Natsume’s magical journey continues in this second volume of the manga. This time around we have new characters, new friends and new partings. All of it feeds into the overall feeling that is Natsume’s Book of Friends which is one of pure bliss and reading this volume was a fantastic experience.
Like volume 1, we are given four stand alone stories that are connected through the growth we see in Natsume. Still, you can easily pick up any one of these stories as a one off and truly enjoy the experience. And, not going to lie, volume 2 introduces my very favourite character of the series so I was super excited to read it.
One thing I really noticed while reading this is that the yokai always seem to appear larger than life and more rich and detailed than the human characters. It really helps distinguish the yokai, even the human looking Hinoe seems more detailed and comes to life in a way the human characters can’t match while reading.
The other thing I noticed in this volume was how often butterflies are associated with Natsume. While butterflies have a lot of different meanings, they are closely associated with metamorphosis and transformation which is kind of what the whole story of Natsume is built around so I kind of liked that particular detail.
Okay, let’s look at each of the stories.
Chapter Five: The Spook in the Old Schoolhouse
This was never one of my favourite stories in the anime, even though haunted school house sounds like it should be great fun. The story is well told as Natsume and his class mates attempt a test of courage and are attacked by a yokai who has pretty much fallen into evil because he’s more or less had enough of how humans have treated him. It is an interesting exploration of how monsters are sometimes made rather than born, but it still doesn’t make for the most interesting of story when compared to some of Natsume’s tales.
I was surprised at the conclusion of the story where a character leaves. This is quite different from the anime and where there had been differences in the previous stories, these were more cosmetic whereas this character leaving has some implications for future stories being considerably different to how I remember them from the anime.
All and all, this was a decent chapter and did what it needed to do. The spooky atmosphere is well portrayed though the chapter ends up being quite dark (visually) because of the sheer amount of shading and the like.
Chapter Six: Natsume Summons a Yokai
Natsume Summons a Yokai is a great story. It is easy to forget in some of the stories that Natsume is facing regular life-threatening danger. The slice of life tone of the series kind of down plays that aspect. Stories like this one remind us clearly of the risks Natsume faces in being able to see yokai and after encountering a particularly nasty one he ends up cursed and being pursued by a shadow that intends to eat him.
As a result, Natsume uses the Book of Friends to summon Misuzu who ultimately send Hinoe to his aid. This is the first time we’ve really seen Natsume actively use the book to reach out for help and it is great to see him growing in what he can do even if he doesn’t really wish to use the book this way.
We also get to meet Hinoe who was a blast in the anime and comes across just as interesting on paper. She’s a great supporting cast member who in the anime showed up in many stories so I was really excited to see her enter the story here.
The other thing thing story does is really puts Natsume into that difficult place where he has to lie to the Fujiwaras which is something he doesn’t like doing but he feels he can’t tell them the truth. That conflict guides a lot of Natsume’s actions and just makes this story feel a bit more believable than some where kids just go and save the world without their parents wondering why they didn’t come home that night.
Chapter Seven: He Can See
Okay, I was really excited to get to this chapter and to read the story of Natsume’s meeting with Natori and this did not disappoint. I actually feel Natori is a little more morally ambiguous in the way he’s presented in the manga than in the anime and I loved it. The conflict between Natori wanting to exorcise yokai and Natsume seeking a more peaceful solution is well played here.
However, this story has far wider implications with Natsume getting his first glimpse of humans who can and do interact with yokai. With the introduction of exorcists so many possibilities have been opened up for future stories and I know from watching the anime that these are among my favourite adventures with Natsume so I really look forward to reading more of these later.
Chapter Eight: Asagi’s Lute
To end this volume we get another case of yokai possession, though this time the yokai possessing Natsume didn’t really want to. Her friend put her spirit inside Natsume in order to fulfil her last wish and Natsume is now stuck helping to find the materials to build a lute so that she can play one last time.
This story works very hard to humanise the yokai and their feelings of loss, regret, love and friendship and helping Natsume to see that they have dreams and goals just as humans do. Otherwise, the story is pretty standard for Natsume and while there are some hints of danger along the way, for the most part this is just a case of yokai passing through Natsume’s life and leaving a small change in him in their wake. It is a great way for the volume to end and it consolidates the changes we’ve seen in Natsume already over these first two volumes.
But, we’re going to have to keep going so volume 3 review coming soon.
If you’re interested in reading Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 2 it is available on the Book Depository.
- Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 1
- Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 2
- Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 3
- Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 4
- Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 5
- Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 6
- Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 7
- Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 8
- Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 9