A collaboration between Karandi and Irina. Be sure to check out Irina’s blog tomorrow for Round 1 Part B. We’ll be posting each day this week.
Karandi here: Toward the end of last year I started thinking I’d really like to put together some sort of feature about Natsume Yuujinchou. I’m completely in love with the show and have certainly written a number of posts about it previously, but I wanted to do something different. Knowing that Irina had recently watched the show and had also fallen in love with the series, I reached out and asked if she was up for a collaboration and so after many emails an idea was born.
I don’t think either one of us quite knew how challenging this would be when we picked the idea of a tournament style match up between members of the support cast to determine who the best supporting character was. (I think we both thought this would just be a bit of a laugh but eliminating anyone from this list has been incredibly tough.) Just coming up with the entrants was a killer task as there are just so many great characters who appear throughout the course of six season. To make it a bit easier we agreed that they had to have appeared in more than one season to be considered and we ruled out Nyanko-Sensei and Reiko as being main characters from the start.
Still, we finally cut it down to 8. However, there were dozens of other characters we’d have liked to include (I think both of us would have loved Aoi to appear in the list but he was a one episode character, and I know that cutting how Shigeru was harsh but at least Touko made the cut).
We ended up with:
Then we had to decide on a criteria for the matches. Ultimately we decided to discuss character design, character growth, their interactions with Natsume, and their impact on the plot (at least for round one).
Finally we were ready for round one. We each had our four contestants to try to defend and we knew who they would be matched against, still some of these contests were just harsh. And can I point out how hard it is to argue in favour of one character when you are hopelessly in love with the one you are about to throw out of the tournament. And yet, I wouldn’t really have wanted any of these characters to lose their match (except maybe Satoru, but Irina made a pretty good case and made me see him a little differently).
However, through working on this project with Irina I definitely gained a deeper appreciation of just how well this show has built up its characters, even the fairly minor ones. All of them bring something amazing to the show and losing any one of them would leave Natsume somewhat worse off. I also realised once again what an amazing person Irina is. I loved working on this collaboration with her and I’m glad we got to spend some time sharing our thoughts on such an incredible anime.
Anyway, that’s it from me in terms of an introduction. We’ll get to the first round of matches and see which characters make it through to the semi finals.
Taki vs Hinoe
For this match Irina is defending Taki and Karandi is taking on Hinoe.
Irina: I’m starting off at a bit of a disadvantage. Humans in Natsume’s universe all tend to look very similar and a little bland in contrast to the Yokai but Taki does have one big thing going for her, she’s a redhead! We all know gingers are special and both Satoru and Natsume seem to have noticed as well.
Karandi: True enough, Taki is a redhead and they are awesome, but Hinoe is rocking that gorgeous blue hair and sporting quite the adorable hairpin. Throw in her outfit and her pipe and she strikes quite the distinct figure even amongst the yokai.
As much as I love Taki, I would definitely say Hinoe wins for design.
Irina: This is a though one. Hinoe has one of my favorite designs and cosplay goal but I’m going for a last ditch attempt here – Taki’s design is special precisely because of how normal it is. She represents a visual cue for normalcy and stability in Natsume’s world….Ok Hinoe rocks….
Karandi: I’ll just take that as a win for Hinoe on design.
Irina: Admittedly, Taki hasn’t undergone any dramatic transformations, most of her personal evolution really takes place during her first appearance and even then it’s more a question of her getting out of a bad situation and being able to relax and be herself again, rather than her evolving through lessons learned. But she’s so lovely as is, why should she need to grow.
Karandi: In the present day, we haven’t really see Hinoe grow at all. She’s a yokai and they kind of pride themselves on long lives and not really changing. However, we did see a flashback with Hinoe before she met Reiko and while we don’t know all the ins and outs, she did go from hating humans to being fairly accepting of her friendship with Natsume.
Still, I would probably have to concede this criteria to Taki.
Irina: Like Karandi – I do think we have clues to indicate the Hinoe has undergone some pretty radical evolution but we haven’t *seen* it. I agree Taki.
Interactions with Natsume
Irina: Taki’s influence on Natsume is undeniable. She’s is one of the gentless and most understanding people in Natsume’s life which is saying something as he is literally surrounded by love. Taki is clearly in the human camps as she can’t naturally interact with Yokai in any way but her family history has given her a much better understanding of the spiritual world than most. As such, Taki essentially represents the possibility for Natsume to have completely honest relationships with “normal” people. She is completely unique in that regard and absolutely essential to Natsume’s acceptance of himself. She’s also a lovely age appropriate human girl which opens up a wealth of potential interactions not available to anyone else!
Karandi: Her human appearance not just for show, Hinoe is one of the more calm, collected and certainly more understanding of Natsume’s situation than most of the other yokai. That said, I do recall a scene where Hinoe came running with a scythe after Natsume got kidnapped so she’s proven herself to be fairly loyal as well. Ultimately Hinoe offers guidance and advice to Natsume on many issues and while she still pretends to be fairly aloof she’s clearly very interested in Reiko’s grandson and in making sure he stays safe.
I honestly can’t call this one. Irina, your thoughts?
Irina: I love Taki and I’m so very glad Natsume has her friendship but if we are to be completely honest, her role is a little redundant with Tanuma’s. On the other hand, Hinoe is the closest thing he has to a big sister. I think Hinoe for this one. She has his back in a way no one else does.
Karandi: I’m glad you mentioned that her role is a little redundant given Tanuma plays much the same role. It would be different if more of her grandfather’s knowledge came into play as that would give her a more unique role. Still, Hinoe it is.
Impact on the story
Irina: Not only has Taki had an impact so far by being a human that can’t see Yokai but is still fully accepting of Natsume but considering the hinted at wealth of interactions, her possible impact on future plotlines is probably one of the most important of any character in the series.
Karandi: Hinoe has literally saved Natsume’s life from being consumed by a curse and continues to watch over him, providing guidance when needed and makes some attempts to keep the middle ranked yokai in check (when she’s not drinking with them). Hinoe also forges a direct connection back to Reiko and unlike Madara, she seems more willing to talk about her past with Natsume’s grandmother.
While I love Taki’s role, I’d say that Hinoe being a literal life saver back in season one kind of tips this one to her.
Irina: I agree, Taki’s impact is much less direct that Hinoe’s. Her absence would be less obvious.
Karandi: Taki vs Hinoe: I’d vote for Hinoe. Irina?
Irina: I’m honestly stumped. I’m going with pure subjective gut feeling here but I agree – Hinoe.
Karandi: We agreed. Fantastic. Let’s see if that can happen in the next match up which will be out tomorrow on Irina’s blog. In the meantime, you can have your say on who you think the best support character is in Natsume Yuujinchou. We’ll release the results of the poll after we finish the tournament.