Noragami Vol. 15 & 16 - Manga Review

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Yato is finally registered in Takama-ga-hara as a god, and now he's even been invited to this year's Divine Council! However, not everything is going quite as well as Yukine and Kazuma are now at odds and Bishamon seems to be hiding something important from everyone. 

The Lowdown

Yukine still considers Kazuma an enemy after Kazuma forced him to reveal information about the crafter through a truth spell. He wants Yato to skip the Divine Council, but Yato is thrilled to finally be a member and insists on going. The Divine Council is Yato's chance to meet with the other gods as one of their peers, as gods from all over Japan gather for the yearly meeting. Among them is Takemikazuchi, the god of thunder who helped kill Ebisu, and he has taken an interest in Yukine's blessed vessel status. Hiyori wants Kazuma and Yukine to reconcile at the conference, but Yukine has no intention to do so and to make matters worse Bishamon seems to be keeping something a secret from everyone. With so much going on, it's looking like an eventful Divine Council this year...

How Was It?

If there is one surefire way to introduce more gods into Noragami, it would be through a national conference, which is exactly what the Divine Council is. The series has already been known to utilize stories and themes from Japanese mythology in the past, but these two volumes really take the cake. The Divine Council itself is a Shinto belief, but other elements such as matchmaking through tying mortals' strings of fate together are also present and are introduced in an entertaining and extremely Noragami-esque manner. A few gods such as Inari make minor appearances, but the primary focus is on Takemikazuchi, the god of lightning. His shiki Kiun was defeated by Kazuma during the fight for Ebisu's life in volume 10. Takemikazuchi is extremely fond of battle and wants a blessed vessel of his own, especially after witnessing firsthand the power of Kazuma. 

Takemikazuchi's relationship with his shinki, especially his guide Kiun, is another take on the gods' relationships with their shinki that mixes things up and adds further depth to that aspect of Noragami's lore and story. Takemikazuchi seems to be an impetuous and slightly arrogant character. His desire to fight Yato makes him eager for an opportunity to antagonize or villainize him. Despite this, Kiun's disposition is very calm and collected, similar to how Kazuma appeared early on in the series. Although Takemikazuchi is constantly alluding to the fact that he would like Kiun to risk his own life to become a blessed vessel, it seems that Takemikazuchi values his shinki regardless. Kiun, for his part, does not believe that a blessed vessel is as great as many think it is, considering the fact that they only come to be through dire conflict in the first place. I liked the introduction of Takemikazuchi as a potential opponent for Yato because of this new god/shinki dynamic, but it was also interesting because Takemikazuchi had made minor appearances in the series prior to the events of these volumes. This made his introduction feel organic in more ways than one. 

On the subject of shinki, the issue of the gods' secret has taken a partial step back as it indirectly causes greater conflict. Kazuma and Yukine are at odds with each other following their fight, and Kazuma is once again in a position where he feels like he is failing to help Bishamon. Despite early introductions making Kazuma appear as a scion of calm and cool, his development over the course of the series has diversified this initial characterization immensely. Kazuma displays a certain immature side of himself in his frustration of not understanding Bishamon's problem, and this further development is a great example of how Noragami masterfully handles its ensemble cast. Yukine also continues to progress in his role as Yato's guide as he butts heads with Yato on multiple issues such as his participation in the Divine Council, and his interactions with Kazuma have been a major area of development for both parties.

Meanwhile, Bishamon is still internal dealing with the loss of Kugaha, and her search for a way to defeat the Crafter puts her in direct conflict with the Heavens. This creates a very interesting three-sided conflict between her, the Heavens, and the Crafter. Noragami has always been excellent at building up conflicts with each arc, but this three-pronged buildup is particularly interesting as the current arc seemingly reaches its climax. Usually, while the suspense is intense, there is still a relative simplicity to the physical conflict involved. However, due to the misunderstanding between the Heavens and Bishamon there is a much greater confusion of who belongs where and the motivations of the combatants aren't as cut and dry as before. This relative complexity makes the current arc feel grander than the previous ones.

To add to this, Noragami's dynamic paneling and illustrations are also on point in these volumes. With more complex battles, it would be easy for pages to get cluttered and confusing, but the smooth transitions and layout flow well with the battles. Adachitoka will often use aspect-to-aspect style transitions between their dynamically laid out panels in combat, a move that seems odd but works brilliantly. Individual moments of combat will often be shown from multiple perspectives, which gives a strong cinematic effect and reader presence usually reserved for setting a scene instead of combat. Much of what makes combat disjointed and confusing in other series is avoided through this technique. Additionally, the motions of the characters are fluid and clearly drawn, making individual panels easy to follow on the micro level. 

Final Thoughts

Noragami steps things up in volumes 15 and 16 as the conflict with Yato's father escalates into a multi-sided battle between several different gods. The battles themselves are engaging and easy to follow, with a strong sense of suspense that is sure to please series fans. Previously established characters continue to develop alongside newly introduced members, and Yato's humorous behavior keeps injecting light moments in with the main conflict. Noragami continues to be an excellent read, and I'm looking forward to what comes next. 


Noragami Vol. 15 & 16 were translated by Alethea Nibley and Athena Nibley and published by Kodansha Comics USA on June 21st and July 19th, 2016. The series is currently ongoing in Kodansha’s Monthly Shonen Magazine, and had an anime adaption by Bones which aired from January 2014 - March 2014 with a second season that aired in Fall of 2015. 

Verdict:

  A

Date of Publication: June 21st and July 19th, 2016

Translator: Alethea and Athena Nibley

Author: Adachitoka

Publisher: Kodansha Comics