War, what is it good for?: Noragami as a piece of anti-militarism

noragami ep 12

Also, a little about Kofuku and how to have a goddess of poverty who doesn’t feed into sexist tropes like she does.

I wrapped up Noragami last night. On the whole, I liked it, although tacking on what they did at the end doesn’t really seem to work – the arc they introduced was pretty high-stakes (Hiyori doesn’t remember you and if you don’t beat this super-powerful god she won’t remember everything anything at all eventually!) for something they only ended up having two episodes to resolve. And the big push on HiyorixYato felt reallllly forced, especially when a lot of the supporting “evidence” doesn’t indicate romantic interest so much as it indicates that Hiyori is a decent human being and so is Yato underneath all his antics. Also, the whole Bishamon thing as a result drops off the face of the planet, which feels weird considering how hell-bent she was on destroying Yato during the middle portion of the show.

What is interesting about this final arc is what ends up feeling like a fairly anti-militarism message in the details. Noragami in total is an anime that had some fairly conservative takes on some issues – suicidal people are weak and have succumbed to evil spirits!, people being bullied should just stand up strong against their bullies because they’re being bullied for being weak!, adolescents act out if you’re not punishing them enough!, etcetera (and this isn’t even touching on the goddess of poverty literally bleeding men she dates dry of their cash). While its been implied since we learned that Yato was a violent god in the old days that it is a good thing that he isn’t anymore, it all gets much more explicit in the final set of episodes with Yato pitted against another god of calamity, one who thinks very poorly of him for having relinquished his old ways.

Rabou’s hung-up hardcore on the fact that there isn’t much use for a god of calamity in modern Japan (I’m sure he could’ve found a decent bit of work overseas, though!), and his frustration with Yato is all about being angry that Yato hasn’t clung stubbornly to violence and bloodshed as his divine calling. Sure, Yato isn’t a successful god – not even a shrine! – but he has done a better job of adapting to the modern reality, whereas Rabou is basically a glorified hitman, something that isn’t valued socially outside of criminal circles. And Rabou also hasn’t managed to remain terribly relevant, as other gods don’t recognize his name when its mentioned, and its indicated that his name isn’t widely known amongst people. (The description we get from Hiyori’s friends makes him sound a bit like a deadlier Jigoku Shoujo, amusingly enough.)

Yato’s seemingly foolish efforts come into sharp relief here contrasted with Rabou’s murderous ways – you can almost hear someone whispering, “Sure, he isn’t successful and he’s kind of silly, but look at what this other guy is doing! He’s so committed to being a god of calamity that he sticks to slaughtering people!”.

In recent years there’s been a lot of wringing of hands in Japan over the pacificism built into the Japanese constitution, pacificism that was enshrined there by decree of Allied powers in the wake of World War II. The rise of right-wing nationalism has created a lot of tension, as nationalists think Japan suffered enough for their misdeeds during the war, and many of them even believe that Japan’s actions have been overly demonized and some of the less savory occurrences outright manufactured for the sake of justifying the treatment of Japan in the post-war period. Just last year, Hayao Miyazaki was excoriated by those in this faction for being very vocal about not removing pacifism from the constitution, and The Wind Rises, his last movie, was trashed by people who hadn’t even seen it but who were angry with him for deriding the nationalist movement (and, ironically, Miyazaki was himself derided as a nationalist in South Korea by people who didn’t see The Wind Rises but assumed it was a pro-militaristic Japan movie… not that this seemed to affect the bottom line on the film in either nation!).

Yato, then, can be read as representing post-WWII Japan, intent on making his way in the world without resorting to his warrior ways (except, of course, when Ayakashi are concerned), with Rabou as the old guard determined to keep on the militaristic path even when it doesn’t seem to fit the current reality. Rabou looks at Yato and sees someone undistinguished and disappointing now, not the glorious warrior he was, but Yato is clearly presented to the audience as preferable to Rabou. We might be a bit skeptical of some of Yato’s efforts, but we’re in his camp – he’s our good guy protagonist! Rabou’s just an angry serial killer who can’t and won’t change his tune. Yato’s attempts may be a bit bumbling, but at least he’s trying.

Anyway, this was’t a terribly good post, as I just sat down and wrote what I thought without spending too much time on it, but if you’re interested in a lot of solid analysis and consideration of Noragami, E Minor at Moe Sucks did a pretty thorough job of it.

On a different note, since I may as well toss it in here, I’ve seen a lot of people expressing doubt that Kofuku was an example of sexism, all along the lines of, “You’re over-thinking it, it doesn’t mean anything!”. I find myself puzzled at the refusal to consider or inability to consider that Kofuku is a pretty regressive character given how clearly it plays into sexist ideas about women sopping up men’s money by pushily making them buy stuff for them and only having an interest in men who have money. I wouldn’t be calling it out if she hadn’t been depicted that way, especially since she’s hardly the first time we’ve seen a poverty deity gendered as a woman or girl. Nekogami Yaoyorozu has a goddess of poverty, Shamo, but her affect on people is shown as being all-encompassing and disastrous for anyone, male or female, who happens to be in her radius. It also isn’t a matter of personal effort on her part, its an environmental affect. And while I’m not nuts about Momiji from Binbogami ga!, her status as a poverty goddess isn’t tied intimately to the fact that she’s female nor does her power work to impoverish men by dating them. I’m just not buying that Kofuku’s depiction isn’t sexist, folks, not when its eagerly feeding at the trough of regressive tropes, and not when we do have examples of how to have a goddess of poverty who doesn’t rely on those canards.

TL;DR, best part of show was when that guy pissed himself in episode seven. Now that’s how I like my animes!

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5 Responses to War, what is it good for?: Noragami as a piece of anti-militarism

  1. Josh says:

    best part of show was when that guy pissed himself in episode seven. Now that’s how I like my animes!


    Although, thinking about it a little more, I think that scene was the first time I saw something of that nature actually animated, even though there are quite a few anime where I think such a response was more than warranted (or implied). Do you know any others that are as “graphic” off the top of your head?

    • A Day Without Me says:

      Well, on about a thirty second reflection, Mad Bull 34, Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero, and Ikkitousen come to mind.

  2. E Minor says:

    That’s an interesting angle. Too bad I don’t like the show enough to go back and take another look at things.

  3. I like your interpretation of the conflict between Rabo and Yato being similar to the conflict between the Right and Left sides of the political spectrum in Japan. When I watched Noragami, the conflict between Rabo and Yato reminded me of the conflict between Shishio and Kenshin. After all, Rabo is trying to make Yato revert to his manslaying ways. More than anti-militarism, I saw Noragami as making the traditional case for the Life-Giving Sword (Katsujinken) over the Manslaying sword (Satsujinken). This would be another traditional message on top of the other traditional messages in the anime.

    I find Kofuku to be more of a comedic character and not necessarily a regressive stereotype. After all, figures like George Bernard Shaw claim that women attached themselves to men for their wealth. After all, wealth appears to offer a kind of freedom to women, which Leftism is all about. A conservative viewpoint would more be about how women are defined by their sexual relationship to men (virgin, married, widowed, nun), that is, their dependence on men. But, Kofuku, being a goddess, does not seem particularly dependent on them. She does abandon the fellow she sponges off of once he has no more money.

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