Yato, a stray, down and out god, makes his way in the world by spray-painting his number on alleyway walls, and taking on any job wished of him for the customary cost of a five yen coin. He’ll scrub your toilet to a mirror shine, give bullies a fright or find your lost pets, no questions asked, and when night falls, he’ll curl up on the steps of any abandoned shrine he can find. But be assured that none of this so much as puts a dent in his pride. He’s got his heart set on absolute worship as the world’s overruling God.
On a quest to return Milord (a cat, as it happens) to his home, his fate intertwines with Hiyori Iki, a wrestling fanatic with MD parents who might pass out if they knew her true passion. As he chases the cat into oncoming traffic, Hiyori saves him from being hit by a bus that instead collides with her. During the night, Yato visits her to discover that she has been stranded between two worlds; the Near Shore, where mortals reside, and the Far Shore, the realm of gods and Phantoms. Existing side by side, some Phantoms, the souls of the troubled dead, latch on to humans, stir dread and depression, and coerce them to kill others or themselves.
At his best, Yato proves himself more than a lout who’s hoping to scrape into reverence, by slaying the dark parts of the soul. But without a Regalia, a god’s weapon forged from an untainted Phantom, he’s helpless to keep their creeping numbers at bay. And when Hiyori’s attempt to find a Regalia draws a Phantom right to him, he’s forced to recruit the first pure soul he can find. When Yukine becomes his blade, the show really gains its driving force; the suffering of adolescence, with Yukine at its metaphoric centre. Though his view is a nostalgic one, as he finds out he’s unable to connect with the world of the living, the loneliness and anguish of being on the outside is palpable.
Meanwhile, Hiyori becomes a natural in her life as a half-Phantom, as she takes on the comparatively invisible task of patching up the strained relationship between Yato and Yukine, their soul ties threatening both of their lives. Although her role is no less important than the boys’, while they both mature and have shadow selves revealed, it’s disappointing that after a promising start for her character, she is left to grow stagnant.
Noragami’s fluorescent dazzle of the spirit world merged with the real, cross-pollinating enchanted realms with humanity’s pains, lures the viewer in from the start. But this can only carry so far, and though Yato and Yukine are more than enough of a reason to keep watching, this first series is left with a void where Hiyori’s development should be.