The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Episode 2 With Irina and Karandi: We’re Making New Friends

The Morose Mononokean Post Title

The Morose Mononokean is back for its second episode and that means Irina and I are back to discuss what’s new for Abeno and Hanae as we pick up from that surprise first episode cliffhanger.

I was looking forward to this episode. Not so much because the cliffhanger had me on the edge of my seat but I find the Morose Mononokean universe comfy and cozy. It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon as the outside world is grey, windy and freezing!

I agree, definitely a great way to spend some time (morning for me but given it’s already in the high thirties and just getting hotter, I’m not leaving the air conditioning today).

The Morose Mononokean - Hanae

I wasn’t really surprised to learn that Hanae wasn’t really in danger (while it was possible it didn’t seem likely this early on). Then again, given how season one dealt with its cliffhangers I wasn’t really surprised this one diffused pretty quickly. What I did like was that even though the threat more or less sorted itself out, we transitioned very quickly into seeing Hanae helping find the gold-shiny thing and this linked back to his previous efforts at finding a ring. Hanae has some odd quirks and eventually they are going to have to explain why a seemingly normal human can pull this kind of thing off.

The Morose Mononokean - Hanae finding the ring

The one thing I didn’t like was that the episode felt the need to flash back to Hanae finding the ring. Realistically most people watching this will have seen the first season and that was a moment that stood out for Hanae because it was particularly strange. Then again, how did you feel about it, Irina?

Actually, I appreciated it. I had quite liked that episode in the first season but I probably wouldn’t have recalled it if it weren’t for the flash back. Since it was just a short scene, I really didn’t find it dragged down the narrative at all.

What struck me most was the disconnect between the beast and it’s voice. I really didn’t match it’s looks and for some reason I loved it. Just hearing that sightly whiny bored tone coming out of a regal liger made me happy. I could no longer take him seriously but that’s ok.

The Morose Mononokean Episode 2 Hanae and Beast

I have to agree about the voice. At first I was wondering who was talking and then I realised it was the beast.

Of course, regardless of what we end up learning about Hanae he is a complete goof. The Goro Express moment is an excellent example of Hanae at his silliest though it does get him where he needs to go. I was actually surprised when the whole delivery seemed pretty straight forward. I kind of expected more from the actual handover of the document.

I don’t know if you’ve had dogs growing up. To be honest I was an adult when I got my first dog but Buddy is pretty big and I’m pretty small so he does come up roughly to my waist. If I could ride him I would never walk again. I have Neverending Story envy.

The Morose Mononokean Episode 2 Hanae riding the beast

Yes the hand off was very easy….suspiciously easy…. The again, he is on the authority of the legislator and that may carry some weight.

Maybe. The Legislator continues to be a great character in the show. It is so hard to know how seriously we should be taking him and whether or not things work out for him by coincidence or really careful planning and manipulation. His interactions with Abeno are great because Abeno is usually such a hard character to read because he’s either stoic or annoyed (usually at Hanae). When the Legislator is playing with him though we see a somewhat wider range of responses.

I think we discover more about Abeno and Rippou when they’re not together. We don’t quite know the end game here. A lot of Yokai seem antagonistic to humans which is why Hanae has to be so careful so I wonder where the Legislator actually stands. Asking a question like *if you could save only one, would it be Yokai or Human? Is super ominous. Does he think it may come to that?

The Morose Mononokean Episode 2 Rippou (The Legislator)

The again, they are framing the story to make him appear sympathetic for the most part.

That question is a little bit leading only I have no idea where it is going.

I wasn’t overly sold on the Hanae getting sick at the end as a final complication for the episode though. It did give Abeno an excuse to leave to fetch something to fix him which allowed the conversation between the two yokai, but it just felt really contrived to me.

The Morose Mononokean Episode 2 Abeno looking at Hanae

I actually thought he was faking it for a while. I also wondered why Abeno felt it necessary to put on a tie to run to the convenience store. The whole scene was a bit unbalanced but I did enjoy the party leading up to it.

I always loved the running gag of Shizuku being jealous of Hanae because Koura wants to use his body parts for medicine. It’s so delightfully weird.

Delightfully weird is an excellent description.

Then we get that final moment with the other yokai discussing the new employee. I wonder if Hanae’s life is about to get more interesting?

The Morose Mononokean Episode 2 - yokai

I bet it is. That final yokai we saw only in silhouette was considerably more threatening than what we usually get from this show. They might be ramping up the stakes a bit and I’m here for it.

The final thing I want to raise was that Fuzzy was absolutely adorable this episode. Much like Platelet sightings during Cells at Work, I could happily watch this show just for Fuzzy moments. Is there anything else you want to look at?

This episode was clearly a setup for the future events of the season. I don’t have much to say about it out of context like this. I did however get a few random thoughts while watching:

  • Although Yahiko isn’t the cutest little fox yokai I’ve seen, he’s still pretty darn cute.
  • “Hindsight” isn’t really that complicated a word
  • Where did the tail ring go when the beast transformed into a humanoid form? Just curious….
The Morose Mononokean - Beast in human form

That’s all I have!

Although this wasn’t the most eventful episode it still served the story well. I am looking forward to next week as I was to this. I also realized that it was over before I knew it which is always a good sign.

All three of your random points make perfect sense, particularly the one about the tail ring. I was definitely wondering where that went.

I’m with you in that I’m definitely looking forward to next week with this anime.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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Fukigen na Mononokean Tsuzuki (Anime) Intro Theme
Fukigen na Mononokean Tsuzuki (Anime) Intro Theme


The Morose Mononokean Season 2 Episode 1 Review With Karandi and Irina

The Morose Mononokean Post Title

The Morose Mononokean is back and Irina and I have decided to come together to cover this season. Check out our first post over on Irina’s blog: The Morose Mononokean Season Episode 1 Review. Hope you love it!

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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The Morose Mononokean Tsuzuki Ballpoint Pen Moja

Anniversary Special Post – Passion with Irina

Starting again with a massive thanks to Irina for coming along to the anniversary. Of course, I guess the party couldn’t get started until she arrived, after all, she’s shouting the drinks. For the few of you who don’t know, Irina is the writer behind I Drink and Watch Anime which she describes as drinking games disguised as anime reviews, but really, her blog is so much more. Irina is one of the many fantastic people I have met because of my blog and discussing anime with her is an absolute joy. Our collaborations on Black Butler and Natsume Yuujinchou were amazing fun to write and I look forward to working with her again in the future.


In nowhere near 100 words, plus we’re going to get off topic as Irina decides to make me blush, again:

Passion is most probably one of the most attractive qualities one can display. When I was younger they tried to fool me into thinking caring wasn’t “cool”. That you should try to be above it all, that the neutral and dispassionate argument carried more weight, but they are wrong.

I have always been drawn to passion like a moth to a flame, so I am well aware of it’s duplicitous nature. Having the courage to put your passion on display in a post will always yield something special. Something beautiful and worthy of your time – I very much agree with Karandi on this. It’s why I love anime where I can tell the subject meant something personal to the author beyond a tale to tell.

But sadly, the flip side is that an excess of passion can blind us to the bigger picture. Make us unable to appreciate alternate view. To me, someone who is truly passionate about an issue, subject, point of view…will have enough faith in it to let it stand up to criticism. If you can defend a thesis with both passion and reason – then you’ve truly figured it out.

Ok, so Karandi asked us to do a series of posts for her anniversary week. There were specific rules. Write a hundred words – I’m at about 200 now – make it about one of the 6 specific subjects, stick to a format.

I’m bad at things guys.

I read all the posts that were submitted last year, and they were all about how fantastic 100 Word Anime is. I wasn’t around then so I missed my chance but I’m not going to now. I got something to say.

Of course, I mention Karandi in my posts often, but I’ve never really taken the time to talk about her or 100 Word Anime as I have other blogs. At first, I was simply intimidated and awed. I mean everyone already knew her and was impressed, what more could I really bring to the conversation? I have come to realize that just because something is a plain and obvious fact, doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate it.

Most of the posts from last year, and really just the general consensus in the community, is that Karandi’s hard work and discipline are unparalleled. The fawning odes to her work ethic, the general whispers of How is it even possible for a person to do all that (I still think there’s an army of clones involved), the raw drive I see in everyone to try to be worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence (let’s face it, we all gave up on actually competing a long time ago)…All of it is simply undeniable. Every one of those compliments has been earned and paid for with hard work and dedication.

But you know what we don’t hear as often? Karandi is kind. She has done more to encourage new bloggers and bring the community together than anyone I know but she does it quietly, without ever drawing the spotlight to herself.

Every single week she collects posts form all sorts of bloggers and features them like it’s no big deal. As if it doesn’t take hours of work. Every day she reads through an unbelievable amount of posts. And when she comments – it’s always substantive. Not a simple good work or rehash of what you said in your post but an actual conversation, a relevant question, an opposing viewpoint always shared in a positive matter. This to me is encouraging above all else.

There’s a reason I went to Karandi when I wanted to get the blogwarming project off the ground. She’s proven that she deserves the respect and quite frankly authority she has in this community but more than that, I simply know that she would want to help. That she has always worked to bring us together and to make a community she clearly loves, one that we will love as well.

Since I’m reaping the benefits of that, I want to take this opportunity to thank you K. Here’s to another 2 years and then many more after.

When I first read this in my email, there may have been a few tears (happy tears, but tears nonetheless). Army of clones notwithstanding (apparently I’m also possibly an AI, depends who you talk to I guess), someone saying that about my blog was an incredibly touching moment. I don’t think any of us start our blogs because we want people to tell us we’re great and I know that I started mine expecting no one to read it and was mostly just hoping to maybe get a conversation or two around anime going, but just because that wasn’t the intent when starting the blog doesn’t mean it isn’t incredibly appreciated when someone does offer you a moment of thanks.

So Irina, you made me blush and cry. But thank-you so much for those words. They mean the world to me.

And, if you aren’t already one of Irina’s avid readers, be sure to check out her blog. Now she didn’t actually provide me a link to share so I’ve picked two of her posts to link to:

Right, tomorrow we have Remy discussing scheduling and I use my feature to set some new blogging goals for the third year. Over the weekend we’ll have one more guest post from Arthifis on, well, everything, before I’ll conclude the anniversary week with a bang (hopefully).

Thanks for reading.

Karandi James


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Natsume Supporter Battle – Final Thoughts

Irina (I Drink and Watch Anime) and I had a fantastic time on the series of posts where we put the support cast of Natsume to the test (although mostly we tested our own ability to make hard choices and eliminate characters from the contest).

If you missed any of these posts, check out my feature from the end of that week where I link to all of the posts in the series.

However, it is time to say goodbye to this particular project and with that I mean it is time to announce the reader’s pick for best supporting character of Natsume.

Now I know a lot of our readers couldn’t vote because they haven’t watched Natsume Yuujinchou yet (what are you waiting for), or they hadn’t watched through to the later seasons. However, we do have a clear winner from the readers and while it isn’t a character that either Irina or I chose, I don’t think either one of us would be that unhappy with who won.


And there we go. It is official. Hinoe rocks.

Not that Irina and I didn’t already know that given how hard it was to see her lose out in her particular match up.

The part of this that I was interested to see was that our choices (Natori and Matoba) weren’t even in the top 3 of the reader’s choices. Part of me wonders if that was because people were helping those characters we knocked out or if the exorcists just aren’t that popular (though fan art would suggest otherwise). So, I’d love to know if you voted and who you voted for and why.

Still, the really important take away is that Natori did beat Matoba in the poll by 2 votes. Sorry, Irina, I couldn’t help it. I love Natori. Matoba is one of my favourite antagonistic characters and incredibly valuable to the Natsume universe, but Natori is going to remain my favourite character outside of Natsume, Reiko and Nyanko-Sensei.

It is actually kind of sad to say goodbye to this project but hopefully it won’t be goodbye to Natsume forever. Fingers crossed for many more anime seasons in the future.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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Play Asia Exclusive
Play Asia Exclusive

Friday’s Feature: Collaborating With The Amazing Irina On The Also Amazing Natsume Yuujinchou

As you may have noticed this last week, there have been a lot of Natsume Yuujinchou posts coming out as Irina and I finally published our collaboration series which ended up being a battle royale between the supporting cast members from Natsume. As I mentioned in the introduction to the series, I don’t think either Irina or I knew what we were in for when we decided that was a good idea. We ended up breaking our own hearts so many times while writing it and then of course we couldn’t agree on a winner anyway (mostly because neither one of us really wanted the other character to lose anyway).

Natsume - Characters

However, this post isn’t really about Natsume, given you’ve either read the posts or you are certain to click the links below and check them out because it was great fun writing and we’d love for you to vote on your favourite character so we can announce a winner next week. This post is about the collaboration process itself.

Links to Natsume Posts:


First and foremost, I have to thank Irina for being an amazing collaboration partner. Admittedly I don’t have a lot of experience with successful collaborations. I’ve had a few fall through, but working with Irina has been fantastic both this time and our previous efforts when we debated the merits (or lack of them) of Black Butler Season 2. The only other collaboration I’ve been working on consistently is with Weekend Otaku and our 200 Word Anime series which is quite different because it is an episode review once a week rather than an overall project. That said, I also have to give a huge thank-you to Weekend Otaku for being a fantastic collaboration partner through both the Autumn 2017 season and the Winter 2018 season and hopefully we can work together again in the future.


Collaboration takes many different forms and depending on who you are working with, your intent, scope of the project, and a whole bunch of other issues, how you approach a collaboration will change. So there’s no handbook for making sure a collaboration is successful. Yet there’s some pretty surefire ways to not end up with a successful collaboration. I mentioned I’ve had some unsuccessful collaboration experiences and I’m pretty sure I’m the reason in most of those instances but here are some of the things that go a little bit wrong and why you need to have patience, perseverance, and some sort of goal if you are actually going to get a collaboration off the ground.

What can go wrong?

Natsume - Matoba6

01. Slow response to emails or DM’s on Twitter. As much as I am online in the morning and evening everyday, that is morning and evening Australian time. There’s only a very small window in the morning before I go to work where people in America seem to actually be active online, which means I can get a message sent to me in the morning and it will be 12 or so hours later before I can respond, at which point the person who sent it is probably either at work or asleep depending on their timezone and by the time they respond I’m back at work or whatever. It means it can take days to settle a simple question if there are multiple clarifications to be made and let’s be honest, most people don’t have the patience for it.

And if things are this difficult just to agree on a topic or conditions or whatever it is you are trying to settle then you start thinking how hard it will be to work long term with a person and generally speaking it ends up being easier to walk away. There’s also instances where a DM hasn’t actually come up with a notification so I wasn’t even aware it existed so obviously haven’t read it.

Fortunately, Irina has incredible patience and despite the 80+ emails this last collaboration post took from request to collaborate on a Natsume themed project to finalising the post schedule, we’ve managed to keep the project moving through January and February and were finally ready to post.

02. Also on the time thing, I regularly get asked if I’d like to be a part of a podcast or whatever but unfortunately these usually happen when I am either asleep or at work. And while if I was on holidays I could just pull an all nighter or stay home and participate, during my usual schedule, it is just not possible so I have to thank the person for their offer but politely decline. I would actually love to be involved in this sort of thing at some point, but that will probably be if I ever make blogging a full time thing and then I will have time to do this.

03. The main reason a collaboration doesn’t happen though seems to be a lack of a vision for what to do. It is easy enough to send someone a message asking if they’d like to collaborate on something but the question then becomes what. Is it a one off post? Is it a series? What’s the topic and the angle? What do you want to do with it? Where will the final project be posted? What will each person contribute? There’s so many details and while hitting someone with a full agenda before they’ve even agreed to participate isn’t good, having a basic idea of what you want or some options can really help the project get off the ground.

When I approached Irina about this most recent project I asked her if she wanted to collaborate on a Natsume themed project for February or March and suggested I wanted to look at the supporting cast of Natsume. It wasn’t a concrete plan but it opened a discussion about what the project could be about. And I didn’t just randomly ask Irina about Natsume. Last year, Irina watched and reviewed all six seasons of Natsume on their blog, so I knew she was a fan of the show and had fairly current knowledge of it and I kind of thought she’d want to be involved in the project (which fortunately she was).

We bounced a few ideas back and forth and then decided on the battle royale style tournament between eight of the support cast and then we were finally ready to actually start writing some stuff on the project.

Why is it worth it?


Do you know that feeling you have when you meet someone and you realise they like your favourite show and you get lost for hours discussing it? Imagine that feeling over and over again as you work with someone equally passionate about the topic who wants to create something and share something about that show you love. It makes you realise everything you love about the show and everything that might be better but it is okay because you love it anyway. It is a really great feeling.

And then there is the reward of finishing the project and reading through all those words and realising that you did that together. You built an idea from a random email asking if there was any interest in a collaboration into a six post battle featuring some of the best characters you’ve ever met (okay, that’s very specifically this project that did that – but you get the idea). You’ve gained a new perspective, you’ve attempted to up your writing game because you don’t want to let the other person down, you’ve pushed through some tough times in real life because someone else was waiting for your part to be finished so why it isn’t pressure it is a nice encouraging push to keep working on it as best you can, and ultimately you’ve had a really good time.

Ultimately, whether the project is successful or not, and whether you end up with a finished post, a series of posts, or just a lot of emails sent back and forth, working with another blogger is an awesome experience and one you can definitely gain from.

Final Thoughts?


I know I will definitely look forward to my next chance to work with Irina. I’m really hoping that in a future season Weekend Otaku and I collaborate again. I’ve been approached about a similar collaboration project (to 200 Word Anime) for the Spring 2018 season already and I’m really excited about that collaboration (and nervous, but that’s okay, it will be amazing).

For people looking to collaborate but who are a bit nervous about approaching someone, I think you just need to give it a go. That said, don’t just approach someone randomly. If you are approaching them for a collaboration, you should have built up some sort of relationship with them by following their blog, commenting, and getting involved in the conversation so they have a bit of an idea of who you are before you hit them with a request. Also, don’t take rejection the wrong way. I turn requests down mostly because I can’t meet my commitment to the request and I would rather say no outright than agree to a project and then fail spectacularly to deliver. And I’m sure a lot of other bloggers feel the same way. If they don’t have time, they won’t say yes when they really mean no.

Another big thank-you to Irina and Weekend Otaku.

And now, I’d love to know your thoughts on collaborations and what works and what doesn’t work in your experience?

Thanks for reading.

Karandi James


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Natsume’s Supporter’s Battle For Supremacy Round 3 Part A

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.

Natsume - Matoba12.jpg

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.

Natsume - Matoba6

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.

Natsume - Matoba10

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 somethings 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.

Natsume - Matoba 7

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.

KarandiIs Irina right? Tomorrow, I’ll make my case in part B on Irina’s blog.

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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Natsume’s Supporter’s Battle For Supremacy Round 2 Part A

This is a collaboration between Karandi and Irina. If you are just catching up the previous posts are:

Be sure to check out Irina’s blog tomorrow for Round 2 Part B. Or, you know, just check out some of her great posts in general.

Irina: We said goodbye to some truly lovely characters in round 1. It speaks to the quality of the story that both of us found it so painful to cut anyone out. It’s very tough to argue your case when you truly love the other character as well but we did what we had to. This said, we had a clear winner in round 1 as 3 of Karandi’s characters advance to the second stage but Matoba is a strong contender! He may save me yet!

I’m not sure who will make it out of round 2 but there’s a chance neither of *us* will survive it. After ripping Natsume away from all his peers and actual friends in round one, the cruel hand of fate (a random number generator) now demands that we further shatter the boy’s social circle and support structure by pitting all the closest and most important people in his life against each other.

The mysterious and slightly ominous Matoba will take on our last Yokai and one of Natsume’s strongest allies: Hinoe, while the closest thing he’s even had to a family will be torn apart as Touko and Natori face off. I’m not going to lie, this is going to be way harder on me than it is one any of you…

Matoba vs Hinoe

For this match Karandi will be arguing for Matoba and Irina has taken on Hinoe.

Karandi:  For all that Matoba has had a significant influence on Natsume and the plot of Natsume Yuujinchou, he’s all up appeared in 6, maybe 7 episodes. However, that just speaks of how notable his presence is. Amongst a pastel sea of sweet and misunderstood characters, Matoba represents something quite a bit darker and his fixation on power and later on Natsume always adds a bit of a thrill of danger to an otherwise placid story.

Natsume Matoba 3.jpg

In fact, Matoba didn’t appear in the show until season 3, though the idea of exorcists and those that were not even as nice as Natori (who was definitely already a fairly grey character) had already been clearly established. And Matoba did not disappoint. Generally clad in black and with his eye covered, Matoba looks every bit the part of someone with shady intentions. His callous disregard for his servants (human and yokai alike) has been demonstrated several times, as has his overall ambition and desire to become more powerful.

While his view can be understood, the exorcists are serving a fairly important role in keeping dangerous yokai sealed, there’s always a sense of malice about him and a question about what he is truly seeking in the long term. The way he looks at Natsume and desires Natsume joining his family certainly has some darker undertones.

Natsume - Matoba3.jpg

One thing that has become certain for me is that when Matoba makes an appearance, I’m going to love the episode. And it is going to get dark. Whether it is because Natsume is going to find himself captured and confined once again needing to escape or because there are going to be more yokai deaths, these episodes stand out from the others and yet perfectly compliment the darker themes that are constructed throughout the series. Over and over again, Matoba has proven himself a force to be reckoned with and as his views directly contradict Natsume’s views about yokai, the two are going to clash again and again. The episode where Natsume grudgingly helped Matoba was really interesting as it didn’t paint Matoba in a favourable light, but Natsume started moving toward understanding him a little bit more.

Natsume - Matoba4.png

As much as I love Hinoe, and argued for her case in round one, I would strongly suggest that Natsume needs Matoba’s character and this is one character where despite limited screen time, he has made his presence felt and it sends tangible ripples through the entire rest of the series.

Irina: Hinoe is not a mere character, not a simple emissary representing the Yokai in this grand competition, more than any other person in the series, Hinoe is the living embodiment of the thread of faith that binds Natsume’s legacy to the turmoil he yet faces. As Karandi deftly pointed out in round 1 “Hinoe also forges a direct connection back to Reiko”, and this may prove much more important than we have been led to believe.

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Reiko’s shadow looms large over Natsume, it always has. She is the only one he can truly relate to even though he has never met her and in a very real sense, the one responsible for everything in Natsume’s life, both good and bad. Unraveling the riddle of Reiko’s life will be primordial to Natsume’s continued growth and evolution. Without gaining a better understanding of what came before, he will be stuck repeating old mistakes or ultimately throwing away what makes him unique. The ominous repeated fact that Reiko died young and *alone* may also prove to be an omen that Natsume cannot afford to ignore.

The only person that is still in a position to offer any real insight on Reiko’s life and the lessons she had learned, is Hinoe. Without her, Natsume is set adrift.

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Moreover, you cannot simply disregard the fact that she is a Yokai. I don’t want to sound specieist or anything, but how exactly can we think of Natsume’s Book of Friends and not have a single “friend” to speak of. The Yokai, their presence, influence, simple existence, are the singular most formative and important element of Natsume’s entire experience. They are a completely inextricable part of his world. Of course, Hinoe is hardly the only Yokai but she is one of the closest and kindest.

Because of her unusual willingness to interact with humans, Hinoe has managed to have one of the greatest impacts of Natsume that any of her kind (save Nyanko) have had. She has been a reliable big sister, a gentle guide and a comforting helper whenever Natsume has needed one. There is absolutely no one else that can bring these elements to Natsume’s life and without her, the Yokai side of the story becomes dreadfully unbalanced.

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Yes Matoba’s influence is a catalyst and an important narrative element, but it is useless without the counterbalance of kind hearted Yokai to pull Natsume’s loyalties their way, and Hinoe is chief among them.

Karandi: Okay, if we’re arguing their knowledge of past events, Matoba and his clan have certainly indicated they have had past links with Reiko and have already done quite a bit of digging into Natsume’s past – a plot thread I definitely want to see developed. However, the point is well made that Hinoe has been one of Natsume’s strong links to the past and to the yokai from the beginning.

Irina: I’m sure that sneaky Matoba clan knows a whole lot more than they let on but are they willing to share? What good is that knowledge if it remains locked away?

Karandi: I don’t know. I like them both. They are both needed.

Honestly, I’d cast my vote for Matoba for the simple reason that he does bring those darker elements to the forefront of the show and I just truly love his episodes.  Irina?

Irina: Yeah it’s Matoba. Let’s face it I always knew it was going to be Matoba but you have to admit, Hinoe put up a good fight!

Natsume - Matoba

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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