Noragami: Stray God, Vol. 1

By Adachitoka. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Monthly Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

It’s rare to see the word ‘Monthly’ next to Shonen Magazine in North American licenses. Between the licenses from the regular Weekly publication (Fairy Tail, UQ Holder, etc.) and the ‘cool’ alternative of Bessatsu (Attack on Titan, Sankarea, Flowers of Evil), Monthly doesn’t really get much of a look. It tends towards longer series, which may be a primary reason, and there’s also a lot of sports titles, including long-runner Dear Boys. Del Rey tried out Pumpkin Scissors, but it fell victim to The Great Del Rey Cull of 2010 (as seen in all good history books). But now we have Noragami: Stray God, a fantasy featuring a god who’s somewhat full of himself and a young girl who struggles to deal with her new-found brush with death.

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As I read Noragami, I was struck by its similarity to another title I follow, Rin-Ne. Another spiritual odd jobs man who helps out people in need, even if they may turn out to not really deserve the help they get, and does so despite being on the edge of poverty. Takahashui’s series, though, has fairly mild characters in the lead roles. That’s not the cast with Noragami. I was struck after finishing the first chapter how hard it was to latch onto anything, which makes it a relief that it was a sort of prologue. A victim of class bullying, Mutsumi comes across as somewhat passive and shallow, and even though I am not fond of ‘it’s the victim’s fault for not standing up for herself’ plotlines, you can see Yato’s point.

As for Yato, he’s a very quirky sort of hero, coming across as a bit of a jerk, to the extent that his old Shinki, the only one in the first chapter who seemed like a decent person, abandons him. Of course, this is not the end. Yato is a decent person at heart, it’s just he keeps up a shell of over-the-top dramatics and uncaring dialogue. Things perk up when we meet Hiyori, who does end up taking the role of the audience identification character. She’s a little weird herself (her obsession with pro wrestling is her character introduction), but comes across as nice and sympathetic, and attempts to figure out what to do after an impulsive attempt to save Yato from a care crash leaves her in the realm between life and death (complete with tail for added service).

At the end of the series we meet Yato’s supposed new ShinkiYukine… who seems very ungrateful to be in this position, and whose discussion of Yato’s faults reminds me a lot of the original Shinki we met. Will he stick around long enough to see Volume 3? More to the point, will I? This is an intriguing new series, but it’s hard to really bond with anyone in it, and its plot is being done elsewhere as well. Those who enjoy fantasy comedies should like Noragami, but it can be as hard to take as its hero most of the time.

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