These days, it seems most of us know our Norse gods and goddesses from their portrayals in Marvel comics or just from Thor and Thor: The Dark World. I don’t claim to have known much of anything before Thor came out as a movie, and it certainly influenced how I pictured the gods’ actions and personalities. Thor is a triumphant hero, Heimdall is all-knowing and just, and Loki is an evil and jealous madman.
What about a completely different narrative? A Norse myth where it’s all different? Recently I ‘ve been watching just that, the 2005 anime Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok. It’s a completely different take on Norse Mythology. iIt’s done in a Supernatural style occult detective format, with short 25-minute episodes. If you can adjust to the slightly more cartoonish style and tone, it’s a very compelling and engrossing anime.
The story follows Loki, who has been banished from Asgard for an unknown crime by Odin and is trapped on Earth in the form of a child. In an attempt to regain his godhood, Loki works as a private detective fighting supernatural evil with the help of his butler, Yamino, and his human love-interest mystery loving high-school student Mayura. Eventually Odin sends various gods and monsters to Earth to kill Loki, notably Heimdall, the three Norns and the Goddess Freya. Heimdall is interestingly portrayed as a petty and manipulative schemer consumed by hate. Thor is of course a major character and Loki’s ally.
It’s very refreshing to see a story in which Loki is presented as not just a good guy, but as a tragic hero. He’s still very much a trickster god, but he uses mischief for good. The portrayal here seems probably more true to the source material of the myths. It’s a great contrast to Marvel’s portrayal of the character as villain.