This is a collaboration between Karandi and Irina.
If you need to catch up:
Be sure to check out Irina’s blog tomorrow for the conclusion to Round 3.
Matoba vs Natori
Krandi: Irina, why did we do this to ourselves? Seriously, what were we thinking?
Irina: Clearly we weren’t...
Karandi: After two rounds it has come down to exorcist vs exorcist. Both complex and interesting characters walking different paths along the moral spectrum and yet at this point in the anime, neither one has had their overall motive or character fully revealed leading to plenty of speculation.
We have said good-bye to some truly fantastic characters in rounds one and two and I think that is what needs to be remembered most about this show. While it is Natsume’s Book of Friends, the story that unfolds is made truly interesting by the love and care put in to each and every member of the support cast, no matter how minor a role they may seem to play within a season. These are characters we can relate to, can sympathise with, be wary of, be annoyed at, and characters we might want to meet ourselves. So this series of posts has accomplished its goal of shining the spotlight on this series and one of its core strengths, the supporting cast of characters.
For this final round, we’ve decided to reflect on our views of both characters rather than going head to head. But if you take nothing else away from this series, I’m taking away that I won the first round.
Irina: Pffth second place is just first loser unless I lose this round in which case second place is awesome, better than first even! Somehow…
For this round Irina will make her final case for Matoba.
Irina: Through six reviews for the various seasons of Natsume’s Book of Friends, Matoba has been my favorite character twice, a distinction only shared with Nyanko and even then only in specific incarnations (Nyanko as Natsume forever!) There’s a reason for that and a reason my boy Seiji made it all the way to the final round. He rocks.
Matoba is a slap in the face of a character, a spark thrown into the Natsume story that makes everything more exciting. I have always enjoyed characters in series that I would not necessarily like to meet in real life. Although this may not be the case here… I got a soft spot for attractive troublemakers. Matoba is definitely ruthless and singularly determined. This leads him to act in ways that can appear brash. He lacks the gentle touch everyone else in this series seems to possess. But when considered as a whole, he is undeniably rational and, if nothing else, diligent.
His entire life, Matoba has carried the burden of responsibility. The responsibility for the livelihood and safety of his clan, the unique duty one has when they are one of the few who can see Yokai and the weight of his particularly well developed talent. All these elements have made him into a man that cannot afford to take chances. A man whose misplaced kindness could end up hurting those who depend on him, and so he is sparring and greedy with it. It is unfair to ask others to pay for your altruism and that is a lesson Matoba seems to have learned well. He isn’t flighty or selfish. Childishly pursuing whatever strikes his fancy or playing the good guy. Matoba does what needs to get done. It may not be as instantly likable but it’s a trait that deserves respect and one that makes the story so much more affecting.
The characters that push aside emotionality in favour of common sense are absolutely primordial to framing the story and putting everyone else in proper context. Matoba’s perfectly justifiable conflicts with Natsume become that much more interesting because they are not a question of right and wrong. They allow for introspection and questioning that ultimately make the story much deeper than it otherwise would have been.
Moreover, Seiji knows when to take a bow. There has never been a moment when Matoba was onscreen and I was bored. His appearances have been used to such optimal effect that his simple presence confers a sense of excitement and anticipation. You know something’s going to happen if Matoba’s there and he always leaves you wanting more.
A lot more in fact. We have only gotten crumbs of his backstory so far and clearly there’s a lot more left to tell. What we do know is that this man holds most of the secrets of the Natsume Universe and exploring his character will unlock a whole new world for both the viewers and the actors.
At the end of the day, most stories, even ones as peaceful and sensitive as Natsume’s, need some form of conflict and few things can elevate a narrative quite like a worthy and interesting antagonist. Matoba is exactly that. He is build with the same care and nuance as any hero. He manages to be relatable or at least understandable, while still undeniably menacing. The element he brings is completely unique in the story and no one else can play this role.
Karandi: Is Irina right? Tomorrow, I’ll make my case in part B on Irina’s blog.