Freaking Romance – Utterly Addictive Reading

Freaking Romance Recommendation

Normally I don’t get all that invested when reading manga but I think I’ve made an exception when Freaking Romance was concerned.

Usually it is quick, light reading, done largely to satisfy curiosity about a story that I probably started in a different format or because someone insisted I should check out a title. With the exception of boys love (where manga tends to be more readily available than novels), there aren’t all that many genres of manga that I actively seek out to read in that medium. However, I did during my most recent travels (over the Easter break) add the Webtoon app to my phone and well that opened up a whole range of readings.

Throw in a Saturday afternoon where I’d abandoned the show I was planning on binge watching 3 episodes of for another watch or drop post after episode one and I opened up the app to find something to kill an hour before I sat back down at my computer to potentially do some work. Or at the very least write some blog posts. Either way I had good plans to be productive.

Making the decision not to work and to read manga - Freaking Romance was awesome.
Look, avatar me, I did intend to do some work.

I have no idea how ‘Freaking Romance’ by Snailords came up in my read list. However, it was a completed story, so no waiting for chapter updates, and it was all unlocked, throw in the blurb that called it a supernatural romance and I decided there were worse ways to spend an afternoon.

Turns out, this was the best way to spend an afternoon.

Freaking Romance – highly recommended.

Very light spoilers ahead.

The story focuses on Zylith and Zelan who are sharing an apartment only they both kind of think at first the other one is haunting the apartment. Turns out they are both living in the apartment but not in the same universe. It actually works really well and the final ‘season’ of this story really looks at the aspect of different worlds but this isn’t a deep science fiction story.

It is, an absolute romance.

And because of Zylith’s warped personality it also has some horror elements strewn in at times which even the characters choose to offer commentary on because things escalate through the full range of emotions in a fairly compact period of time as we move from a touching and sweet moment to a moment that is super intense, to something that is a little hair-raising, to something that will just break your heart with sadness, before you end up smiling in delight at these adorable characters. The transitions are well handled and the emotional roller coaster is real.

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Not joking – ensure you have tissues handy.

Now there are a few triggering ideas amongst the soft and fluffy. All of the characters are a little bit broken and as we learn about their childhoods it becomes pretty clear why. One of my favourite moments came after I’d been crying while reading for nearly an hour and Zelan was having a bit of a moment alone when a random girl asks for his number. He kind of rants at her and so she writes down her therapist’s number and hands it to him before walking off.

So yes there are depictions of cruelty to animals, emotional manipulation, gender identity issues, um… death from idiocy, a love triangle actually done well and heart breakingly so, as well as the risk that you might break the device you are reading on when the two get so close to happily ever after only for it to be snatched from their fingers on more than one occasion.

Despite my comments about crying there’s a lot of laughs along the way as well. The early season where Zylith and Zelan are still learning about the ‘haunting’ and about each other is full of delightful moments where either he or she are pretending the other doesn’t exist. Their reactions when they finally admit that the other is real is pretty awesome and the two are really cute in their interactions. Also, love the cat. Mr Purrfect is adorable.

Also, some of the made-up TV and movie titles the characters reference along the way are pretty hilarious. My favourite is ‘Healer Who’ which was most definitely a Dr Who reference and had me grinning from ear to ear.

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Long story short – I loved it.

Seriously, this was one story that just needed to be consumed. I was so into this world and these characters that it was actually disorientating when I got to the end and realised there was no more.

I should probably comment on how pretty it was visually, but I think the better word would be immersive. It didn’t feel like I was reading a manga or webtoon, it felt like I was in the world with those characters. Even now I can close my eyes and perfectly visualise them. I don’t normally get this from manga. Well written novels do it where I’m just sucked in and lose hours without realising. A beautifully made movie or anime can. But I don’t think I’ve ever been this immersed in a manga before.

If you want to read a romance and you aren’t scared of having your heart broken a few times along the way, I’d fully recommend giving ‘Freaking Romance’ a go. Though given it came out in 2018 I’m probably the one a little behind on this one. Still, its awesome and I loved losing my Saturday to this story.


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Karandi James


Natsume’s Book of Friends Manga Review Volume 16

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Helping Our Friends

We’re back with the next volume of Natsume’s Book of Friends and I absolutely loved this one. Okay, I love all of them, but this one seemed extra-special. Natsume always feels like he is taking without giving anything back, which isn’t true but it is how he feels, and he’s incredibly grateful for the friendships he has create with Taki and Tanuma even while he tries to look out for them and keep them safe.

This volume focuses very much on these relationships with the first two chapters dealing with Taki and the second two dealing with Tanuma. Both stories are absolutely glorious and then we get a really nice extra story at the end in case you haven’t had enough Natsume (and let’s be honest, there’s never enough Natsume).

Chapter 64 and 65

Naturally Natsume gets involved and at first fears the yokai aims to harm Taki but soon realises the yokai wants to thank her but doesn’t really know why. Once again the different time spans of humans and yokai comes into play as the yokai realises the futility of a friendship with a human yet still feels drawn to Taki.

It has been awhile since Taki has featured as anything more than just someone in passing and it was great to get back to her story and her house. This time she has helped a yokai leave her house after it got confused by all of her grandfather’s spells and the yokai now wants something to do with her, but isn’t quite sure what.

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There’s also some other yokai in the house which leads to a really fun couple of chapters. it also makes Natsume think once again about his position and his relationship with Taki. While he tries not to keep too many secrets from her these days there are still some things he just can’t say and that keeps a small distance between them.

If you’ve been waiting for more of Taki this story will certainly give you exactly what you wanted.

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Natsume's Book of Friends, Vol. 16

Chapter 66 and 67

After the joy and breath of fresh air that was Taki’s visit, we move straight into a trip with Natsume and friends (Tanuma, Nishimura and Kitamoto). They are visiting a place Tanuma went to often as a child and they soon encounter a mystery with a yokai and a mask. Tanuma helps Natsume by keeping Nichimura and Kitamoto out of the way while Natsume tries to uncover the identity of the yokai.

Once again this story makes it clear that even though Tanuma doesn’t have the gift that Natsume has, a lot of his childhood experiences are quite similar. He saw weird things as a kid and was also sick a lot which meant he didn’t have a huge number of friends. It turns out, one of the ‘friends’ he had wasn’t all she appeared to be.

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Again this story focuses very much on the distance between Natsume and others and the reasons for the secrets and lies that build the walls around him. While Tanuma is the closest thing to a true friend Natsume has ever had, there’s still a barrier between them even if Tanuma has been given a lot more access to Natsume’s true self than most people.

Again, it is a really fun story and one that builds on what we know about these characters in the best possible way. There’s also some really lovely art in this one, particularly when Tanuma smiles at the end. It is so precious.

As usual, I can’t wait to get into the next volume of this manga. This series continues to build from strength to strength and while I love the stories that focus on the exorcists, this volume focusing on Natsume’s school friends was a real delight.


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Karandi James


Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 15 Review

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Striving Toward Impossible Goals

With most of my reviews of the various volumes of Natsume’s Book of Friends I’ve tried to find a common theme that links the stories or ideas. Unfortunately I came up short in volume 15. Not because the volume isn’t great, but because each story has its own distinct tone. That said, I had a great deal of fun reading this volume and not just because the first three chapters deal with Natori.

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Natsume's Book of Friends, Vol. 15
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Chapters 60 – 62

I remember how great this story was in the anime. It was the ‘oh no’ moment where Natori overheard the yokai talking to Natsume and finally learned a little bit about what Natsume was keeping from him. With Natori’s ambiguous character where we are never really sure if he’s a good guy or not, this has great emotional impact and leaves you on egg-shells waiting to find out what comes from this situation.

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However, that’s the end of the story. This one mostly focuses on Natsume helping Natori out with a job. A retire exorcist’s home is being attacked and it turns out that two of the servants have been trapped outside the house and have become enraged believing their master shut them out. It is another reminder that human and yokai relationships won’t last forever but for now Natsume is just trying to help the best he can.

There’s some great moments between Natsume and Natori, some darker moments where Natsume looks be to in danger, and as usual a calm that comes at the end. It is a nicely written story and I loved how they spread it over three chapters giving it the time it needed to develop so that the ending really hit home.

Visually, these chapters seem a little less impressive than previous ones. Even Natori doesn’t bring his usual sparkle to the scenes. However, the story more than makes up for it and so it was great to read.

Chapter 63

We move on to a stand alone story about a small yokai who wants to join a parade but isn’t strong enough. This one is interesting in that it is the yokai who learns from the experience rather than Natsume, though it seems like at first the yokai might betray Natsume and hand him over as a tribute even though Natsume has been helping him. Nyanko-Sensei does nothing as he expects Natsume to learn from the experience, but instead the yokai has a change of heart.

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Given we’re so often told that yokai don’t change this was a really cute story and an interesting one as we see immediately how Natsume’s interactions with the yokai have changed him. It would have been nice for Natsume to take something from this encounter as well, but there was enough going on here.

Special Episode: Touko and Shigeru

Now despite this being an ‘extra’ this story was my favourite of the lot in this volume. I also loved this story when we saw it in the anime. The Fujiwara’s took Natsume in but we so seldom get a full story focused on them. The rare ones we do see are always mine-fields of rich emotions and just full of love and healing energy and to be honest when I read this I really needed it at the time.

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It doesn’t hurt that this is one of the prettiest stories in the volume with the passing of time depicted beautifully through various scenes looking at the sky. Touko and Natsume’s relationship is slightly redefined by the end of the chapter and it just makes you realise once again how much love and warmth the Fujiwara’s have enveloped Natsume in.

Absolutely lovely read and I fully recommend reading this volume.

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Natsume's Book of Friends, Vol. 15
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Karandi James


Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 14

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What is precious to you?

Another volume of Natsume and another delightful read. This volume focuses very much on losing things which are precious to you, or trying to protect them, and the result is a lovely and warm read as we see once again how Natsume has to balance his life in dealing with yokai who mistake him for Reiko, whether he helps yokai, or defending his very human world from unwanted yokai intrusion.

Chapter 55

The first story starts off more or less as many stories do in Natsume. He’s more or less minding his own business and yet is attacked by a pair of yokai who steal his voice to prevent them from calling their names or for help. He manages to escape from them but is picked up by another yokai who mistakes him for Reiko and unfortunately he can’t explain the situation.

There’s something very sad about this story as we see another yokai who has patiently waited for Reiko to return only she never will. It isn’t the first time we’ve been in this situation or that Natsume has felt sorry for a yokai for this reason, but as usual, the emotional impact hits hone. Not to mention Nyanko once again shows that he isn’t just treating Natsume like a snack anymore and comes to collect him.

All and all, it is a nice lead in to the volume and a fun story to read even if it isn’t particularly stand-out from the series (it is very hard to be stand-out when the stories are so consistently good).

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Chapter 56

Natsume’s Book of Friends then brings us another standard set-up but makes it feel fresh through seeing how Natsume has changed in his approach to dealing with yokai. In this story a young looking girl yokai, she’s actually pretty old, has lost her towel and he returns it to her. However, it turns out the towel belongs to a human and she wants to return it. So begins Natsume’s efforts to reconnect two people whose times are very different.

The difference between a yokai life and a human life has also been a recurring theme in Natsume, and this story really makes it hit home that while for a yokai only a little time had past almost an entire human life had gone by. It makes you wonder how it will be for Natsume one day or for the yokai he’s befriended as sooner or later the reality of their lives is going to intrude.

This story is adorable and it was equally adorable in the anime.

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Natsume's Book of Friends, Vol. 14

Chapters 57 – 59

Then we get to the pointy end of the book where we see Natsume face off against a yokai in a pot who declares that if he doesn’t return what was stolen she’ll steal what is most precious to him. Such a threat back at the beginning of this series wouldn’t have had anywhere near the weight given Natsume’s lack of attachment to people or places. Now however that thought is terrifying to him even though it would be difficult to decide exactly what that most precious thing might be. Certainly difficult for a yokai to determine what it would be and it would have been interesting to see what was stolen but this time we just have to imagine it.

With the help of Nyanko and other yokai he meets along the way, Natsume eventually pieces together the story of Reiko and her encounter with the yokai. Once again we see how Reiko was shunned for most of her life and we can see that while Reiko and Natsume are similar, there are distinct differences and those largely exist because of the connections and friendships Natsume has managed to create and holds onto.

While not the strongest of stories overall, it is very affective and is a nice way to complete this volume.

Only, there is also a special story about the mid-level yokai finding some medicine for Natsume when he is sick. Even they know their attachment to such a frail human is foolish and can only end in tragedy and yet they cannot sever the ties between themselves and Natsume at this time. It is nice to see Natsume isn’t the only one aware of the strings that tie all these characters together at this point. Not to mention, this story is really pretty to read.

Anyway, as usual, I’m loving these books and eagerly awaiting the opportunity to review the next one.


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Karandi James


Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 13 Review

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It has been awhile since I’ve written a Natsume review and I’ve now got quite the stack of books to catch up on as I’m now at volume 17 and hungry for more. That said, I absolutely loved volume 13 (big surprise).

I will admit, my most recent trip to Japan was great as I picked up quite a bit of Natsume merchandise including a Nyanko pillow, a small Little Fox plush, a figure of Natori, and the first five volumes of the manga in Japanese because if I ever get some quiet time I’m going to work on my translation skills again and see if I can get through them. So at the moment, I am very much surrounding myself with Natsume and I cannot get enough.

However, for now I’ll get into reviewing volume 13 which I was really excited about because it brings Natsume face to face with Matoba again.

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Chapters 52 – 54: Behind the Chains

This is a story I particularly loved in the anime as it brings Matoba calling on Natsume and asking him for a favour. Only in true Matoba fashion it isn’t so much asking as demanding and when that doesn’t work, threatening. Natori is aware Matoba has approached Natsume and is working away in the background, and Nyanko is as usual being sassy when Matoba is present but working hard to protect Natsume despite the exorcist charms making him somewhat weaker than normal.

There’s a lot to love about this story as it brings great characters together, provides more insight into the world of exorcists as well as the different ways the Matoba go about it compared to someone like Natori, and it also shows us Natsume’s incredible natural talents. The search for the yokai possessing exorcists works wells enough to hold all of this together but that particular issue is so much less interesting than the tension that exists every time Natsume and Matoba are anywhere near each other.

The art is nicely done as usual with some excellent chapter introductions but scenes of the guests in the Matoba house are a little messy in terms of details and the faces of background characters aren’t particularly amazing. It is a minor complaint in amongst a great story but worth noting.

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Still, this story didn’t disappoint and the volume wasn’t done.

Specials: Nishimura and Natsume, Kitamoto and Natsume

After the sensational exorcist focused story for the majority of the volume, the second part goes firmly into the slice of life aspects of Natsume and what this volume shows is that there is great balance in the story between these more human moments that hit the emotions hard, and those tense and exciting moments where the supernatural takes centre stage.

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These are two characters that, while they have a presence in the anime it hasn’t been very prominent. These two stories are really a great chance to see how these two very normal and ordinary school friends came to be friends with and understand, to a point, Natsume and accepted him for who he was. They are touching and heartwarming stories and just the perfect thing to read to leave you with a smile.

I probably don’t need to reiterate, but this series is so fantastic to read. I’ll cover something else next week but then I’ll be back with my next Natsume review.


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Karandi James


Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 12 Manga Review

Natsume's Book of Friends Volume 12 Cover

Relying on and Reaching Out To Others

We all know Natsume is a bit cut off emotionally. Volume 12 does an excellent job of showcasing the relationships he’s forged as well as pushing him to realise he cannot do everything alone and nor does he really want to. It is a great collection of stories and with Natori showing up for the final three chapters I was pretty thrilled with this volume.

Chapter 47 Answer Instead

This is perhaps the weakest story in the volume, though it is still pretty interesting. A yokai who mimics human voices asks Natsume for his help in finding another yokai who can restore paper so that he can read a note left by a human many years ago. As usual, Natsume gets very caught up in helping the yokai but it ends up being a pretty sad story.

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Or maybe bittersweet would be the better way to phrase it.

The yokai lost his chance because he feared the outcome of making a real connection with the human girl and that sets the scene for the remaining stories in the volume.

Chapter 48 Name of the Mysterious One

It wouldn’t be a Natsume story about connecting with others without dealing with Reiko’s life. I really liked this story when I saw it in the anime and here it was just as fun to read and just as heart warming.

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Natsume encounters an elderly lady who turns out to be a yokai, or maybe a former god, it is a little unclear. Whichever way, the woman asks for Natsume’s help in finding a powerful yokai to return a mirror to. As more of the story comes out, Natsume realises that the one the woman is looking for is Reiko.

Once again we see and hear about the lonely life Reiko had as she was unable to connect with either yokai or humans. And once again, we see how far Natsume has come in separating himself from that path.

Chapter 49 – 51 Beyond the Glass

This story involves both Tanuma and Natori and it is truly fantastic. Both of these characters know about Natsume being able to see yokai but Tanuma can’t see them himself or help much whereas Natori believes he knows better than Natsume when it comes to dealing with yokai. It makes for an interesting encounter.

Natsume unfortunately draws the attention of two yokai who imprison him in a bottle. As Tanuma tries to help him, he gets injured and the bottle is stolen by the yokai. Tanuma however isn’t going to leave it at that and tries to rescue Natsume, though fortunately Natori is also there to help of things might have gotten ugly.

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The danger Natsume poses to his friends is all too clear here and yet without Tanuma, Natsume would not have made it through this encounter.

The contrast between each character, Natori, Tanuma and Natsume, is really nicely explored in this story and following on from the story about Reiko it really helps to distinguish how each of these characters are choosing to live and grow and the connections they have or sever.

I love reading these stories because they always leave me thinking, with a quiet smile, and just wanting to read more. Volume 12 is no exception and is a great, relaxing read.

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If you’re interested in reading Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 12 it is available on the Book Depository.


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Karandi James


Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 11 Manga Review

Natsume's Book of Friends Volume 11 Cover

It is always great when a story remains consistently this great and volume 11 of Natsume’s Book of Friends maintains everything that has been good about the series so far. While we move away from the exorcists to focus more on Natsume’s growing group of human friends and to face Natsume’s past, this volume continues to be a compelling read and fleshes out Natsume’s character and that of his friends Taki and Tanuma.

Chatpers 42 and 43: Sealed

The first story deals with Tanuma and Natsume arriving at Taki’s home during a rain shower. After some pleasantries they end up assisting her in cleaning out a store room and in the process Natsume accidentally breaks a seal on a yokai that Taki’s grandfather accidentally imprisoned. It isn’t exactly looking for a pleasant conversation.

Natsume's Book of Friends Volume 11

This was great because it does put the three of these human characters together in a way that hasn’t really been done previously. Natsume is friends with Tanuma and friends with Taki, but previously the two of them have had little interaction. As the two characters who know the most about Natsume it is great to see them together here and trying to help Natsume as he is dealing with the yokai.

Natsume's Book of Friends Volume 11

We also learn more about Taki’s grandfather and the way the yokai responded to him. While he couldn’t see yokai as Natsume can, he was very much obsessed with them and gather quite a crowd around him during his life. These yokai ultimately decide to help out in this story and that saves the day. Taki thanking them was an adorable moment even though she also can’t see them without the aid of the circle and generally speaking they aren’t willing to step in it.

Chapters 44 – 46: Long Way Home

Any of the stories that give us more insight into Natsume’s lonely childhood are really fantastic and this story gives us a double hit. Firstly we see another family he stayed with previously and how well that went… And we also see Natsume dealing with the sale of his family home and his final goodbye to it. Throw in a yokai that tormented him as a child and you have a really great story.

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What really sells this is how much readers have come to love Natsume over the previous en volumes. If this story had come in earlier, it may not have had the impact it does here. But with Natsume where he is on his character journey, this seemed like the perfect moment for some reflection and facing the past and it was handled beautifully.

Nyanko-Sensei is of course along for the ride and so we get a little more of the relationship between Nyanko and Natsume, but the focus is unmistakably on Natsume’s growth.

All and all, volume 11 did not disappoint and I am read to sink my teeth into volume 12.

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Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 9 Manga Review

Natsume's Book of Friends Volume 9 Cover Art

Fur balls and exorcists, Volume 9 of Natsume’s Book of Friends is a great read.

It kind of took away some of the fun of finding a theme for this volume when it is explained at the end of the book that Yuki Midorikawa was focusing on herds and groups. The two stories in the volume both clearly explore this idea and it makes for some interesting speculation about the structure of the yokai world and for how exorcists operate.

In case I haven’t mentioned it recently, the cover art on these volumes is gorgeous (as are the chapter title pages) and it just gets better each volume. Chapter 35 in particular featuring Matoba is really nicely done this time around and while I couldn’t find a nice full picture of it, here’s a bit of a look.

Natsume's Book of Friends Matoba
Can we get a spin-off that just follows Matoba please?

Chapters 32 and 33: Little One

This two part story starts as normal for Natsume with him rushing in to rescue what he thinks is a kitten (and who else loves Natsume for wanting to save a kitten) and he ends up getting involved with a fur ball of a yokai. Things would be fine except that another yokai accuses Natsume of stealing a ring and it turns out the ring ended up caught in the fur ball’s hair and so complications follow.

Natsume's Book of Friends Volume 9 Fur Ball

This story didn’t have all that much impact in the anime. It worked well enough but seemed just another monster of the week story. Reading it I got far more of a sense that this story is about Natsume’s growing connection with the yokai world as his ‘friends’ help him track down the fur ball and his group in order to retrieve the ring. It’s an idea that will be repeated in the second story of this volume. Natsume is getting really drawn into the yokai world to the point where he barely even hesitates now to get involved whereas earlier he was wary of yokai or getting too caught up in their actions.

I ended up really enjoying reading this, far more than I enjoyed watching it in the anime. Really great fun.

Chapters 34 – 36: The Eastern Forest

Despite Natsume’s growing attachment to the yokai world he’s still pretty determined to keep his human friends out of it. This becomes much harder when a group of masked yokai ambush him at school. Needless to say, that doesn’t exactly set the tone for a great relationship between Natsume and the newly introduced yokai who kidnap him and demand he hand over the book of friends.

What follows is an interesting story that I absolutely loved in the anime and really enjoyed seeing in the manga form as we get our clearest look at Matoba yet as he hunts the yokai in the Eastern Forest and naturally Natsume gets caught up in it.

Natsume's Book of Friends Volume 9

There’s a really powerful scene where Matoba is talking to Natsume about his family and I absolutely love how this plays out here. It comes right at the end of one chapter so of course makes you just get straight into the next one. It is very rare that someone other than yokai talk to Natsume about Reiko and I’m really very curious to find out if Matoba knows more than what he says here. Hopefully we’ll find out more in future volumes but this was a great reading experience.

I really can’t recommend this series enough and I’ll be getting onto reviewing the next book very soon.

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Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 8 Manga Review

Natsume's Book of Friends Volume 8 Manga Cover

Encounters with friends, yokai, and the past all fill these gorgeous pages in volume 8 of Natsume’s Book of Friends.

As I’ve reviewed each volume I’ve tried to think of an appropriate theme to bring the stories together. In most cases it seemed fairly obvious but I will admit it took a second reading of this volume before it came to me. That isn’t actually a problem given each story is pretty solid entirely on its own, but it just makes the volume as a whole more cohesive if I find the thematic thread that draws each story together.

In this case I came to the conclusion that fear was the common factor across all the stories. However in typical Natsume fashion fear is turned around through friendship and connections and once again we have a truly magnificent volume on our hands. Natsume is really the story that just keeps on giving.

Chapter 27 – Natsume Participates in the Culture Festival

Here we have a charming story about Natsume involving himself in what is one of the more normal Japanese school events (at least if anime is anything to go by). However, while Natsume is longing to spend some normal time with Kitamoto and Nishimura, both of whom have had an active role in helping Natsume to adjust and to open himself up at school and in the community, a yokai rock is determined to get in Natsume’s way.

Natsume Yuujinchou Volume 8 Chapter 27

In what becomes another bit of a theme for this volume this story also features Nyanko Sensei in a more heroic role and not being coerced to help but genuinely looking out for Natsume’s well being. When we throw in Taki and Tanuma also coming to Natsume’s rescue at one point, this story really brings us a clear picture of the full life Natsume has built for himself since being taken in by the Fujiwaras.

However, with all these connections comes the fear of losing them and while Natsume still has that fear, he isn’t willing to let go of the friends he’s found.

It is a fantastic opening story for the volume and one I enjoyed reading more than I enjoyed the episode in the anime.

Chapters 28 and 29 – Reflections

This one is an amazing story that I loved in the anime. Tanuma gets a solid role in this story and ultimately ends up possessed by a yokai that wants its mirror back and it is up to Natsume to locate all the pieces. There’s a bit more direct action and even a little violence in this story as we have a yokai with a hammer also determined to get the mirror and he’ll break whatever or whoever he has to in order to get it.

Natsume Yuujinchou Chapter 28

However, while there’s more action than normal, the main story focus really is on both Tanuma and Natsume and their friendship. Tanuma is worried about Natsume and about Natsume being on his own whereas Natsume desperately doesn’t want to drag Tanuma into the world he sees because he fears for his safety. They are both well-meaning and both incredibly awkward but the beauty of this story is Tanuma does get a small glimpse of the world Natsume sees and the two do get closer to an understanding.

I find it interesting that the mirror story is more or less resolved off screen as the attention is very firmly on the characters and while Nyanko Sensei turns up at the end to resolve the story-line it really feels like the side-plot compared to the character journey unfolding. It’s a beautiful story and I love these two characters so much and wanted to give them both a hug.

Chapters 30 and 31 – A Place To Belong

There is a special episode after this one, but this is essentially the last story of the volume and while I thought ‘Reflections’ was great, this one is a personal favourite from the anime. We find out how Natsume came to be with the Fujiwara’s and see a fairly traumatic incident from his past involving a yokai. With that yokai returned and out for revenge against Natsume potentially endangering his new family, every fear Natsume has ever had in his dealings with the yokai comes to the surface.

Natsume Yuujinchou Chapter 30

But like the previous story, there’s a touching character story here. We see how far Natsume has come from the frightened child he was and we also see the deep bond between Nyanko Sensei and Natsume. Nyanko Sensei may play down his feelings for Natsume, but this story, more than any other in the volume, makes it clear where Nyanko stands.

This is also one of the rare occasions I’ve come across where the yokai is depicted as a monster in the dark (previously the yokai chasing Taki and the one in the cave with Matoba are about the only other two that have been framed so negatively from the beginning – at least as far as I can remember). Even the hammer yokai from chapters 28 and 29 gets more lit scenes than this one. It is a stark reminder that Natsume faces real danger and that those he loves are also at risk. Still, he’s strong enough now emotionally not to run from that and while he still worries for those around him he isn’t willing to give up the family he has found.

A very solid Natsume story and overall volume 8 was just a fantastic read.

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If you’re interested in reading Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 8 it is available on the Book Depository.

Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 7 Review – Matoba Makes the Scene

Natsume's Book of Friends Volume 7 Manga Cover

No surprise that I got excited when I saw the cover of this volume. Natori has been hanging around for awhile but in volume 7 we finally get introduced to Matoba. And what an introduction. With four chapters worth of story, this is certainly an entrance worth paying attention to.

There’s also another special episode which features the yokai and Natsume playing a game of tag and then another separate story at the end, but I’m not going to review it because this is definitely all about Matoba.

Chapters 23 – 26

One odd thing that I noticed with this volume is that the back of the book that does a quick chapter summary actually only lists this story as chapters 23 – 25 but then there are definitely four chapter markers in the story (and these are some of the most beautiful the series has given us so far). It isn’t really a problem, it is just a bit odd as I’m wondering where chapter 26 disappeared to when they went to write the summary.

So other than pretty chapter cover pages, what do these chapters brings us?

Well, I finally understand why Irina loves Matoba so much. While I found him an intriguing character in the anime, his presence in these chapters of the manga is amazing. He’s a force of nature and a blast of darkness into Natsume’s life. Where most of the characters we’ve encountered have been at their core nice people or at least frequenting that grey area in between right and wrong, Matoba is an incredibly rational and cold character and he does not like yokai or view them as anything more than tools.

Given the story is framed entirely from Natsume’s perspective and Matoba’s view is so at odds with his, it puts these two against each other. It also re-positions Natori as the middle ground and so it is vital that Natori is present in this story. Natori is the exorcist we are most familiar with and up until has been the one we’ve been a little wary of even though he has helped Natsume in the past. Particularly after volume 6 where Natori and Natsume go more or less head-to-head, these chapters really help to bring Natori back into the kind of an ally point of view particularly when contrasted with Matoba’s relentless pursuit of power.

Even in the anime, Matoba’s stories were always some of the darkest and most memorable, and reading it is no exception. If anything, this story, carried over four chapters, has far more impact here than it did played out over two episodes. There’s more time to linger on particular moments and more time to think about just how dangerous the situation is that Natsume now finds himself. It is comparable to when we met Taki and Natsume was kidnapped by a yokai, only things get a great deal more serious for longer here.

Needless to say, I loved this volume and reading this story. These chapters are the best I have read so far and I really look forward to whenever Matoba appears next. If it like the anime his appearances will be few and far between and that is a shame because he really heightened my emotional response to this story and made me feel a real sense of unease and danger.

I also like that Natsume is forced to deal with his own views on yokai whenever he is confronted by other exorcists. The drama that it creates is always good fun and I feel we see Natsume at his best when put in these situations.

Looking forward to more from Natsume and I’m really looking forward to getting beyond what I’ve watched. Because if the stories afterwards are anything like this one was then it will be an absolute delight to read.

Affiliate Link:
If you’re interested in reading Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 7 it is available on the Book Depository.