Big things have been happening over the past few chapters of Noragami: Stray God, getting a much closer look at the relationship between a god and his Shinki while also exploring more of this mysterious character known as the Stray. Will things continue to heat up? Let’s take a look.
Noragami: Stray God Vol. 4 (Kodansha Comics)
Written and drawn by: Adachitoka
Translated by: Alethea and Athena Nibley
After finishing up the conflict between Yato and Yukine, I wasn’t sure where the manga would be going. Noragami: Stray God has been a surprisingly light on story kind of series at this point, choosing to focus more on its characters and the conflicts and drama they have with one another. That’s perfectly fine, since this allows the creator to tell a different kind of tale and draw readers in through the strong characterization, but it still ultimately felt like it was missing a hook of sorts; something else that ups the stakes, adds a new and interesting conflict, or at least gives something else for the audience to grasp onto.
Happily, this volume really delivers on that, setting the stage for some real drama and excitement somewhere soon or later down the line. The story here starts focusing on two new plotlines (or at least expounds upon one plotline that hasn’t been given much focus yet), each with their own unique problems and conflict. The first: what happens to the friendship between Hiyori, Yato and Yukine after her problem is fixed? Will they stay friends or is she destined to forget the two like all humans do after they meet or encounter spirits? It’s heavy stuff and a serious issue with how it’s presented and the examples that keep popping up of this happening to others (though I’m not feeling this stronger connection between Yato and Hiyori the story seems to be implying exists). I love how the manga interweaves it with past stories and also with the other major focus of the volume: Bishamonten and the growing number of Shinki she has.
This volume is where our warrior goddess really starts to get a lot more focus and development. Before, she came off as a bit of a vengeful jerk with how she views Yato (you see a tiny bit of that in this volume), though is relatively okay when it comes to her Shinki. In this book’s chapters, you come to a better understanding of her as an individual through the way she treats her Shinki and other spirits, even if it puts a strain on herself. It gives you a better understanding of why she is so vicious when it comes to Yato and why she took the death of one of her Shinki to heart. Then, expanding off that, you see more about how her own followers and other characters view her, setting things up for a future tragedy you just know is going to be heartbreaking. It’s so engaging and at times, it almost makes you wish the entire volume was just focused on her story and the people around her. I just find her story to be the most compelling one at this point and I’m eager to see what happens next.
The writing by Adachitoka continues to be great and even improves in one area. A lot of the manga previously has had a lot of exposition going on in order to make everything introduced in the series make total sense in the logic of this world. Most of the time, the exposition has been fairly enjoyable in how it used examples to clarify certain points at times. It can get tiring though, so it is very nice to say that the issue really cut down on a lot of the explaining. Everything talked about was built off old ideas that are reintroduced in interesting ways and didn’t bog you down in the details (for the moment at least, since the excommunicated situation mentioned at the beginning seems like it was brought up for an important reason). Otherwise, the dialogue is solid, the humor and drama are still pretty effective, and the characterization and writing mechanics seemed fairly strong. It’s wonderful as usual and I’m hoping it continues to improve itself.
Lastly, the artwork is still lovely. All of the characters are nicely designed and unique from one another (though I still feel some of the female characters share similar facial features), including the ayakashi in all of their creepiness. The layouts flow well and the action looks intense and violent, especially in one scene with the crows. There’s a lot of detail put into each of the pages, bringing this world to life with all the little parts of scenery highlighted and it’s drawn exceptionally well. Also, the art is also really good at conveying drama and tension with the angles and heavy inking in some of the darker and serious moments of the book, especially the ending to chapter 14. It just continues to look terrific as time goes on.
Noragami: Stray God Vol. 4 feels like the series is hitting its stride now. All the exposition and buildup of its of world and characters are done, and the story is taking off by raising the stakes and the drama of the situation through its excellent writing and characterization, leading to such a fantastic experience. This is such a strong series right now and it has the makings of getting even better than it already is judging from this issue. Here’s hoping the future looks bright for this manga.