And so it ends.
Two years after finishing Natsume Yuujinchou, I have finally caught myself up completely with this amazing series that, when I think about it, was one the first series I watched that ignited my passion for anime. Looking at the series as a whole, I have to say that it is definitely up there in terms of my favorite series. Natsume is a character I grew to really like because of how well done his development is. He is an amazingly well-thought out character who is given a past that is filled with a lot of pain and sadness, a present that is full of love and acceptance, and a future that, though uncertain, looks bright and promising in terms of how he will continue to grow and open up. The stories are pretty slice of life, but manage to convey a wide range of emotion in a subtle way that makes for episodes ranging from heartwarming to heartbreaking. Yes, the show can get repetitive with a lot of the same story format going on, but I didn’t really mind because I was always more interested in how, even though many of the stories follow a similar format, they still manage to be heartwarming. I’m a little sad to finally be done with the series, but it took me on a great ride and I have nothing but fond memories of it. Also, even though while watching the end of the third season and thinking that it had more of a final feeling to it, I think that the ending to Natsume Yuujinchou Shi is a much better since it packs more of an emotional punch with the last few minutes providing a touching and, I think, satisfying end.
Natsume Yuujinchou Shi is, from what I’ve been hearing, most likely the last installment of the Natsume Yuujinchou series which follows around Mr. Takashi Natsume as he continues along his path of self-acceptance, learning to trust others, and coming to terms with his past. He has the inconvenient ability of being able to see these monsters called Youkai and this ability has come to be the root of a lot of suffering he has endured since he was a child. He is also followed around by a Youkai, Nyanko-Sensei, who acts as his bodyguard, protecting him from other Youkai in return for being guaranteed what is left of a book of Youkai’s names called the Book of Friends created by the infamous Reiko, Natsume’s grandmother who had the same ability as him.
Although I think this season has a lot of great moments especially at the beginning and end, I felt like there wasn’t a whole lot going on action or development wise during the middle part of the series. There are a few episodes where I found myself half paying attention, wondering either a) why they were there or b) when they were going to end. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t necessarily dislike those episodes; I simply found my mind wandering due to boredom. I was finally starting see that repetitive factor that I never really thought about before. For example, last arc before the last three episodes, fell under choice B. For the most part, I thought it was missing that heartwarming factor that keeps one interested and invested in the story going on at the moment. However, there were really only a couple of episodes that I didn’t care for. The rest kept me entertained for the most part and had heartwarming moments to them, though I think previous seasons had episodes that made more of an impact and accomplished more.
Though the middle bit of Natsume Yuujinchou Shi may have been lacking, I think that the beginning and the end are the strongest parts of the series and the most interesting. The beginning starts out with a two episode arc that is suspenseful and tense, making for a pleasant break from the usual slow intro episodes. Matoba is brought back as the main villain in the arc. As I’ve said before, I think Matoba makes a great villain. He can be brutal because of his belief system, but he isn’t just a brute. He is a fairly intelligent person and this was showcased as he is shown he will come up with a plan of attack tailored to the person by making sure he knows as much as he possibly can about him in order to use it against him. After that there was a particularly melancholy episode about a Youkai and a human that reminded me, once again why I love Natsume Yuujinchou. It manages to be extremely heartfelt through its portrayal of the characters and isn’t overpowering in terms of the emotion, producing an emotion filled episode that tugs at the heart strings with its subtle delivery and charismatic characters. After the beginning, as I said before, I think that other seasons have done better (Natsume Yuujinchou San). The end, however, is amazing. The last few episodes focused almost entirely on Natsume and his past in terms of his parents. Although we don’t find out much more about his parents other than what they look and when his mother died, we do see how much they have affected their son. We got to see him as a child, probably newly orphaned, who doesn’t remember his mother at all and only barely remembers his father, but misses them immensely. As a teenager, Natsume admits to trying to forget them because it was too painful to think of the things that he could never have. During the last few episodes, Natsume finally comes to terms with his parents and realizes how much he treasures the little memories he has of them. At the same time, he accepts that his parents will always be special to him, but that he has a new family he can come home to, which, in a way, brings him full circle from where he was as a kid. Those last few episodes make one heck of an emotional punch as they are chock full of drama. However, none of it feels forced or overtop, partly because of how much viewers have probably come to empathize and care for Natsume as he continues to take these steps forward.
Looking back on the series, Youkai didn’t have as much of a role as they have in seasons past. They do make the usual episodic appearance with several episodes focused on helping them out. However, this season they didn’t necessarily help Natsume along on his growth journey with a large part of that role going to his friends. This season is more people focused with a lot of emphasis on their interactions with Natsume, whether they are helping his realize something important about himself or simply thinking back on him and their experiences with him.
The animation was nice as always with a lot fluidity given to the movement of the characters. The color palate was full of vibrant colors that aren’t too overpowering. The music throughout the series remains subtle with a lot of slow pieces. This time around I wasn’t a big fan of the OP and I thought the song was annoying to listen to because of the singer’s voice. However, I was a fan of the OP sequence and I liked how it opens with Natsume as a child and then shows him as he is now. I liked the ED more because it was a slower song and the vocalist isn’t as annoying to listen to.
All in all, Natsume Yuujinchou Shi, as the probable last season of Natsume Yuujinchou, starts and ends on a strong note with the middle being sort of lackluster for me. Even though Natsume doesn’t go through a whole ton of growth this season which is understandable considering how much he was built up in Natsume Yuujinchou San, but he does overcome some major hurdles and deal with a few major issues that push him forward a little more. I’ll miss watching this series and secretly fangirling about it, but, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and what a marvelous end it has.
If you’re wondering where my final thoughts post is on Natsume Yuujinchou San, then you’ll have to look here. I’ll write a short post about my good fortune in a bit, but until then, I’ll just say that I am now an anime reviewer for Organization Anti-Social Geniuses. :D