Natsume Yujincho Seasons 1 – 4 Review: Great Characters, Great Atmosphere, and Just Pure Relaxation

This is part of a series of re-posts of older reviews on 100 Word Anime. The original review came out in May 2016 and can be found here.

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It might seem strange that I love Natsume. Given my usual tastes for faster paced stories, stories that are a little bit darker, or stories that do something a bit unexpected, there really isn’t any reason for me to be such a huge fan of Natsume.

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And yet there is something incredibly compelling and adorable about Natsume himself that manages to draw me into this world and makes me want to spend more and more time with him.  Natsume in the early episodes of season 1 is damaged, and that damage doesn’t just disappear. It fades and comes out in different ways at appropriate times, and slowly, ever so slowly, it is being healed, but there isn’t an instant fix.

In point of fact, it’s hard to even notice how far Natsume has developed as a character until you go from an episode mid-way through season 4 and maybe watch an episode from late season 1 or early season 2. Natsume is a dynamic character who continues to take on board the experiences he goes through and these become integrated into his overall character. While it is subtle development it is consistent and ultimately it makes this whole story feel authentic in a way few manage. And it isn’t just Natsume.

All of the characters in this show develop slowly but surely in ways that fit with the experiences they go through. You really feel like you are part of this group and watching this show is like catching up with old friends. There’s a strength of writing and character development that you do not normally come across. This is something Irina and I explored when we took on the Natsume Supporter Character Battle to determine who the best supporting character was in this story. It ended up being a heart-breaking experience as we pitted truly great cast members against one another.

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The plot also moves. While each episode really is the yokai of the week appears with either a problem to be solved or a desire to get their name back, each season feels like it is moving forward. Season one helps Natsume overcome his unreasonable hatred of all yokai. Season two sees him developing some actual human relationships that aren’t superficial or simply being acted out. Season three helps Natsume begin to understand Reiko (his grandmother) and her actions. The season four plunges us into finally facing some of Natsume’s child-hood trauma and finding some closure.


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NATSUME YUJINCHO ICHIBAN KUJI PREMIUM


The art style is also really pretty. There’s definitely a reliance on soft colours but the nature effects, whether it be sunlight, flowers, leaves, snow or rain are always gorgeous and the characters are simple but easily distinguished.

Music is used well throughout the series but again has a very laid back kind of feel to it. Sound effects are mostly understated which makes the occasional dramatic effect really stand out.

The fifth and sixth seasons of this show continue building on the compelling foundation and this is one story that just keeps getting better. I completely recommend this series. If you want something warm and fuzzy and don’t mind watching events unfold at their own pace, Natsume will be a very rewarding watch.


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.

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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.

Just Because Series Review: High School Romance On Display

Overview:

Eita has returned to the town he used to live in during his third year of high school. As he is reunited with old friends we see these characters prepare to leave high school and figure out what they want to do next.

Review:

As you can probably tell from the overview, this story isn’t exactly rushing to do much. It really is just the story of the daily lives of these high school students as they think about their future and the people around them. At the core of the story are a couple of romances as Eita’s friend Soma is the love interest of Natsume but has his eyes on the shy Morikawa, and Eita’s had a long time unrequited crush on Natsume but gains the attention of Ena, a junior in the photography club.

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And that is more or less all she wrote about this one. The characters are all very believable as high school students just going through the motions of finishing school and second guessing the choices they’ve made for what comes next. They hesitate, don’t have the conversations they need to have, come up with silly rules (I’ll confess if) and basically mope when things don’t go their way. Despite that, it ends up being an oddly compelling if fairly forgettable viewing experience.

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The animation definitely suffers though. These characters look fine when having conversations but motion (particularly running) ends up looking painfully awkward and to be honest I really just wanted the characters to stay still because at times it was outright distracting.

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Otherwise, there isn’t a lot to say about this. I really enjoyed spending time with this group of characters. They frustrated me at times and made silly choices but they were all characters I could relate to in that I could probably think of half a dozen or so people in my real like that would do exactly what they were doing. The pace of the story is pretty slow and the final episodes really drag, but for a once watch through, this is certainly pleasant enough.

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If you go in expecting a fairly low key romance/slice of life thing, you will probably be pretty happy with this one.

Episode Reviews:


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Natsume’s Supporter’s Battle For Supremacy Round 1 Part A

A collaboration between Karandi and Irina. Be sure to check out Irina’s blog tomorrow for Round 1 Part B. We’ll be posting each day this week.

Karandi here: Toward the end of last year I started thinking I’d really like to put together some sort of feature about Natsume Yuujinchou. I’m completely in love with the show and have certainly written a number of posts about it previously, but I wanted to do something different. Knowing that Irina had recently watched the show and had also fallen in love with the series, I reached out and asked if she was up for a collaboration and so after many emails an idea was born.

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I don’t think either one of us quite knew how challenging this would be when we picked the idea of a tournament style match up between members of the support cast to determine who the best supporting character was. (I think we both thought this would just be a bit of a laugh but eliminating anyone from this list has been incredibly tough.)  Just coming up with the entrants was a killer task as there are just so many great characters who appear throughout the course of six season. To make it a bit easier we agreed that they had to have appeared in more than one season to be considered and we ruled out Nyanko-Sensei and Reiko as being main characters from the start.

Still, we finally cut it down to 8. However, there were dozens of other characters we’d have liked to include (I think both of us would have loved Aoi to appear in the list but he was a one episode character, and I know that cutting how Shigeru was harsh but at least Touko made the cut).

We ended up with:

Then we had to decide on a criteria for the matches. Ultimately we decided to discuss character design, character growth, their interactions with Natsume, and their impact on the plot (at least for round one).

Finally we were ready for round one. We each had our four contestants to try to defend and we knew who they would be matched against, still some of these contests were just harsh. And can I point out how hard it is to argue in favour of one character when you are hopelessly in love with the one you are about to throw out of the tournament. And yet, I wouldn’t really have wanted any of these characters to lose their match (except maybe Satoru, but Irina made a pretty good case and made me see him a little differently).

However, through working on this project with Irina I definitely gained a deeper appreciation of just how well this show has built up its characters, even the fairly minor ones. All of them bring something amazing to the show and losing any one of them would leave Natsume somewhat worse off. I also realised once again what an amazing person Irina is. I loved working on this collaboration with her and I’m glad we got to spend some time sharing our thoughts on such an incredible anime.

Anyway, that’s it from me in terms of an introduction. We’ll get to the first round of matches and see which characters make it through to the semi finals.

Round 1:

Taki vs Hinoe

For this match Irina is defending Taki and Karandi is taking on Hinoe.

Character Design

Irina: I’m starting off at a bit of a disadvantage. Humans in Natsume’s universe all tend to look very similar and a little bland in contrast to the Yokai but Taki does have one big thing going for her, she’s a redhead! We all know gingers are special and both Satoru and Natsume seem to have noticed as well.

Karandi: True enough, Taki is a redhead and they are awesome, but Hinoe is rocking that gorgeous blue hair and sporting quite the adorable hairpin. Throw in her outfit and her pipe and she strikes quite the distinct figure even amongst the yokai.

As much as I love Taki, I would definitely say Hinoe wins for design.

Irina: This is a though one. Hinoe has one of my favorite designs and cosplay goal but I’m going for a last ditch attempt here – Taki’s design is special precisely because of how normal it is. She represents a visual cue for normalcy and stability in Natsume’s world….Ok Hinoe rocks….

Karandi: I’ll just take that as a win for Hinoe on design.

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Character Growth

Irina: Admittedly, Taki hasn’t undergone any dramatic transformations, most of her personal evolution really takes place during her first appearance and even then it’s more a question of her getting out of a bad situation and being able to relax and be herself again, rather than her evolving through lessons learned. But she’s so lovely as is, why should she need to grow.

Karandi: In the present day, we haven’t really see Hinoe grow at all. She’s a yokai and they kind of pride themselves on long lives and not really changing. However, we did see a flashback with Hinoe before she met Reiko and while we don’t know all the ins and outs, she did go from hating humans to being fairly accepting of her friendship with Natsume.

Still, I would probably have to concede this criteria to Taki.

Irina: Like Karandi – I do think we have clues to indicate the Hinoe has undergone some pretty radical evolution but we haven’t *seen* it. I agree Taki.

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Interactions with Natsume

Irina: Taki’s influence on Natsume is undeniable. She’s is one of the gentless and most understanding people in Natsume’s life which is saying something as he is literally surrounded by love. Taki is clearly in the human camps as she can’t naturally interact with Yokai in any way but her family history has given her a much better understanding of the spiritual world than most. As such, Taki essentially represents the possibility for Natsume to have completely honest relationships with “normal” people. She is completely unique in that regard and absolutely essential to Natsume’s acceptance of himself. She’s also a lovely age appropriate human girl which opens up a wealth of potential interactions not available to anyone else!

Karandi: Her human appearance not just for show, Hinoe is one of the more calm, collected and certainly more understanding of Natsume’s situation than most of the other yokai. That said, I do recall a scene where Hinoe came running with a scythe after Natsume got kidnapped so she’s proven herself to be fairly loyal as well. Ultimately Hinoe offers guidance and advice to Natsume on many issues and while she still pretends to be fairly aloof she’s clearly very interested in Reiko’s grandson and in making sure he stays safe.

I honestly can’t call this one. Irina, your thoughts?

Irina: I love Taki and I’m so very glad Natsume has her friendship but if we are to be completely honest, her role is a little redundant with Tanuma’s. On the other hand, Hinoe is the closest thing he has to a big sister. I think Hinoe for this one. She has his back in a way no one else does.

Karandi: I’m glad you mentioned that her role is a little redundant given Tanuma plays much the same role. It would be different if more of her grandfather’s knowledge came into play as that would give her a more unique role. Still, Hinoe it is.

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Impact on the story

Irina: Not only has Taki had an impact so far by being a human that can’t see Yokai but is still fully accepting of Natsume but considering the hinted at wealth of interactions, her possible impact on future plotlines is probably one of the most important of any character in the series.

Karandi: Hinoe has literally saved Natsume’s life from being consumed by a curse and continues to watch over him, providing guidance when needed and makes some attempts to keep the middle ranked yokai in check (when she’s not drinking with them). Hinoe also forges a direct connection back to Reiko and unlike Madara, she seems more willing to talk about her past with Natsume’s grandmother.

While I love Taki’s role, I’d say that Hinoe being a literal life saver back in season one kind of tips this one to her.

Irina: I agree, Taki’s impact is much less direct that Hinoe’s. Her absence would be less obvious.

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Karandi: Taki vs Hinoe: I’d vote for Hinoe. Irina?

Irina: I’m honestly stumped. I’m going with pure subjective gut feeling here but I agree – Hinoe.

Karandi: We agreed. Fantastic. Let’s see if that can happen in the next match up which will be out tomorrow on Irina’s blog. In the meantime, you can have your say on who you think the best support character is in Natsume Yuujinchou. We’ll release the results of the poll after we finish the tournament.

Just Because Episode 4: When You Break Through A Wall, Sometimes All You Get Is A Broken Wall

Review:

I remember when Tsuki ga Kirei was on and how many people kept saying how real and relatable it felt but I never really got that vibe. That’s probably because I’m catching it from Just Because. Watching Soma build up again to a confession is painful but the show isn’t. This is seeing the pointless and the awkward moments of high school play out with a group of teens that aren’t going to change the world, aren’t actually falling out of society, but a lot of them are just going through the motions and accepting their normalcy for what it is.

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There’s a lot to like this week as the characters all take seem to take a step and the end result is a lot of crushed toes (well, hurt feelings is probably closer to the reality). It isn’t that they have all failed. It is just that life is going one way and they tried to go another and the end result was pretty predictable.

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What I think I liked most this week was seeing Eita lose his aloof and stoic self in the face of Natsume’s blatant self-denial. It didn’t get him anywhere and Eita losing his cool is kind of like normal Eita with the minor exception being that he lets more of his hand slip than normal. Just enough that he regrets it after the fact. It will be interesting to see the fall out of this episode next week and which relationships remain in tact and which ones become strained.


Thanks for reading.

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Thanks,

Karandi James.

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Natsume Yuujinchou Roku Series Review

Overview:

After six seasons now, most of us know the story. If you are new to Natsume, check out the review of seasons 1 – 4 and the review of season 5. As much as I love this show, diving in at season 6 is definitely going to make this a fairly complex story as all of the relationships being dealt with are now pre-established.

Natsume can see yokai and because of this he was isolated for most of his childhood. Having made a new beginning when he was taken in by the Fujiwaras, Natsume has slowly been building connections with both human and yokai as he learns how to live and to accept himself for who he is.

I reviewed this show week to week so if you are interested in my episode thoughts click here.

Review:

I’m actually going to keep this one relatively short or otherwise it is just going to turn into a gush about how much I love this show. I think that’s the true beauty of Natsume though. Season after season and I still love just the sweet and relaxing nature of the story and just enjoy spending time with these characters. They really do feel like old friends a and a new season is just a chance to catch up with how they are all going.

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Getting the usual stuff out of the way, I am going to say that I absolutely loved the music and the art this season. While Natsume openings are always mello and relaxing, this season just added a slight bit of upbeat to it and I came out the otherside of the opening smiling every single week. I don’t remember who, but someone actually analysed the flowers used in every scene in the opening on their blog and there’s a lot of detail and thought that has gone in to that opening sequence. I wish I could remember the link to that blog post because that was a really great break down. The art is the usual style for Natsume so fairly soft and relaxing. It isn’t overly detailed but it isn’t overly simplistic either. It just strikes a nice balance.

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There were a couple of moments throughout the season where Natsume himself looked a bit off. Sometimes it was his face looking a bit too sharp or a certain movement didn’t quite fit with the scene, but for the most part season 6 looks amazing. At times there are some truly vibrant and dazzling colours but those darker moments still hit home, all of this contrasting nicely with the usual muted colour scheme.

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As usual the characters are the big draw with Natori and Natsume’s relationship stealing the lion’s share of this season. That isn’t to say we don’t still get the occasional yokai of the week, a return of a childhood friend, a focus on Natsume’s school friends, some Reiko and Nyanko-Sensei, but really there are a lot of episodes focussing on Natori this season and how he sees Natsume and Natsume’s relationship with Yokai. For me this is a major plus and probably part of the reason I would say this season is my favourite ever. Natori is a great character. He experienced a similar childhood to Natsume but rather than befriending a yokai he found his way to the exorcists. As a result, he has an understandable resentment toward most yokai and finds Natsume’s softer approach a little hard to understand. That said, he understands that Natsume can’t give up the connections he’s made at this point as they are a necessary part of Natsume. Anyway, the play between the two is fantastic and while this series doesn’t resolve Natori’s intentions, it certainly gives the audience a lot to think about in regards to the two characters.

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Reiko is also a common feature, as always, though I must say the Reiko focussed episode this season was possibly the weakest for me. I found myself not overly invested in her trial. While I’m interested in Natsume learning more about the book and I’m interested in learning more about Reiko as she got older, the episode just felt very much like a filler side quest. If this was live action I’d suggest the actor playing Natsume got sick and they rewrote the lead to be a flash back for his grandmother.

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Another win this season was the ongoing development of the themes of self-discovery, acceptance, and friendship. These are beautifully handled and while occasionally Natsume’s monologues may feel you are getting hit over the head with the message, you realise that Natsume is quite emotionally dense due to his strange upbringing so sometimes he needs to process what has happened and sort out his emotions. From that point of view, his observations make sense and don’t feel quite so forced.

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Basically, I loved this season of Natsume. I would love to know another season is coming and coming soon. If you’ve never tried the show you really should give it a go.

If you watched season 6, let me know your thoughts below.


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Natsume Yuujinchou Season 6 Episode 11

Review – Some spoilers:

Can we get a season 7 announcement, please?

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This episode resumes the hunt for the study and as usual Natsume’s keen eyes and a deeper understanding of yokai and those who can clearly see yokai find the necessary clues that eventually lead the group to the study door. That said, Natori does have a moment of doubt about whether he should hear what Natsume has to say regarding the Book of Friends later in the episode.

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So as much as Natori continues to play the understanding guy they are leaving his character and his relationship to Natsume ambiguous right to the end. I find it fascinating how this show didn’t resolve this point but still made this feel satisfying. We did take another step in this relationship with Natsume ultimately explaining the situation with Reiko to Natori and we heard Natori’s response. First the one he said clearly to Natsume:

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And then the one he made sure Natsume didn’t hear:

It isn’t exactly a declaration that Natori is going to try to take the book or destroy it, but it kind of indicates Natori isn’t just going to say, ‘cool, you’re grandmother left you a really dangerous book’. It will be interesting to see how this progresses, assuming of course we get more of this show.

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The other point that has to be mentioned is that for the first time a yokai has suggested knowing a male relative of Natsume. We kind of knew he had to have family other than Reiko and his dead parents but they’ve never been mentioned. And as Natsume wonders later, what connection did a former relative of his have with the exorcists? It is obvious that Nanase of the Matoba clan had some sort of relationship with Reiko other than the one childhood encounter we’ve seen, but is Natsume more closely tied to the exorcists than he realises?

So this season is done and I’m really happy with how it has gone but will do a full review soon. That said, this is a show I always want more of.


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Natsume Yuujinchou Season 6 Episode 10

Review:

Is there really only one more episode of this? Really? And the next season is…?

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For a second last episode of the season, episode 10 of Natsume Yuujinchou pulled out all the punches. We are dealing with exorcists again and Natori most definitely did not forget about the Book of Friends.

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That said, this episode seems to be positioning us to see him as an actual friend and given he’s been covered in shades of grey as to where his true motives lie for a fair while it would be nice to think that is true. Though there’s always the chance of another twist in the tale.

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But in case exorcists searching a mansion for a study full of spells while Natori gently probes Natsume for hints about what he has via Hiiragi is not enough to keep you entertained in what is normally a much more relaxing story, lets throw in some Reiko stuff just to bring everything together. About the only part of Natsume’s life that gets left out here is his normal school life and normal human friends but that probably would have been pushing it to incorporate that as well.

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That said, though, this is another two parter story so we’ll just have to wait until next week to see how this all plays out but I couldn’t be happier with how this season seems to be finishing up. My only complaint is that it is finishing.


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Karandi James.

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