The anime I’m talking about here in the post is an anime with its 6th season ongoing now. After watching the first season, I don’t understand why this isn’t that much recommended by any of my friends. Sighs. Anyway, I’m talking about Natsume Yuujinchou.
Natsume Yuujinchou, or Natsume’s Book of Friends, is a Japanese fantasy manga series by Midorikawa Yuki (Hotarubi no Mori e). It was adapted into anime and became part of the Summer 2008 lineup.
Natsume Takashi has the ability to see spirits, which he has long kept secret. However, once he inherits a strange book that belonged to his deceased grandmother, Reiko, he discovers the reason why spirits surround him. Containing the names of these spirits, a binding contract was formed between the spirits and the owner of the book. Now, Natsume is determined to free the spirits and dissolve the contracts. With the help of a spirit cat, his days are filled trying to return the names to these spirits.
That summary captures what this series is all about. Except that it’s not really “once he inherits a strange book” because that phrase implies that he has yet to have it when the yuujinchou has actually been with him for a long time; it’s just that he didn’t really pay much regard to it.
Anyhow, this series has an episodic format. Each episode, Natsume deals with different youkai who come to him either to get the book or to ask for his help. Though there are a lot of anime series out there which have people fighting youkai, this one does not belong to that list. He may have to “deal with” one or two every once in a while, but it’s not action-packed. I actually find this anime somehow relaxing. (Gives me feels very much like Aria The Animation and Kimi to Boku.)
Each of these youkai have their own stories — some sad, some heartwarming, some entertaining — which causes the changes in Natsume’s perspective of things. For me, each one of these youkai are memorable. Their backstories are touching, so much so that I found myself tearing up a lot of times.
Or maybe I’m really just a crybaby. My favorite youkai are Hotaru (2nd row 4th column), Hinoe (3R 1C), Tsubame (3R 3C), Kogitsune (3R 4C), and Tsuyukami (1R 3C).
In addition to the stories of the different youkai, Natsume’s past also elicit heartbreaking feels. He had to move from one house of some people somehow related to him to another until he ended up with the couple that he lives with now. He was bullied, so he grew up alone. It’s amazing how he didn’t end up depressed after all those. Just those facts makes me want to hug him and protect him and tell him that I love him. But this is not just the story of him with youkai, but also of him growing up to meet the right people (and creatures?) that will be important to him.
The times when Natsume brings back a youkai’s name is something I looked forward to because Natsume gets to know and to understand his grandmother Reiko in addition to getting to know the youkai’s backstory. By the end of this season, though, there are still a lot of mystery surrounding her, as well as Natsume’s parents, that it’s obvious that the following seasons are a must-watch to answer questions about them. Nevertheless, since I loved the series, I found myself not minding the fact that there are 4 more seasons after. In fact, I’m so excited to see more of his interactions with youkai and other people.
Oh, and one other thing I enjoy here is Natsume and Madara’s interactions. Madara’s just so adorable as that maneki neko-looking cat! How he insists that he doesn’t care about Natsume getting eaten or what and yet still going after him to protect him is just so lovely.
Anyway, the series has a good soundtrack. It makes good use of them, too. The OP, “Issei no Sei (一斉の声; Simultaneous Voice)” by Kita Shuuhei, has quite a slow opening sequence, with Natsume slowing getting near the screen and moving clouds as backdrop. He closes his eyes then a woman with backs turned back to the screen showing. As he opens his eyes again, the woman is gone and the pace of the song picks up, showing different people with almost every beat. I especially like the part when different youkai are showed.
Meanwhile, the ED,”Natsu Yuuzora (夏夕空; Summer Evening Sky)” by Atari Kousuke, is a very relaxing song sang with only string instruments (guitars?). The sequence has a not-so-detailed, simple art with colors that look like they are painted by watercolors (which reminded me of the art for Ghibli’s Princess Kaguya). It features a long shot of Natsume lying down on grass then Madara eventually goes to sit beside him. There’s only one scene when a close up of Natsume’s face was shown above the long shot view. By the end of the sequence, I liked how it showed Touko calling out to Natsume (possibly for dinner?) and he and Madara goes to walk with her.
Natsume Yuujinchou is animated by Brain’s Base (Durarara!!, Kuragehime, Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun). The designs are simple yet pleasing to the eyes. I love the colors chosen for each one of them. (Sometimes, though, I feel sad when I look at Natsume because he reminds me of Gin, Hotarubi no Mori e‘s MC.)