Noragami Ep. 3: Invisible

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At any early point in the episode, Yukine is naturally displeased with having just a tiny, bony fish for a meal, but Yato insists that he’s the master so Yukine should stop complaining and just fall in line: “What your master says, goes!” Now, I have to wonder how many times Yato has pulled this act. Remember, Yukine isn’t his first Regalia, and the lady we saw in the first episode might not have been his first either. We also knew that she wasn’t happy being Yato’s Regalia, voicing her displeasure over pairing up with such an obscure and underworshiped god. After all, he doesn’t even have his own shrine. If they need a place to sleep, where would they go? According to Yukine, it means “sleeping in the corner of some old shrine to avoid attention.” Yato and whoever he binds to him are essentially homeless. That being said, two thoughts come to mind.

First, Yato must’ve expected this. He couldn’t possibly think most Regalia are happy to be eating nothing and sleeping nowhere. So did he just think he could browbeat Yukine into obedience? If Yato somehow didn’t expect Yukine to whine about the circumstances, then I think this would make our god seem quite idiotic, which he’s probably not.

Second, this is rather selfish of Yato. After all, Yukine didn’t ask to become Yato’s Regalia. All of a sudden, he’s thrust into servitude with nothing to show for it but a tiny fish for dinner. I’ve talked about Yato’s rock starish lifestyle and dreams, hoping to strike it rich and earn glory. And I’m sure it reflects the attitude in a lot of today’s youth, i.e. ditching that stuffy salaryman future and making it on your own. If you want to make the personal choice to take that risk, it’s your life and thus your call to make. At the same time, however, it’s a little self-centered to drag someone else into your own troubles though.

It’s not just that it’s undignified to dig through trash or sleep in old shrines. Rather, Yukine probably feels unwanted; like every homeless person out there, he is invisible to society. But if this is true of Yukine, it must also be true for Yato. Let’s think about the analogy some more though. For every person that actually gives maybe a measly dollar to the homeless and needy, countless others have walked on by and ignored the person. These people tend to hold signs saying stuff like “Looking for work,” or “Need help; God bless,” but most of us have made that deliberate choice at least once in our lives to look straight ahead and continue walking on by as if we heard and saw nothing. So what does an existence as a shrineless, underworshiped god might feel like? Desperately looking for work but nobody cares or responds? Countless people walking by without paying their respects even though you’re a god? And just once in a while, an odd soul offers 100 or so yen?

The truth is that although Yato might dream like a rock star, he’s a reflection of an invisible social class struggling to merely subsist. And perhaps Yato dreams big because that’s the only thing he can do. If he wasn’t so optimistic, he might be horribly depressed. After all, who wants to come to grips with the fact that they’re homeless and nobody wants them? You start to doubt your own existence: “If I’m invisible to society, am I even a person? Am I not just phantom that mothers warn their children about? Oh, better study and eat your vegetables or you’re turn into that.” At one point, Yukine bitingly remarks, “Are you sure you’re a god?” The same sentiment is there.

* * * * *

Episode summary: Yukine finds that — like Tomone, Yato’s previous Regalia — “life” with Yato isn’t that nice. All the latter can scrounge up for a meal, for instance, is a tiny sardine. With Hiyori’s help, the boys actually get a full meal. Yato then gets a job offer, but it’s not from any human being. Rather, Tenjin decides to throw a fellow god a bone in the most dickish way possible. In the end, the job is quickly fulfilled and we learn a bit more about the Noragami universe.

* * * *

Notes & thoughts:

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• Like Yukine, I too wonder why spirits can still feel cold, and since this is the case, they probably feel other realistic pains too like hunger or fatigue. Having said that, I doubt the anime will ever tell us why the immaterial also suffers from the material. The simplest way to look at it is that we, as both storytellers and the audience, simply take the act of living for granted. The fact that Yukine shivers isn’t likely to make most of us take pause or wonder, because we just automatically think, “Yeah, that’s how I would feel!” By actually wondering why he’s cold, Yukine actually breaks the narrative immersion just a tiny bit, but is it because the anime is just trying to be slightly meta or is there something else it wants to highlight? At the moment, I can’t think of another reason.

• Like I’ve said above, Yato attempts to feed Yukine a tiny fish. So yeah, they do feel hunger for some reason. Makes you wonder what would happen if a spirit doesn’t eat enough. I mean, it’s not like a spirit would actually become thin and malnourished, right? And then what? Die a second time? Actually, maybe they would; maybe you’d just fade away if you didn’t eat enough.

• Yato nevertheless remains blissfully optimistic. Is he a fool or does his disposition belie his true feelings? His existence as an unwanted god isn’t likely a recent development, so perhaps he has just gotten really good at hiding his dissatisfaction. Oh well, at least he can rope Hiyori into buying him food.

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• On that note, how does a thing like that look? Does the restaurant just think she’s buying a bunch of meals for herself? The reality is a little odder than you might expect. The waitress naturally walks up to Hiyori with just a single glass of water because, well, she probably only saw a single person sitting at the booth. Then outta nowhere, Yato asks her for three glasses of water, to which the waitress suddenly reacts with panic and scrambles off to fetch the two additional glasses. So I guess the implication here is that Yato and Yukine can appear before the living when the former chooses to do so? This, however, doesn’t change the discussion up top. Yes, the waitress literally notices Yato now, but not as a god. That crucial part of him remains invisible for all intents and purposes. Invisible in the symbolic sense, not the literal sense. Plus, it’s kind of like how we might not notice a homeless person on the street until he or she tries to directly interact with us, thereby snapping us out of our own reality: “We’re not invisible, we’re just hard to notice. People can see us.”

• To reinforce what we’ve been talking about, Yato shows Hiyori that there are actually four waitresses in the restaurant even though she only initially noticed two (either way, they seem understaffed). What’s even more telling are his following words: “Once noticed, we’re seen as people… but then we’re soon forgotten again.” The emphasis is mine.

• “Like, you don’t remember everyone you’ve ever passed on the street, right?” On one level, the show’s trying to make you feel as though, “Gosh, how many gods have I walked past today?!” But again, if you look at it from the invisible social class angle that I’ve been advancing throughout this post, I think it adds depth to the anime.

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• Hiyori must’ve ended up ordering a hundred dollars in food for the guys, and they’re not even alive. Back when I was still a kid, you usually got to eat the offering after it had been sitting out for a while. Somehow, I don’t think our heroine is getting much to doggy bag.

• “You’re going to make yourself sick.” Gods and spirits getting sick from eating too much. Yeah….

• They get cold, they get hungry and they have to eat, but “[g]ods don’t poop.” Well, at least they’ve got that going for them.

• Yukine can’t recall what his existence as like before becoming Yato’s Regalia. Regarding his previous life, I suppose it’s enough to say he has convenient narrative amnesia and we’ll probably uncover bits and parts of it later. I find it interesting though that he has no recollection either of being a floating, fuzzy spirit-thing. This makes Yato’s actions seem even more selfish than before. Yukine has no consciousness prior to being bound, i.e. he was neither cold nor hungry. Yato has essentially forced him into an existence with needs and wants just for the underworshipped god’s own sake. Assuming there’s a happy ending at the end of the series, you could say it’ll all work out. Still, if you were in Yato’s shoes, would you have done the same thing?

• For some reason, gods and their Regalia share their thoughts, which we find out from Yato ’cause Yukine just had a dirty thought about Hiyori. Well, that’s if you believe Yato a hundred percent. But even if Yato wasn’t lying about this, it seems rather cruel to just blurt it out and embarrass his Regalia: “Is that really how a generous god is supposed to act?” I mean, maybe this is why nobody worships Yato… just sayin’.

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• Yeah, Yato can probably only teleport to whoever he’s talking to on the phone. Somehow, he can bring Hiyori with him if she’s in close proximity when he receives the call?

• We meet Lord Tenjin, a god that people actually worship, much to Yato’s chagrin. Although I do think Yato’s a bit of a selfish character, I think his “friends” are rubbing it in a bit much with the god thing: “Real gods are on a whole different level.” After all, relative to revered beings like Lord Tenjin, Yato’s a homeless god. How would it feel to be homeless, then hear one of your acquaintances remark, “Wow, a real person is on a whole different level. They have, like, jobs and shit.” All Yato can do is insist that he’s also real, i.e. “C’mon guys, I exist.”

• We also learn that it’s apparently “disgracious (disgraceful?) to bow to another god in the presence of the one you serve.”

• In a condescending way, Tenjin states that he’s too loaded up with wishes and requests, so maybe Yato could “take care of some Phantoms” for him. I guess beggars can’t be choosers, but most of us would be humiliated if put in the same position. Plus, Tenjin’s kind of a dick about it: “I mean, you have nothing else to do, right? I do know that you sleep in my shrines without permission.”

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• As I have suggested, Yato doesn’t want to be the salaryman of the gods. So when Tenjin suggests that Yato could join him and even be a “branch manager,” our protagonist naturally reacts with gritted teeth. He’s all about being his own god, not following in others’ footsteps. But then again, sometimes you have to swallow your pride or else you’d die. That’s the thing though… if I’m arrogant in real life and reject a job offer just because I want to make it on my own, I’d likely starve or freeze to death. We know that Yato and Yukine can feel cold and hunger but… would they actually die without food and shelter? Is Yato being stubborn because his consequences aren’t as real?

Let’s not forget that anime — but this applies to every story in general too — is a way to confront real issues in a safe, controlled way. It’s a gross understatement to say that being homeless isn’t fun. To compound matters, it’s not like you can even see the end of the tunnel. You don’t just wake up one day after living a month on the streets and think to yourself, “Yeah, today’s the day I’m going to get a job and rent myself an apartment.” What fiction allows you to do is to have… I dunno, hope I guess. Hope in all its cheesy glory. But with a topic like homelessness, this is what you sort of need. Yato will find friends and Yato will find work. Maybe one day, Yato will even have his own shrine. The idea is that the end of the tunnel is actually allowed to exist in the world of make-believe.

• Yeah, Tenjin’s definitely a dick. He might have helped countless living human beings, but this seems uncalled for.

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• Watching from the side, Hiyori comments, “Even here there’s an income gap.” To which, Yukine replies, “That must be why the world’s an unfair place.” Yes, how can we expect to have a just world when the gods are busy bullying each other?

• It turns out Yato’s former Regalia had no trouble securing herself a new master shortly after leaving his side. Even still, it’s hard to blame someone for moving on up the ladder. You gotta do what you gotta do. Just being cruel about it doesn’t seem like anything anyone has to ever “gotta do.”

• She’s no longer Tomone though. She’s now Mayu.

• Nevertheless, everyone else continues to pile onto Yato: “He was homeless, jobless, wore a jersey, and called himself a god.” My thoughts on Yato haven’t really changed. I stand by what I wrote about him last week: he’s definitely lazy and thus ultimately responsible for his own fate. But like I’ve already said, no need to be cruel about it.

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• “Are Phantoms that bad?” asks Hiyori. Tenjin’s reply is interesting: “Disorder among people means disorder in the heavens.” I guess humans and their affairs have more influence on the gods than we might initially think.

• Tenjin voices his concerns over Hiyori’s liminal state, though I’m not quite sure what he means when he says, “You can easily interfere with us or with people.” Isn’t that true of every god? Or is that perhaps the problem, that Hiyori is like a god but she evidently is not?

• Anyway, we finally get to the actual job. Despondent youths are committing suicide at a train crossing despite efforts to prevent this from happening. Phantoms can hide within people in order to bypass spiritual barriers. Somehow, it doesn’t feel as simple as “Let’s just defeat the Phantoms that are possessing people and no one will have to die!” I mean, how does the causality go? Don’t people get depressed first, then end up being afflicted by Phantoms? It seems like the root of the problem goes much deeper than a few malevolent Phantoms. They might exacerbate the problem, but depressed people are going to be depressed regardless.

• For now, our protagonist plays the villain: Yato thinks suicidal people should just be allowed to die because it isn’t worth saving them. Whether or not he actually believes this or he’s just bitter from being bullied all day, I don’t know. Maybe it’s a little of both. The end result is that Hiyori storms off on his own to finish the job, even though she’s not getting paid whatsoever. In this anime, I guess she functions as the moral anchor.

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It’s fitting, anyway; Yato’s the real protagonist, and as such, he has the actual character arc. That isn’t to say Hiyori wouldn’t have her own character arc, but ideally, the protagonist has the most dramatic change throughout a story. Essentially, will Yato become the god that deserves worshiping and honor? In the meantime, Hiyori reminds the audience where the good and the bad should fall, i.e. this is not a show about moral ambiguity.

• When Hiyori attacks one tiny Phantom, a whole host of them shows up and they want to take Hiyori with them. I only wish the Phantoms were a little more sinister looking. They’re just too goofy to make me feel as though there’s any real tension or danger in the scene.

• The Phantoms knock Hiyori over the edge of the train platform, then secure her to the tracks as we see an oncoming train. I know that if her tail gets cut off, she’ll die, but would she also become a Phantom? Is this the real danger? We won’t find out the answer to this for now as the protagonist finally decides to show up and play hero.

• It’s very ceremonial the way Yato executes Phantoms. It’s a little repetitive and redundant, but then again, we’re dealing with spiritual matters. It’s like he’s reciting a prayer or an incantation.

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• Yukine is apparently too strong. What determines a Regalia’s strength? His resolve, a la Kill la Kill? Or just magic?

• In the end, Mayu bows to our friends and return home. Job’s done… or is it? People will still become suicidal because life is hard and painful. Continuing on with the theme of invisibility, the underlying reasons for a person’s depression can sometimes seem invisible. It’s very easy for most of us to look at a depressed person and say, “Oh, you just have to get over it.” Or “You can’t let it get you down.” Of course, we all have good intentions and we all want to help, but we’re not really digging at the root cause. It’s essentially invisible.

• Yato reveals that he only helped because he doesn’t want Regalias to have to come face to face with death and suicide. It turns out that Regalias are spirits that still want to continue living. As such, Yato doesn’t want them to ever lose that optimistic quality. Let’s revisit the previous question: why is Yukine so strong that he even exceeds Yato’s expectations? Is it because that — although he can’t remember a thing about his past life — his desire to still be alive is the strongest amongst all the Regalias we’ve seen? Even so, last week’s episode would suggest that the kid has had a difficult life. Things to think about.

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• I’m beginning to question Yato’s judgment at least with regards to all things perverted. Upon seeing Hiyori crying, Yukine suddenly had a thought about her, but I doubt it was perverted. At least, I hope it wasn’t. Who thinks of something perverted when they see a girl cry? Either Yukine’s a scumbag or Yato’s a fool… and I’m inclined to think the latter.

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4 thoughts on “Noragami Ep. 3: Invisible”

  1. “It’s fitting, anyway; Yato’s the real protagonist, and as such, he has the actual character arc.”

    You’re saying that like it’s some kind of rule, but there are anime where the protagonist is a shining beacon of morale and the character arcs are for everyone else. I fact, a lot of series are like that these days. The protagonist acts as a changing factor for the rest of the cast but he himself doesn’t change much.

    If you see it like that, you could say the actual protagonist in this story is Hiyori more than Yato. Besides, we are mostly seeing things from her point of view.

    Just a thought. It doesn’t really matter how you call who anyway.

    1. You’re saying that like it’s some kind of rule, but there are anime where the protagonist is a shining beacon of morale and the character arcs are for everyone else.

      And I’ve always consistently referred to those characters as poor protagonists in other posts.

      Besides, we are mostly seeing things from her point of view.

      I don’t agree that this is much of a distinction.

  2. @Yukine: I think when Yato found him as the fuzzy spirit-thing he gave him a purpose instead of just wandering and probably being corrupted by other Phantoms.Should Yato treat him better? Yes, I feel like maybe he could help him understand his new role as a Regalia instead of dragging him around as a homeless god.

    @Homeless: Hmm— I agree that in fiction it gives the reader hope that someone that the MC will be able to be successful but reality often complicates matters. Being invisible in society IMHO is pretty frightening esp. since you have to wonder if in a another time/place our situations could have been reversed.

    1. I think when Yato found him as the fuzzy spirit-thing he gave him a purpose instead of just wandering and probably being corrupted by other Phantoms.

      Yeah, but it’s still kind of like “I just know better; even if I seem like a jerk, accept it.” That’s a hard pill to swallow.

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