What it’s about: Hiyori, a schoolgirl from a well-to-do family, sees a mysterious guy run out into traffic and leaps to save him. It turns out that this “Yato” is actually a minor deity. A *very* minor deity. Furthermore, by risking her life in such a way, she’s loosened the connection between her soul and body, allowing her to separate the two and travel around town as a spirit. The show follows the pair as Yato struggles to find recognition as a God and get enough donations to open up his own shrine, while fighting evil “phantoms” as a side-gig.
Why you should watch it: It’s an action-comedy with a splash of romance and drama. Every character in the series has their own personality quirks and, while a few of them definitely fall into standard anime archetypes, the central trio are all pretty well-developed. Yato’s backstory in particular provides a lot of fodder for the narrative, and world that Hiyori’s stumbled into, with its rules and idiosyncracies, has a lot of depth to it. Overall, it’s a fun, relatively lighthearted romp spiced up by some gorgeously animated monsters for Yato to fight, a lot of humour, and heart.
Caveats: It’s pretty enjoyable, but Noragami never really “knocks it out of the park.” I feel that it spent a little too much time developing one of the less interesting characters at the expense of Yato and Hiyori themselves. The show does choose a good point to end at, but it’s an obvious invitation to pick up the source material (or sit around and hope for a second season). All in all, Noragami is a solid series, but it’s never going to win “Anime of the Season/Year”.
Themes: Despite nominally focusing on Shinto gods, Noragami sends an oddly Catholic message. There’s a heavy focus on sin, guilt, and the catharsis and redemption offered by confession. Savouring the day because you’ll be in the afterlife all too soon, and a “heavenly realm” to which all beings pass when they’re done here, unless the burden of their sins is such that they’re trapped in Purgatory.