(>< Sorry for the fugly picture. I tried, but my creative switch is off.)
Ah, Natsume Yuujinchou. Let me tell you guys something: I absolutely love this show, or series I suppose I should say considering I’m probably going to fall in love with its sequels. I originally watched this show a few years back and I remember loving the show a lot. After watching it, I remember excitedly adding the next installment to my list…and then immediately forgetting about it. Well, after reading episodic post after episodic post about the latest installment, I decided it was high time I picked this series back up, so what do I do? I go back and re-watch the first season for kicks. I know, I am a highly efficient person. Re-watching this show, I have to say, it became even more amazing.
Watching the show again, I have to say, I really loved the traditional feel I got from it. It’s hard to describe, but I felt like this show was really connected to a traditional part of the Japanese culture, and that may sound stupid coming form someone who knows next to nothing about the Japanese culture, but I feel like I was able to gain a little more insight and knowledge about it. It may just be me being a little ignorant, but I was under the impression that Ayakashi or spirits were a big part of the Japanese culture, and I thought it was exciting to learn more about them. Speaking of about Ayakashi, real quick before I get started, I just wanted to say that I think they were really interesting as a group to watch and I think how they were each given individual personalities capable of feelings like people was really beautifully done.
Anywho, Natsume Yuujinchou mainly focuses Takahashi Natsume and his interactions with various Ayakashi/Youkai. Natsume has the unique ability to see these Ayakashi, one he doesn’t neccessarily enjoy. As a result of his ability, his has been dumped from relative to relative until arriving at his current household, belonging to a couple that are distant family friends. As a child, Natsume quickly learned that the beings he saw weren’t always visible to others, resulting in many of his relatives giving him the cold shoulder and the development of a small sense of isolation from others in Natsume. To top things off, Natsume is also in possession of a little thing called the “Book of Friends”, created by his his deceased grandmother, Reiko, who possessed the same ability as Natsume. The “Book of Friends” consists of the names of all the Ayakashi Reiko managed to defeat, giving her immense power since she can summon any of these beings and they will be forced to carry out her will. As one may imagine, not all Ayakashi were exactly thrilled with the idea of having their name in the hands of human girl, not to mention that many Ayakashi wanted the power that the “Book of Friends” offered to the user, resulting in Natsume’s current plight, in which various Ayakashi in the “Book of Friends”, good and bad, come after him.
Natsume is a character who starts out as a guy who distances himself from others as a result of his ability to see Ayakashi and ends the season as a guy who has come to accept his ability a little, as well as see the kindness in both the people and Ayakashi around him. He grows to feel like he belongs in his current home, a home he probably would have flourished in as a child, makes some friends, and even comes to see that not all Ayakashi are that bad. That last point, is the one I loved to watch the most.
Natusme Yuujinchou is an episodic show with one episode typically focusing on Natsume’s encounter of the day with an Ayakashi or two. From the get go, he comes across Ayakashi who range from good to bad, with most of the encounters we see leaning towards the good side. Much to his surprise, I think, Natsume finds himself growing to like Ayakashi more as he becomes involved with the kind ones who show him that Ayakashi are beings that, just like people, have their own stories and feelings. As Natsume encounters more Ayakashi who are kind to him and whom he ends up helping he begins to perceive his ability differently. At one point in the show, while watching an Ayakashi energetically talk to a human who once helped her in the past, her enthusiastic show of gratitude falling on deaf ears, Natsume wonders why he is the only one who can see Ayakashi, though, he says this becasue he feels a sense of sadness that other humans, who have unknowingly performed a kindness to an Ayakashi cannot see their gratitude. Honestly, one of the most satisfying things about this series was seeing Natsume realize the kindness from both Ayakashi and people around him, and seeing him come to accept his ability. I, personally, loved watching Natsume grow as a person, and that growth is a large part of why I love this show so much.
The other main character of Natsume Yuujinchou is an Ayakashi Natsume meets in the first episode named Madara, or better known as Nyanko-Sensei. Nyanko-sensei acts as a sort of body guard for Natsume, protecting him from those Ayakashi who want the “Book of Friends” for themselves or from just generally ill-intentioned Ayakashi . Despite his serious role, Nyanko-sensei is often a source of comedy for the show with his high pitched, nasal voice constantly spouting insults. Though he his role is often comedic, Nyanko-sensei is shown to actually be pretty powerful when need be and often protects Natsume from Ayakashi who fall on the bad side of the Ayakashi spectrum. Nyanko also goes through a bit of growth himself as he comes to like humans a little more and even respect them a little in the sense that he can respect how they often perform selfless acts for each other.
On a quick side note, I also wanted to mention that while watching Natsume Yuujinchou a second time, I noticed that the concept of loneliness was pretty common throughout the series. Despite the episodic nature of the show, many of the stories involved, to some degree, the concept of loneliness and its effects. Often times this aspect added a melancholy tone to the episode as we saw how, for lack of better phrasing, lonely it is be alone. At the end of the series though, I thought it was interesting how the concept of loneliness was absent, hinting that perhaps Natsume no longer felt alone, and I think that was shown clearly since throughout the episode he was surrounded by people and Ayakashi who care about him, not to mention he finally feels like he belongs in his home where the people there obviously care about him and his well-being.
The animation in Natsume Yuujinchou is pretty simple in nature, but I loved it all the same and thought it really fit the series, though it wasn’t perfect. I thought the animation was pretty clean with nothing too fancy or too simple.
As I sit here and listen to the OST on Youtube, my appreciation for it grows. There are a lot of soft instrumental pieces that…are really pretty to listen to in their own way. In terms of music, my favorite aspect, hands down, is the ED. I could listen to that guitar and beautifully wobbly voice forever. That song has such a beautiful tune and I fall more in love with it the more I listen to it. Seriously, listen to it a few times and you’ll just be hitting that replay button over and over again. The OP is nice too, but that ED, man….
Well, in the end, I would probably recommend Natsume Yuujinchou to anyone who is looking for a good show to watch. It may be short but it has action, mystery, a smidgen of romance in some episodes, melancholy aspects, slice of life, great leads, interesting stories, and a great OST. What’s not to love about this show? I’m super happy that I spent the time re-watching this show because it’s such a treat, it really is, and I can only happily anticipate what its sequels hold in store for me.
Overall Score: 10/10 (You guys should have seen this one coming)