The bliss of reading Natsume continues in volume 3. While I’m still encountering stories that I’m familiar with from the anime, seeing them play out in this slightly different form remains a really fantastic experience.
If I was looking for an overall idea in this volume it would be one of meetings and partings. A lot of the characters and events in this volume really look at the transient nature of meetings and the people who come and go from our lives. It gives the book a vaguely melancholy feel even as there is plenty in here to celebrate.
Again I’m going to look at this volume story by story because each one has a slightly different feel about it even as they work together to continue to craft the characters and world I came to love through the Natsume anime.
Chapter Nine: Sensei, How Do You Like Being Black?
This story is one I really enjoy watching in the anime and the manga doesn’t disappoint. This chapter introduces another yokai trapped in a cat form who steals the Book of Friends from Natsume and leads Natsume and Nyanko Sensei on a chase into the forest where they encounter Benio and a pack of yokai planning to attack some humans.
Here we start to get a sense of the true distance between humans and yokai as various yokai reflect on the short and fleeting lives of humans including Nyanko Sensei choosing once again to stay by Natsume’s side, at least for this passing moment.
There’s a lot of characters packed into this story but the ones who are important feel like they are given enough time to leave their impression. Much like with the anime I’m left feeling a little wistful that these characters move on so quickly but that’s kind of the point.
The returning of the yokai’s name is suitably beautifully illustrated and it remains one of my favourite scenes ever (both in the anime and here in the manga). Really enjoyable read and glad I had the chance to read this story.
Chapter Ten: Glowing in the Dark
Chapter ten is perhaps one of those rare cases where watching the anime first has kind of spoiled this story for me. As beautifully told as it is here, I just remember how lovely this looked in anime form and how much I enjoyed the music that went with the episode and unfortunately reading it couldn’t give me that kind of experience. That isn’t to say this chapter isn’t well done, because it is still lovely, but this is one where I think I’d prefer to watch the anime episode.
That said, the chapter title page is gorgeous. Just look at that.
Still looking at this idea of transience and passing encounters, Natsume encounters a human sitting by a pond looking for fire-flies and learns that the man could at one point see a yokai. However, as he aged, he lost his sight and the yokai who had formed quite an attachment to him was left alone.
There is a really beautiful story here about the characters moving on and making their choices but as with most stories, it comes back to Natsume at the end. That’s one thing I love about this series is that whatever encounter Natsume has he uses it as an opportunity to learn. In this case, we see him reaffirm his connection to Nyanko-Sensei even though they both know that perhaps even their partnership is just a point in time.
One minor criticism of this chapter is that there are a lot of close ups on faces and eyes and they aren’t always quite right particularly with Natsume. While the overall look of the chapter is quite lovely, these small details are noticed in this chapter and they don’t help in drawing the reader into this story. Fortunately there’s plenty going right for this chapter so it is overall a great read.
Chapter Eleven: The Meeting of Exorcists
We’ve already met Natori and now he’s becoming quite the reoccurring character as he helps Natsume and then invites him to a meeting. However, as with every case we see Natori, there’s a constant wonder about what his real motives are in getting close to Natsume. In this instance however, Natsume is very curious about meeting humans with the same ability to see that he has and he’s also drawn because of a yokai that Natori is hunting.
It is amazing how Natori can come off as incredibly shady and yet as soon as we meet the other exorcists he starts to actually look like a really good guy. The nuances in these characters and their level of hate/disdain for yokai is really well handled as is the introduction into the world of exorcists. The reader, like Natsume, is new to this environment, and here we are plunged into the midst of a meeting where there’s also a yokai on the loose that needs to be captured.
We are also introduced to the Matoba clan here through Nanase. She’s an interesting character in her own right and has a connection with Reiko in the past. She’s also quite interested in Natsume when she hears he’s Reiko’s grandson. However, the greater thrill in meeting Nanase is in knowing we’re getting closer to Matoba himself being introduced and that’s something I’m really looking forward to reading.
This story plays out well and is a little more action focused than some stories. However, what I love about this one is that Natsume went to the meeting looking for people like him and what he realised is that just being able to see didn’t necessarily make them friends or allow them to understand each other. It’s a big lesson for Natsume and one that seems to hurt him a little to realise and yet he accepts it and moves on his own path.
Chapter Twelve: A Chick Hatches
I did not think there was anyway for this story to be cuter than it is in the anime but here it is in manga form and I’m totally hooked on how cute they make Tama. But seriously, he was pretty adorable in the anime.
This one is an adorable and heartbreaking story as we see Natsume and Nyanko-Sensei raising an egg that hatches into Tama. However, we all know that this story is going to end with heartbreak because birds leave the nest. That’s what they do. And Tama is growing very fast and is also being hunted by another yokai.
Seeing Natsume and Nyanko trying to raise Tama and defend him is heartwarming and sweet. Which makes the ending even more bittersweet but so affective. While all the stories have elements of characters meeting, touching on another’s life and moving on, this chapter is this idea played out explicitly.
And that’s actually a good place to end this write up. Needless to say, I’m still absolutely loving Natsume’s Book of Friends in manga form and I’m very much looking forward to reading and reviewing the next volume.
If you’re interested in reading Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 3 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