Yatogami and the Disappearing Yahweh

I think the best word to describe Noragami Aragoto, the second season of the series about a little known god of calamity, is surprising. After an initial series that was sometimes very good (as in the arc about Yukine and Yato’s blight), but also sometimes bad (as in the anime-original conclusion) and ultimately uninspiring, season two put forward creative, moving, and profound arcs and storylines, including one that conveyed a tone of worry within the audience, a feeling that isn’t typical in most anime I watch. As the Bishamon arc concludes and all seems right in the world (and in the heavens), Yato is suddenly thrust into a situation that may lead to the undoing of his relationships and his own disappearance. At the behest of his mysterious “father” and told to him by Nora (and to me, reminiscent of the famed scene from The Godfather III—“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”), Yato is suddenly taken from the encouragement and hope that he’s developed in the company of Yukine and Hiyori and thrust back into the world he had known for so long, one of violence and underhanded activity.

As he deals with those, his connection to the world and to Hiyori and Yukine comes closer and closer to being irrevocably severed. Even should Yato make it back from his mission, if Hiyori has forgotten him, he won’t have a home to which he can return, a place to heal and continue to progress toward becoming the god he can be. The sudden shift in tone and situation is worrying, and seeing Hiyori slowly forget Yato is distressing. It was just at the beginning of this arc that she built him a tiny shrine which was officially recognized as a true one, demonstrating that he is needed. From those heights he falls to the depths of Hiyori perhaps forgetting he even exists at all, in which case he may disappear entirely.

yato crying
Yato finally receives a shrine

The rules that bind a fictional universe can make or break a series. If unique and intricate but comprehensible, you could come away with a classic (see the Mistborn series); if repetitive, dull, and / or overly complex, you may lose the viewer (see many shonen series). Noragami has trended toward the earlier. I found fascinating the idea that gods cease to exist if they’re forgotten—it makes sense within the confines of that universe and feels realistic as well. I think many of us buy into the idea, as well, that people are still “with us” if they’re not forgotten, which brings up the opposite idea that they would disappear entirely if no one remembers. How many people throughout history up until this modern time have been forgotten because they were alone or because their descendants forgot them or died off? From an earthly perspective, the idea is incredibly sad. It speaks of a life wasted.

Yato and the gods of Noragami are very human in their acts and emotions, and thus, it’s easy to equate the disappearance of a god with that of a human. In Christianity, though Yahweh is perfect, he, too, is described as like us (or rather, that we are given many of his qualities). He shows emotion, cares for people and demonstrates love, and in Christ, even became incarnate. So what if people forgot about God, as they seem to trending toward doing? Would he cease to exist?

Although it’s sad to think that’s possible, the reality is of course that God’s existence is not dependent on the whims of humans. Need only runs one way in the relationship—God doesn’t require our worship as sustenance or anything of that sort, but he does pour his love onto mankind, as well breath, life, love, and eternity. We need him for everything. Still, one other apt comparison can be made: When we forget God, it is as if he’s disappeared—perhaps not in any real sense, but in our hearts and minds. He always continues to move in our lives, but consciously, we’ve put him to death. And in this way, many of use—myself included—are very much like Hiyori.

To be like Hiyori is not to actively reject God—it’s to forget he exists. I think that’s remarkably common among those who identify as Christian now or at some time in their lives, and maybe more common than those from the same group who ultimately make a decision to reject the faith. As you live life apart from God, you begin to forget. You pray less frequently. You attend church less often. And soon, like an old friend from days gone by, you only think of him from time to time.

Even those that are more active in their faith can become forgetful—my experience, for instance, is that I forget him frequently throughout each and every the day. I once read The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, who writes about how he is connected to God and worshiping him at all times. I’m naturally skeptical, though I came away from that work believing that Lawrence’s practice is quite possible or nearly so if one’s life is fully dedicated in that manner. I’m not able to do that, and I’m not sure God expects it of us, but I do believe that I often fail with even the mildest of expectations. I forget God in the good (That high-stress work meeting went well today!) and bad (That high-stress work meeting went even worse than expected!), the remarkable (What a beautiful sunset!) and mundane (Another typical day…), the very worldly (Let’s play Mario Kart!) and even the overtly spiritual (Let’s focus on Communion…but wait, does this mean service will be longer than usual?).

While Hiyori learns the impact of forgetting Yato from Kofuku, I don’t even have to consult an expert to know what occurs when I forget God—I only need to remember scripture and to reflect. I take honor away from the one who deserves all honor, adding more ruin to how this universe should work and what I’m made to be. As I function in a way that’s unlike how I was designed, I add more fuel to the fire of sin and grow further away from God, always to my own detriment.

Thankfully, God, as he always does, provides a way. And as Christ explains, His “yoke is easy” and “burden is light.” Like Hiyori—who by the way forgets Yato because of supernatural causes, not by her own choice and decisions, as we do—we can recover and once again remember. For Christians, remembering means rejoicing in all his goodness and faithfulness from the past, as well as in his continuing promise for now and the future. To revisit that place requires me to cultivate my relationship with him and to respond to his love, which I can do through worship, prayer, obedience, and community. If I’m forgetting God, could it because I’m not placing a priority on weekly worship or mass? If I’m not experiencing him each day, is it because I don’t go to him in prayer as often as I should? If his sweet promises and words don’t come to mind, could it because I’m not studying scripture daily? And if everything always turns to ruin without some lesson coming from it all, could it because I’m making choices that are directly in opposition to what God teaches?

I submit that the solutions may seem easy but the practice of them are far more difficult, and there’s also no straight line from “doing God’s will” toward happiness. Still, the nearer we are to God, the more we’re open to see his goodness, and the more we’re able to apply it to difficult life situations, our own depression and feelings about ourselves, and our relationships with others and the world. And in that manner, there is simplicity here—more of God leads to thinking of and worshiping him more, and more worship means the more our eyes are opened to his fierce and overwhelming love, the kind that leads to the cross and a sacrifice so unfair and so loving, it defies words or explanation.

And how could I ever forget that?

Noragami can be streamed on Funimation. The Practice of the Presence of God can be purchased on Amazon.


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