A while back I reviewed all 4 seasons of Natsume Yujincho but in light of the soon to begin 5th season I’ve recently gone back and revisited season 4 (which I’d only watched through twice before unlike the other seasons of this show which I’ve probably watched to an excessive amount given it is my total relax anime).
Watching it through again reminded me just how far Natsume had come as a character even though he’s still fairly riddled with insecurities. It also continues to develop his relationship with Nyanko Sensei, the other exorcists, and with his school friends. Revisiting Natsume in any season is still very refreshing and calming but I really felt like season 4 managed to distinguish itself from the earlier seasons in two ways.
Firstly, Natsume actually confronts his childhood head on. This is hinted at all season due to the opening sequence sharply contrasting young Natsume and his fear of yokai with the more mature Natsume who has managed to build connections with both humans and yokai. Early in the season we meet a girl who knew Natsume a few years before we met him in season 1 and we get a flashback episode where we see both Natsume’s and the girl’s view on events from that time. This helps consolidate our view of Natsume as a troubled loner growing up who learned to withdraw and who desperately tried not to draw attention to himself. It also reassured us that not every person Natsume had ever met was a jerk (which is kind of important given one of the major themes is about building relationships).
Secondly, season 4 forced Natsume to face his fear that he places others in danger just by getting close to them. While there have been some terrible yokai in previous seasons and his friends have been in danger before, season 4 did it in a way that really brought home how dangerous the world Natsume experiences is to those who don’t know their way around it.
If this feels like Natsume’s relationships with some of the yokai take a step backwards in this season, you wouldn’t be wrong. Obviously Nyanko Sensei is still a big feature and his relationship with Natsume is foregrounded in most episodes (as is his protective nature over what he considers his prey), but the other yokai tend to make appearances and then move on. The returning ones are more background characters, occasionally called on for a point of information or for a short comic skit before we get back to dealing with more human concerns. This isn’t a bad thing, and there’s certainly still a lot of magic and wonder in this series, but it does feel a little distinct from season one and two where the human characters were the ones more in the background as we focussed on the concerns of the yokai.
So all of this begs the question, what will season 5 bring us?
I’m going to avoid speculation but this is a series that seems to get stronger with every return and has consistently maintained the tone and feel it seems to want. I try to avoid building up hopes for any returning series but I just can’t seem to help myself with this one. Another season of Natsume… Just saying it makes me smile.