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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Natsume Yuujinchou Season 6 Episode 9

Review:

Natsume returned to its usual episodic formula this week. No returning characters of old, no Reiko flashbacks, just a strange shrine on a hill and a flood inside a building.

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Yep, nothing suspicious here.

That said, this isn’t a bad thing as Natsume uses its episodic format to its advantage creating a charming self-contained narrative even as the audience get to enjoy the results of the bonds Natsume has forged with his human friends. Nyanko-Sensei even gets a cute make-over for part of the episode pretending for some reason to be a boar piglet.

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Seriously cute. Anyway, I really enjoyed this episode but it is pretty standard Natsume. Then of course we got the preview for next week and it looks like they aren’t going to make us wait for another season to know what Natori is going to do now that he’s suspecting Natsume has something powerful. While it doesn’t give much away I’m now really excited for next week.


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Natsume Yuujinchou Season 6 Episode 8

Review:

After consecutive weeks of returning characters, season 6 delivered a yokai of the week story that went a different direction to what I was expecting. When Natsume first met the strange boy at the station, I suspected he’d be a yokai, but I didn’t expect that Natsume would simply tell him that he should tell people that upfront and that we’d move on from it. That kind of shows how much Natsume has grown because he used to get quite upset when someone he thought was human wasn’t.

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Anyway, given they get over that part of the story quickly we move onto the real story this week which is the romance between a human girl and a yokai broken off by the yokai either because he wanted her to have a normal life or he got scared about the fact that she will most definitely die before he will.

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It’s a really cute story and I really enjoyed getting to know Aoi, the yokai of the week. Part of me really hopes his character comes back again.


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Friday’s Feature: Why is Natsume Yuujinchou Still Endearing After Five and a Half Seasons?

There’s no mistaking that I truly love Natsume Yuujinchou. You just need to look at the sheer number of posts I’ve tagged with Natsume to know that I not only like watching it, I like to talk about Natsume, a lot. I don’t remember who recommended it to me or why I tried it initially, but I know that once I started this adorable show I never could stop. Even when I ran out of episodes I would happily go back and just watch them all again. Had a bad day at work, or a bad week? Take a double episode of Natsume and go to bed smiling. As I watch season six of this show week to week, I began to wonder how this show has retained its magic formula and even managed to become more entertaining with time given so many shows, particularly ones where new seasons just keep getting added on, become progressively less than what they were.

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I started making a list of all the great things about Natsume. The list got extremely long by the end so I ended up condensing them into a few main points:

  • The characters particularly the central characters of Natsume and Nyanko-Sensei.
  • The episodic format of the show with themes and character growth that run through the series.
  • The feelings this show inspires in its audience.
  • The art and animation while not the most brilliant ever perfectly fit the show you are watching.
  • Every opening theme that has ever been attached to this show.

There were quite a few other points on the initial list but that isn’t surprising given I love the show. However, making this list actually helped me figure out exactly why this show succeeds season after season.

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Reason 1: The way the characters are presented to the audience.

In so many long running shows the main protagonists (and a lot of the support cast) either have a single defining personality trait or goal. Or, worse, the characters actually lose any defining trait over time slowly becoming generic and featureless in amongst a sea of other characters.

Natsume defies this trend in storytelling. He starts out fairly generic, as do most of the characters in the show, and the show has gradually fleshed them out over nearly six seasons. The affect of this on the audience is essentially feeling like we’ve naturally gotten to know someone. First introductions are fairly superficial and then we’ve slowly been allowed to see who they are underneath those initial impressions.

And this doesn’t seem accidental. Within episodes we regularly meet the yokai of the week and are given one impression before Natsume looks deeper and we realise the other side of the character. This pattern repeating over longer periods of time with the human characters and recurring yokai seems like a deliberate thematic choice of the show as it examines who Natsume is and who he is becoming.

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Which, is the second part of this story. The characters are changing. Even as we get to know who they are or who they were (through flash backs), events in the seasons we’ve seen have changed them. There’s no magic reset at the end of the episode so next episode everyone is back to the cookie cutter model we start with each week in a true sit-com style. This is an ongoing story and these characters are dynamic even if the slow pace of the show sometimes makes it seem like little progress is occurring.

Clearly Natsume, as the title character, has experienced the largest growth and development as he has slowly opened up to both human and yokai characters. However, he isn’t along in this constant change and you can see Nyanko-Sensei has softened significantly toward Natsume since season 1. His threats to eat his human companion have diminished and even when they are inserted they now seem half-hearted. He offers advice more freely and is more willing to warn Natsume of danger. He’s gone from being curious and self-interested to being genuinely fond of Natsume and this relationship is really interesting to watch.

Even Reiko, Natsume’s deceased grandmother has been given character growth as Natsume has slowly learned more about her. The end result is a world that feels incredbily rich and populated with real characters that over six seasons you’ve become friends with yourself and you genuinely care for.

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Reason 2: The overall themes of the show strike directly at the heart.

Okay, that was cheesy, but it is Natsume so it kind of had to be.

But really, the experience of watching Natsume, is one of trying to understand what it means to be human and the choices people make and why. For all the fantastical creatures and goings on, it is a story about the choices you make in life and the consequences that come from them as well as one that focusses very much on the connections that result from encounters with others.

In this the episodic nature of the show really helps it to succeed. Characters can enter the show for an episode or two and drift off only to return a season of so later but the connection they forged still exists. What this allows is for the show to never overly clutter itself with too many characters at once and we’re never wondering why such-and-such a character is even in a scene because other than Natsume, none of the characters are guaranteed an appearance if they are not necessary to the story. Even Natsume occasionally gets written out of his own narrative in order for the focus to be where it needs to be.

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For a show that is regularly as sickeningly sweet as Natsume, it knows when not to pull a happy ending out of nothing and it isn’t against leaving the characters wondering if their choice was wrong. It also doesn’t shy away from the darker side of human nature when you think about how most of Natsume’s relatives have treated him and still speak to him and about him. What makes this show a bit different is that it doesn’t wallow in its own darkness or exploit it for sensationalistic purposes. The darkness is there, but like everything else, Natsume chooses how and when to confront it and when to leave things be. It is a very real part of the narrative and while sometimes you may actively dislike a character, generally speaking you are supposed to if that is the feeling you are getting.

After five and a half seasons, my current thoughts about Natsume are that this is actually getting better as it goes. The show continues to weave backstory and lore into a world that already feels rich and real and continues to have Natsume face situations where we confront the human and inhuman equally. Hopefully season 6 can continue to shine.

There were a whole bunch of characters and ideas that I love about this show that I restrained myself from rambling about, but seriously, I’d love to know your thoughts on Natsume. Do you think Natsume has gotten better or is the charm wearing off after so many seasons?


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Natsume Yuujinchou Season 6 Episode 7

Review:

Usually I love episodes with Reiko. Other than Natori, she’s the character I most hope to see an appearance from outside of Natsume and Nyanko Sensei. That said, this season’s Reiko episode kind of lacked bite.

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Part of the issue might be the yokai at the start of the episode that chases Natsume who never returns. Normally these ones show up later in the episode even if just to be punched in the face but at least that small bit of conflict is resolved. Instead we get a huge yokai that threatens to flatten the house if Natsume doesn’t come out and then after losing Natsume, doesn’t return to the house again for the duration of the episode. It seems kind of lacking.

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That isn’t to say this episode wasn’t charming. It is perfectly reasonable and we learn more about Reiko and the absolute contrast between her and Natsume when it comes to relationships. Reiko gave up on them whereas Natsume is definitely embracing the connections he has started to build since moving in with the Fujiwaras. However, not the best episode this season of Natsume has offered and coming after a couple of fairly strong episodes it feels like a little bit of a disappointment even though it is really sweet.


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Spring 2017 Week 7

Some of these shows just get better and better. Meanwhile those that were just kind of ordinary remain that way and get a little bit less exciting each week. I have dropped both Sword Oratoria and Alice & Zoroku in the last two weeks so it isn’t as though the list is stagnant (Grimoire of Zero is still hanging in there by a thread). Still there are so many shows where I get to the end and I’m just really anticipating the next episode so this season has been a lot of fun to watch. Getting closer to the end of the season and I’m kind of hoping these shows can deliver a strong conclusion (though I know a couple are continuing on into the next season). Let me know your thoughts on the season below.

I’m also going to try a few shows that I didn’t get to at the start of this season because dropping Alice & Zoroku left a small hole in my schedule that I’d rather fill but if I don’t find anything I’ll do some random movie reviews or something there.

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Must Watch

Kado: The Right Answer (Episode 6)

Recap episode – no movement.

Natsume Yuujinchou 6 (Episode 6)

I want to find a way to bottle the emotions I feel when I watch this show. There is no mood so bad that Natsume can’t make me feel better and even make me smile. I knew from the preview that this week was going to focus on Natsume’s normal human friends but I hadn’t realised we were flashing back to Natsume transferring into the school. This was a really great episode and continued to fill in our knowledge of the world these characters exist in. Absolutely great fun to watch.

The Eccentric Family Season 2 (Episode 6)

Nidaime was conspicuously absent this week but we did get a healthy dose of Yasaburo and quite a bit of Benten as well as a surprising return from a certain character from season 1 (though I guess that shouldn’t have been too surprising). Add in a brief field trip into a painting of hell and you have a fairly fun and interesting episode even as the tone takes a shift for the slightly more serious.

Attack on Titan Season 2 (Episode 8)

This episode really does feel like it’s taking a moment to have a breath before plunging us toward the end of the season (given it is apparently going to end after 4 more episodes). There was a lot of reminders of key players, then we had some flash backs and some motivational reminiscing, before most of the characters got on their horses and rode out. Dramatic conclusion and all but really this felt like we were being deliberately held up to ensure the story ends where they want it to given I don’t think we learned anything new through the flash backs or discussions.

My Hero Academia Season 2 (Episode 21)

Fine, My Hero Academia, you win. You are a must watch this season. You make me laugh, you make me nervous for the characters, you make me care about their daddy issues, you have some pretty cool action, and mostly you’re just fun to watch. Please keep it up.

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Usually Entertaining

Sagrada Reset (Episode 7)

And I’m back to being totally confused by this show and yet completely unable to stop watching it. This isn’t the fun puzzling out that ACCA gave me or that I experience while watching KADO. This is at times genuinely frustrating because of how this is being delivered and how it is being executed. It doesn’t stop me from being any less intrigued and curiosity almost always wins out with me, but maybe sometimes it shouldn’t.

The Royal Tutor (Episode 7)

The charm continues and pretty much I have to admit I like this show. It isn’t ground breaking or spectacular, nor will it make a favourites list for me (unless that is a list of slice of life/comedies that I’ve actually watched through to the end), but it is a fairly light and entertaining entry into my weekly viewing and I’m quite enjoying it.

Akashic Records of Bastard Magical Instructor (Episode 7)

And after praising this show last week on its recovery from a poor start, it spent all of this week reminding me of each and every thing I didn’t like about episode 1. Another episode like this will definitely knock this out of the usually entertaining category for good because while one or two episodes that aren’t great is pretty standard, if it starts to become a real trend it is time to admit the show is just not very good.

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Okay, I Guess

WorldEnd (Episode 6)

The week after I dropped this from usually entertaining we get episode 6 which kind of pulled the overall feeling from this show right back up. This show is very up and down and I think it is going to have to wait until the end of the season before I know where in this list it actually belongs. For now I’m leaving it here but I definitely enjoyed this episode more than last week.

The Laughing Salesman (Episode 7)

No change here as the show remains watchable and kind of amusing but isn’t exactly going anywhere (not that it really needs to given its absolute episodic formula).

The Silver Guardian (Episode 8)

This show has definitely peaked already. It is becoming increasingly silly and they are just withholding information for the sake of it at this point. I don’t know how many episodes there are going to be of this but I’m kind of hoping it wraps up soon because otherwise I’m never going to find out how he saves Riko Rei. It’s a good thing these episodes are short because the last two have been barely tolerable.

Granblue Fantasy (Episode 8)

Grandblue Fantasy remains watchable but becomes increasingly pointless. This peisode in particular screamed filler or sidequest and while it was fun and all did absolutely nothing to advance a plot.

Grimoire of Zero (Episode 6)

Having dropped Sword Oratoria and Alice & Zoroku, this one is probably the last of my possible drops for the season. That said, episode 6 managed to get me interested in where this might go and so I’m sticking with it. The world the story is set in is fascinating it is more the characters and the plot so far I’ve had issues with. So, if they character are finally going to do something in a world that is inherently interesting, then I am all for seeing that.

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They Made This

Nothing this week.

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Tried and Dropped

Alice & Zoroku (Episode 6)

I knew this didn’t have much chance of staying in my watch list, but wow episode 6 definitely put the nail in the coffin as it focussed on all the parts of the show I wasn’t overly interested in and kind of just moved away entirely from the few things I was hoping to see explored or developed. This is more a failing of my own expectations rather than the show being poorly done, but still, this is where I part ways with it.

Sword Oratoria (Episode 5)

Tsukigakirei (Episode 2)

Eromanga Sensei (Episode 2)

Armed Girls Machiavellism (Episode 2)

Sakura Quest (Episode 1)

Love Tyrant (Episode 1)

Clockwork Planet (Episode 1)

This is the halfway point for the season, what do you think will be the best of Spring 2017?


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Natsume Yuujinchou Roku Episode 6

Review:

I can honestly say that of all the recurring characters in Natsume, Nishimura and Kitamoto were probably the two I gave the least amount of thought too. So here comes an episode that puts these generic classmate and normal human friends of Natsume in the spot light by flashing back to Natsume transferring into the class.

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Normally this is a sequence you would see way back as a very first episode or at least a flash back in the first season. Anime loves the transfer student introduction scene and Natsume had never done it (although we had seen Natsume start at another school in a flashback if I remember correctly).

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Anyway, while I’d never given these two characters much thought, I’d always kind of liked them, and now, in true Natsume fashion, I completely love them. Nishimura’s insight into Natsume’s fake smiles and Kitamoto’s stoic nature as he deals with his own problems but still manages to know what is going on around him were just kind of perfect. They fit with what we already knew about these two characters and made them feel incredibly real.

Great episode.


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Natsume Yuujincho Roku Episode 5

Review:

I love this show. I always have and this episode really hit every reason why I love this show. The relationship between Natori and Natsume has always felt real and quite complicated this so much left unsaid between them (though the same could be said of every relationship between major characters in this show).

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There’s no doubt Natori actually has some genuine worries for Natsume’s safety but he is, first and foremost, an exorcist and one who does not trust the yokai. It has been a point of contention between the two from the beginning in how to deal with certain situations and last week Natori overheard that Natsume has something (apparently he doesn’t know what it is but he kind of knows it has to be powerful). So, his final line this week is kind of concerning in terms of where this relationship will go in the future (but at the same time kind of brilliant in terms of what it could do for the story).

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However, if that is too much drama in the Slice of Life, cavity inducing cuteness that is Natsume, focus instead of Nyanko and how adorable and compliant he was being this episode.

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Can I have one?

Natsume Yuujincho is available on Crunchyroll.


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