Exchanges between humanity and gods in anime have always fascinated me. Perhaps it is due to my Catholic upbringing – where the primary relationship between man and god is built with the former firmly in awe of the latter, and a very rigid process of human life to afterlife – however, Shinto gods and humans have always appeared to have a fairly equal relationship. The beliefs of Shinto are that spiritual essences reside in all things, creating a collective known as yaoyorozu no kami or “eighty millions of kami” with the boundary between spiritual and natural left undefined. This isn’t to say that these gods (for lack of a better term, I’m using “kami” as synonymous with “god”) are without organization as there is a hierarchy within the multitudes. Primary gods are enshrined at specific locations, naturally garnering more attendance from worshipers.
Which leads us to the following question: would you trust the young man pictured above, of all gods, with your wish?
If you want your wish granted, you should probably aim for the top. Small fry like Yato from Noragami (shown above, daydreaming about moving up in the world) are not worth your time until they gain more followers and become a more powerful god, presumably with the ability to grant your wish more efficiently. Additionally, that power is somewhat dependent on how established that particular god is in the minds of the people. For example, gods tied to the Japanese creation myth – descendants of Izanagi, like the well-known Amaterasu (the sun) and Tsukuyomi (the moon) – are named with specific places of worship, and given precedence over lesser, unnamed gods.
Kyousogiga touches upon this idea briefly in its recent OVA episode with the deification of Lady Koto and her shrine in the Mirror Capital. When asking the citizens whose shrine is located in the city, Koto and her two familiars receive a variety of answers, ranging from “I don’t really know.” to “A lady with huge boobs and ears like a rabbit.” Koto is shown a picture of Lady Koto within the shrine, with another resident telling her that Lady Koto left a long time ago and has yet to come home, implying that Koto’s prayers will go unanswered. We later learn exactly why Lady Koto has been unable to return; however, Kyousogiga introduces her as one whose power is tied to the amount, and memory, of her worshipers.
Yato is a god without a following or a shrine, placing him firmly in the lowest tier of deities. He spray-paints advertisements for his supposed godly services on spare walls, his sacred weapon abandons him in search of a better god to serve, and he spends the majority of Noragami‘s first episode searching for a young boy’s stray cat. However, there’s a bit of charm in how he responds to Hiyori Iki’s wish to return to her normal life as a human. Yato brandishes her five-yen offering and tells Hiyori that her wish has been heard. Their relationship with one another is open and built on exchanging money for wishes, desires, or services. What Yato will be able to do with that money, or how he will grant Hiyori’s wish, remains to be seen. Presumably, his power, much like that of Lady Koto’s introduction in Kyousogiga, is directly tied to the amount of believers – additionally, the amount of money he receives from them –that he is able to recruit or inspire into following him.