Okay, so as I mentioned in my last post, I recently watched Noragami. Like many other anime series aimed at teenagers, Noragami is an urban fantasy, one that imbues old myths and traditions (in this case, Shinto gods) with a sense of hipness and adventure. You can see this reflected in the character designs, music and aesthetics, but the overall plot invokes this theme as well. The protagonist is a stray god (or Kami) who strives not to be forgotten by humans, and the heroine is an ordinary high school girl who gradually comes to appreciate the Kami.
Once you dig past all the flashy battles and shonen shenanigans, Noragami boils down to a rather universal dilemma: In this (post)modern world, how do we humans find fulfillment? How do we tell right from wrong? Like Haibane Renmei, which I discussed not too long ago, Noragami is about spirituality, but it isn’t necessarily about religion in the organised sense. Rather, it’s a work of pastiche. That’s why the world it depicts comes across as both familiar and strange, especially to Western eyes.
Other bloggers have dissected a great deal about Noragami through a Christian lens. Once again, I’ll point you to the good folks at Beneath the Tangles for various discussions and links. What I want to talk about in this post is the act of pastiche. How does pop culture (in this case, anime) reinterpret religious motifs? To what end?
Before I can discuss those questions in detail, we need to take a not-so-brief detour and talk about religion itself.
Haibane Renmei features some of the loveliest concept artwork I’ve ever seen, period. It’s a pity that the anime art never did justice to Yoshitoshi ABe’s lush drawings, because the story of Haibane Renmei is a thing of rare beauty. The dreamlike and melancholy atmosphere is mesmerising; only the flat art and animation threatened to take me out of the experience.
I’m going to make a controversial statement here. I don’t think it’s wrong to make assumptions about people from their tastes. I do it all the time.