Anime’s titles see trailers included, 009 Re: Cyborg and Ping Pong The Animation. Soul Eater Not!, BlazBlue: Alter Memory and Nobunagun trailers are included, with none of these set for release in the UK. It may frustrate some that the trailers feature US releases, and also some titles not licensed for the UK at all, but it’s worth it to be treated to FUNimation’s NTSC DVD master by Manga Entertainment. Hopefully, we see more NTSC DVDs being released by Manga alongside blu-ray versions in the future.
Despite some aspects of the show being lacking, such as the choice of opening and closing song, overall the show in incredibly enjoyable. Considering it starts off seeming like it will be a collection of disjointed episodes with little plot development, it's nice to see short plot arcs in this single cour series. With the sequel series due to start next month, it's a great time to get caught up on the series.