Okay, I hate filler and I hate recap episodes but I didn’t hate this – and not just because it is Natsume and so automatically gets a pass on most things. Firstly, they didn’t try to given it a number in the series and pass it off as an actual episode, it was clear it was a special. The second reason this kind of worked was because Natsume is episodic in the first place so having a random stand-alone adventure isn’t really an issue in terms of upsetting the overall pace of the narrative (in fact it is difficult to determine how this was really different from any other episode other than they didn’t actually mention the book of friends or his grandmother for the entire episode). That said, I don’t know if this was actually new or something older and I guess it doesn’t matter given I’d never seen it before.
So reviewing this as an episode? I really enjoyed it. If you haven’t watched all the other episodes you won’t get anything out of this. Essentially they split up Nyanko-Sensei and Natsume for arbitrary reasons and then Natsume spends the episode wandering around looking for Nyanko-Sensei and conveniently runs into and has a conversation with each of his friends from school (which is great because we haven’t seen some of these characters much at all this season). Nyanko-Sensei meets two human kids and for reasons that only seem explained best as Natsume’s influence, he ends up helping them complete an errand and in the process runs into most of the friendly yokai who have met Natsume and show up from time to time (and again, some of these have had very limited screen time this season so it was a nice little nostalgia trip). But that’s all there is to this. If you want to see some old favourite characters, jump right in. If not, wait until next week and a new episode.
(As an added note – if I’d been guiding those kids I’d have left them to the other yokai after the second round of tears. Yep, I’m not great with crying children.)