Manga Review: Noragami

If a manga lasts ten years, there has to be something good about it. Even if the sales barely crack the top twenty every year, it says somehting about the longevity. Noragami is one such manga. For a decade Adachitoka has been filling the gap in urban fantasy that Shaman King fans don't even know they're looking to have filled.

Yato is a god of calamaty, but he's a bum god. He doesn't have a single worshipper and he works for 5 yen. His shinki, a deceased person who can transform into a weapon quits on him. Still Yato manages to save Hiyori Iki who now has the ability to travel between the human and spirit world. Yato also manages to pick up Yukine, a dead kid who will become his Shinki. Things almost start to look up for Yato, except his dad wants to destroy the world and is blackmailing him to help. He also has to contend with war god Bishamon, after he murdered all of her Shinki in the past. Things can be hard for a homeless bum god.

I'll be honest with you, Yato and Yukine are the only characters that change at all throughout the story. Hiyori is the third main character and has a number of chapters following just her, but she never changes. She's always obsessed with Yato and will die for him, nothing changes. Actually, Ebisu changes, but he has to die and be reincarnated to change, and we can't say if the prior Ebisu' weren't the exact same. We know none of them has ever learned to tie shoes. The main villain still doesn't have a real name almost 100 chapters in, we're still doing the mysterious enemy thing. I'll just call him Fujisaki since that's the name of the teenager he's posessing right now. Maybe Bishamon goes through some light changes, but they only seem related to whatever arc is being read at the moment. It's a small cast, which helps keep things together, but it leans too much on Yato and Yukine for development. At points it seems like the entire story revolves around them.

Sometimes the art in Noragami is extreamly detailed, even showing us the marker drips from Yato's crown. At other times,  it is a lot simpler. I think the art by Adachitoka shines a lot brighter during fight scenes or emotionally tense moments when there's a little extra added to the work. Sometimes the art can be a little bland, but I think that comes from blending the genres. Some people are reading Noragami for the slice of life elements, and they'll expect a different art style than those reading for action or adventure. Sometimes it'll seem like there's a differet art style between scenes. None of the art is bad, just different at various times.

Based on book reviews, I'm personally a four star author who writes good stories about found families and inner turmoil but writes them with a sharpie, occasionally using cursive. Noragami is about the same. All of the god's families in this series are found families and they're all different. We spend a lot of time on Yato trying to decide his fate, Yukine looking for a purpose, Hiyori trying to find balance and Bishamon working through PTSD. I enjoy that kind of thing, but it can be a little sloppy at some points, and I'm not one to judge.

My biggest complaint would probably be that we're speeding head first into a Yato and Hiyori relationship, and I'm not with it. I'm not a shipping kind of guy, but in the first 3/4 of the manga it was Yato and Bishamon and we've suddenly taken this hard turn towards Hiyori as his soul mate. She hasn't even finished school and that man is thousands of years old. I can't rock with it, but it's been a trope in manga and anime ever since Tuxedo Mask rolled up on Sailor Moon. It's just a clunky pivot that comes out of nowhere and weighs down the story with entire chapters dedicated to their outings for no reason other than to show Yato is now flustered with a teenage girl. 

There actually is something else I dislike about this story. I like Yato as character, and I like Yukine too. The problem is so does everyone else. Nobody dislikes them, even enemies turn into friends or allies who begrudgingly respect them. There's one character who I won't spoil, literally tries to put Yato in a body bag three times, and would have if Yato didn't run. They're best friends now and Ebisu calls them his big brothers. He actually did put Ebisu in a body bag, but her got better so all is forgiven. 

I think the biggest problem for me is Noragam tries too hard to balance slice of life with action and it doesn't always work. Sometimes the transitions can be jarring. We're going from picnics to murders and back to carnivals. I know that Adachitoka got sick at one point and had to take a break, but since the hiatus, things just seemed to slow down, a lot. There are still fights and adventures, but most of them are meaningless. We spent ten chapters on Hiyori's grandmother dying and in the end, it meant nothing to the story. She left her family again to chase after Yato, her brother came back home and did nothing.

I like urban fantasy, so it wasn't the worst thing for me to read. Dead people as weapons, gods feuding and putting the Earth at risk but only a hand few of people can see it, count me in. It's not even as if the manga is bad, it has ups and downs like most manga. The lows are just, really low sometimes. We spent an entire issue with Yato hiding in a trashcan during the middle of a fight. But we've also seen a plague of locust that decimated legendary gods. If you can deal with the pacing issues and the slice of life segments it might not be a bad read. Alternately if you enjoy slice of life and can deal with action sequences, it might not be a bad read for you either.

You can check out some of my short stories at 12 AM Fiction or if you like vampires follow my web serial Exsanguinate and of course hear me on the Powerbomb Jutsu podcast if you enjoy pro wrestling.

Manga Review: Noragami Manga Review: Noragami Reviewed by Darrell S. on Thursday, April 22, 2021 Rating: 5

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