Noragami Aragoto isn’t a graphically violent anime, but in episodes five and six, gruesome events are occurring (though off screen). In episode five, these horrible deaths are affecting Bishamon; in episode six, they affect us.
While one of Kugaha’s phantoms is being fought off by Yato after the god of calamity attacks the doctor, the other phantom continues to run amok among Bishamon’s regalias, devouring them and chasing a band of survivors into a holy spring, where they seek refuge.Two young female regalias are the last to arrive in the safe haven, but before getting there, they have a conversation that felt very real to the moment. The younger girl has lost all hope as the carnage continues, knowing that her friends have been torn apart and feeling that her master, her god, is about to die. She is brought back to her senses by the older regalia, who reminds the other that Bishamon gave them a name.
Their god loves them – she’s shown it through her words and deeds. And for her, they must carry on.
Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.
– John 12:27
Violent scenes are commonplace in anime – in fact, they’re much of what anime is known for among the general public. But for some reason, the scenes tonight, though cast in shadow and covered with screams rather than blood and guts, stood out to me. I think it’s because the episode hammered home the relationship between the humans and the gods of Noragami – they each were suffering seeing the other in pain and near (or in) death. Bishamon’s suffering we’ve known of since she’s gone through this before, and it reminds me a bit of how God might feel in his love and patience, “not wishing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9).
But in episode six, continuing from the scene with the two regalia, we see see the opposite more clearly – the humans’ relationship toward their god.
The night Jesus was arrested and the following day when he was crucified must have been excruciating for Christ’s disciples. As with the regalia and Bishamon, the disciples loved Christ – he meant more to the eleven (and so many others) than even their families, and to see him shredded and torn, nailed and lifted up, could only have been traumatizing. And like the young regalia, they must have despaired in seeing their invincible God about to die.
Oh, the despair!
Noragami gives us some vision of not only what the disciples must have felt with Christ, but the spiritual struggle that must have occurred as well. Kuguha feels like a melding of Judas and Lucifer, having betrayed and now trying to destroy his god. And the phantoms devouring the regalias certainly remind of “the dragon” fighting against God’s people and God himself, and even the deaths many had and would endure.
And most visibly and powerfully, we witness the power of God over evil. Bishamon fights and triumphs over the dragon-like creature created by the Satan-like enemy. Tortured and beaten, she instead rises up even stronger in her weakness and destroys the demon, as Christ did the work of God in a most unexpected way – through the cross.
But the episode – and the gospel narrative – doesn’t end on such a triumph. Both instead return to the story through a human’s eyes rather than through the deity.
The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’
Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.’
– John 21:17
As episode six closes, Kazuma has awakened. He’s dreamed of his past again, having failed (at least in his eyes) Bishamon in the past through betrayal and in the present through lack of foresight. As such, even though his master wants to end his exile, Kazuma at first refuses – he doesn’t deserve as much. He deserves to be dismissed.
Kazuma gets it more than his counterpart, one of Christ’s right-hand men, did. Simon Peter, the strong-willed disciple, denied Christ three times after the Lord’s arrest. After the resurrection, Christ asked Peter if he loved him three times, and three times he told Peter to feed his sheep. The disciple was hurt and remained his stubborn self during this time, and so it must have only been later that he realized that Christ was reinstating him, that he was being lifted up form the lowly place of one who ran away and denied his master.
Peter had wept when he realized he denied Christ; I bet he did again when he realized that Christ had brought him back into the fold.
But Peter’s story is the same as for us all. We’ve all turned away from Christ; each one of us has sinned. Jesus endured unjust torture and death for our sakes, and still we turn away. But in his great love, he offers forgiveness and reconciliation to us all.
When grace pours down from the Almighty God to miserable man, when we understand what transpired and what is transpiring, emotion wells up within us. How grateful we are! And then, there may be no better response than Kazuma’s when he’s reinstated by his master – tears that speak what our words may not be able to say: