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

Natsume's Book of Friends Volume 7 Manga Cover

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

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

Chapters 23 – 26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Karandi James
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Awakening From A Dream, And Life Goes On

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode Review title

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 13 Review

Reminder: the poll is now open for you to vote on the best and worst anime of the 2018 Autumn Anime Season. Be sure to jump in and have your say. Voting closes on the 29th of December.

Part of me is a little disappointed with this final episode, and the other part is happy that this anime ended more or less as it started. The tight focus on the characters and their experiences as well as the need to face situations as they are rather than how we’d like them to be carried right through to the end.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 13 Shoko

However, this arc feels to be one of the least resolved of the series and given this is where it has ended I can’t help but feel a little bit like this wasn’t the solid ending it could be. Future movie announcements or not, it would have been nice for this final episode to have given us a solid resting place. Then again, in terms of character progress it kind of did.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 13 Kaede

Kaede is awake with her old memories (though missing the two years she’s just lived) and wanting to go back to school and even meet her old friend. Sakuta met up with Shoko again who helped him deal with Kaede’s return. He also finally managed a date with Mai on her birthday. It’s a lot of progress and we leave these characters in a place where they haven’t got to the end of the journey but they are very much moving forward and it is hard to argue that we could have got a more satisfying conclusion.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 13 Sakuta

Actually if I was going to criticise anything, other than the running animation which still isn’t great, it would be Sakuta early in this episode. While his heart-break and confusion were understandable their depiction wasn’t exactly subtle or nuanced and to be honest as he ran wailing it almost became laughable to the point where it jolted me right out of the moment. By the mid-way point of the episode it had managed to draw me back into the drama of the situation but this was perhaps the first time I really struggled to stay with an episode and the emotions it was trying to convey.

However, these are fairly petty complaints of what is an awesome series. I’m looking forward to writing a full series review of this one.

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Karandi James
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SEISHUN BUTA YAROU WA BUNNY GIRL SENPAI NO YUME WO MINAI 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: SAKURAJIMA MAI
SEISHUN BUTA YAROU WA BUNNY GIRL SENPAI NO YUME WO MINAI 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: SAKURAJIMA MAI

Bunny Girl Is Simple, It’s Complicated, It’s Like Life

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode Review title

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 10 Review

There was an almost moment when I thought that maybe this is the episode where I wasn’t in love with Rascal Does Not Dream With Bunny Girl Senpai. And I will admit, even stepping back, this episode feels a bit rougher, less polished, and a little bit less together than previous entries. The two episode arcs of the mid-season haven’t felt quite as fleshed out despite dealing with some fairly heavy issues, and this most recent one dealing with Nodoka and Mai definitely feels either stretched too long without doing much, or conversely too short without long enough to delve into some of the issues mentioned and ultimately glanced past.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 10
You can tell instantly it isn’t Mai, brilliant right?

However, as I said in the post title, things here are both simple and complicated, just like life. And it all gets a little bit messy and while the situation of the body swap, or appearance change, or whatever it was is resolved, their emotional drama doesn’t just vaporise the instant they come to terms with their situation. So while from a narrative point of view this was a lot less satisfying than some of the earlier arcs, from an emotional point of view, there’s a lot going on here that should be celebrated.

Not to mention, this episode of Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai gave me one of my loudest laugh out loud moments this season when  Mai smacked Sakuta. Now, there have been plenty of moments in this series where slapping Sakuta was probably justified. Here though, Sakuta is literally the innocent bystander. Her reason for taking her anger at Nodoka out on him? She literally cannot slap herself because Mai, or at least Nodoka in Mai’s body, has a job the next day and can’t show up looking like she’s been slapped.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 10 Sakuta got slapped

Normally I find the girl-slaps-guy (either innocent guy or even guy who accidentally fell prey to the usual anime tropes and ended up walking into the bathroom or whatever) kind of tired and problematic for a number of reasons and it seldom comes across as funny. Occasionally it ends up a little bit satisfying when the character getting slapped deserves it, but mostly I’m left wondering why include it at all. 

That wasn’t the case here as it just hit the perfect note at the perfect moment and I genuinely couldn’t keep myself from laughing, to the point where I had to pause the episode because I couldn’t read the subs. Yes, I am aware my sense of humour is a little odd sometimes and that it is inconsistent in when it finds things funny.

Bunny Girl Senpa- Kaede proves while she's best sister

The other moment I really loved about this episode was Kaede presenting herself in her uniform to Sakuta. While this didn’t get a lot of play during the episode, they seem to be setting the scene for Kaede and Sakuta to deal with their family situation, something that has been mentioned but ignored for the duration so far. This set up going on in the background of the Mai and Nodoka story was pure gold and honestly it took a bit away from the main plot line of the episode because I was more interested in learning more about that.

Still, any episode that can make me actually appreciate an idol performance like this, is worth noting just for that.

Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 10 Mai in idol performance

But in case it feels like I’m implying the Mai and Nodoka plot line wasn’t worth the time, I think I should reiterate, that Bunny Girl Senpai knows how to write a scene. Nodoka might be in Mai’s body but her argument with Sakuta when he tries to leave early and ends with Nodoka telling him to go die was perfect. Despite being in Mai’s body and looking like Mai, that dialogue was definitely not Mai. It looked bizarre coming from a character that looked like Mai. 

Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 10 Nodoka tells Sakuta to die.

All the way through the episode, even when the girls were talking, whether they were in their own appearance or not, the dialogue was distinct enough to carry the characters and make you believe that they had in fact switch places. So Bunny Girl Senpai hasn’t lost its touch, and now it’s just a matter of three more episodes. If it can land those, this will definitely be up there in the runnings for my favourite anime of the year.

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Karandi James
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RASCAL DOES NOT DREAM OF BUNNY GIRL SENPAI 1/4 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: MAI SAKURAJIMA BUNNY VER.
RASCAL DOES NOT DREAM OF BUNNY GIRL SENPAI 1/4 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: MAI SAKURAJIMA BUNNY VER.

The Grass Might Look Greener From Your Side of the Fence

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode Review title

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 9 Review

This show is just good. Over and over again, Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai defies my expectations about what it will do next and where it is going and yet it manages to take us somewhere great that I never knew I wanted to be. For instance, I expected that this week, now that Futaba was back together again, that the focus would shift to Makinohara, but instead she barely got a cameo when she came to check in on the cat. Instead, the focus goes squarely back to Mai and, more importantly, Mai’s sister.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 9 Sakuta, Mai and Nodoka

Turns out Mai’s sister, Nodoka, is sick of being compared to her talented older-half-sister and sick of feeling inferior and for whatever reason (adolescent syndrome strikes again) she has ended up inside of Mai’s body with Mai now occupying her own, blonde haired vessel. Fortunately we aren’t playing ‘guess who’ or anything as cheap as that. Bunny Girl Senpai plays this straight by having Mai, in Nodoka’s body, make things clear to Sakuta from the word go by stepping on his foot, and we instead turn our attention to the underlying emotional issues even while both girls try to live as the other and keep up their work commitments.

This was a great episode for a number of reasons. Firstly, the new story is interesting and we’re focused on Mai again, who is a great character, and introduced to Mai’s sister who is equally interesting. The relationship between the two is muddied significantly by the intervention of their respective mothers and yet as always they don’t over-dramatise things and rather let more subdued and much more human reactions strike a chord with the audience and tell the story.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 9 Mai and Nodoka

Secondly, Mai and Sakuta are together for significant scenes in this episode, even if Mai isn’t in her own body. I will admit the banter between them seemed a little more subdued, but given Mai is the subject of the current phenomenon it seems fairly sensible that she is in a more contemplative mood at the present.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 9 Nodoka inside of Mai

All and all, another solid episode from an anime that continues to do an excellent job present the emotional trauma of normal life and relationships using supernatural phenomenon to get their point across.

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Karandi James
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SEISHUN BUTA YAROU WA BUNNY GIRL SENPAI NO YUME WO MINAI 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: SAKURAJIMA MAI
SEISHUN BUTA YAROU WA BUNNY GIRL SENPAI NO YUME WO MINAI 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: SAKURAJIMA MAI

Natsume’s Book of Friends Volume 5 Manga Review: Friends Past and Present

Volume 5 of Natsume’s Book of Friends gives us a wide variety of characters and stories and really does look at the influence of the past on the present. We also meet Taki in a double chapter story that is as superb to read as it was to watch.

It feels like a lot of this volume is quite a bit darker than normal as each of the stories has a real risk to the characters and a real sense of tragedy hanging over it. While each is resolved in its own way, it feels like now that we’ve been introduced to the world of yokai and begun to understand its dangers, they are now expanding on the perils Natsume faces. Still, it isn’t all doom and gloom (not that it would be a problem if it was as I quite liked the darker anime episodes so I really enjoyed reading this volume) as we have another special story included in this volume that focuses on Tanuma and Natsume.

Chapter 16: Ageless Feelings

Perhaps the weakest of the stories in volume 5, chapter 16 still delivers a fairly compelling read when Natsume goes on a study trip with his friends and meets an old woman looking for a childhood friend and then a mermaid. The reason this story doesn’t quite hit home is because it is the old woman’s tragedy that we’re seeing unfold here and Natsume is more or less a bystander.

Then again, Natsume never stays a bystander for long and certainly he takes an active role in resolving the conflict. Still, as much as the ending is kind of nice, it is also fairly tragic that the woman has carried a feeling of guilt for so long and that the mermaid has harboured her ill will for so long. While it definitely reflects human nature, the situation is just kind of sad no matter how you look at it.

Chapters 17 & 18: Do Not Call

And now Natsume is going to meet Taki. She’s a fantastic character in the anime and her introductory story is one where both she and Natsume go through some very real danger. I was pleased to see this one in the manga and surprised by how affective some of the scenes were. The start of chapter 18 in particular when Natsume has been captured by the yokai was so much starker and seemingly darker here in the manga in the black and white than the anime managed.

Natsume5c

Taki’s link to the past is her grandfather and the knowledge he left her, incomplete though it was. In fact, it was her grandfather’s magic circle design that got Taki in trouble with a really nasty yokai and ultimately dragged Natsume into the conflict. Yet, Taki really loved her grandfather and she cherishes her connection with him despite all the bad things that it might lead to.

We also see Natsume and Taki forge a fairly solid friendship in a short time period. They both have connections to the yokai world through their grandparents and facing this kind of danger just naturally got them closer together. What I love though is that it isn’t a romantic relationship but very much one of mutual respect and friendship. Taki is such a great character and this story that brings her into the Natsume world is a fantastic read.

Chapter 19: Temporary House

But the great characters just keep coming. After introducing Taki to us, we get a story that focuses very much on Reiko and her past actions and the troubles they bring to Natsume in the present. After being spotted by a yokai and followed home, Natsume learns that this yokai had been in the house before when Shigure was a boy but somehow all the misfortunes had stopped after a mysterious girl had visited the house.

Natsume5d

Natsume’s relationship with Reiko has remained ambiguous. On the one hand, she is the one who could see the same things Natsume sees and it is her book that Natsume now owns and is trying to return the names from. She is also a distorted reflection of him as she became isolated from both humans and yokai because of her gift.

We see this distortion again when Natsume uses the same spell he sees Reiko using in the past to chase away the yokai causing immense damage to the room. Where Reiko ran away and never returned to the house, Natsume apologises and is welcomed as a part of the household. It is a touching story and one I really loved reading as it really did help to see Reiko a bit more clearly.

Special Episode 4

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Only one special in this volume, which is fine given how satisfying the other stories were. This one focuses on Tanuma inviting Natsume over to his house. We’ve seen this scene in the anime where Tanuma wants to show the shadow fish to Natsume and we realise Natsume can in fact see the real fish and not just their shadows. Still, much like Taki, Tanuma is a great character and a solid friend to Natsume and seeing these small steps as they build their friendship is fantastic.

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Karandi James
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How To Build A Fascinating Harem Starting With A Bunny Girl

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Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episodes 6 and 7

If I needed any more convincing that Bunny Girl Senpai was an anime worth watching this season, episode 6 which concluded the Laplace’s Demon Arc and episode 7 which introduces a new problem for Sakuta to solve and adds two new additions to his ever growing harem are certainly 2 reasons to be watching.Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 6 - Sakuta and Tomoe

Though, even I have to admit, it isn’t actually a harem. Much like people inaccurately throw the word harem at Sword Art Online just because Kirito has a lot of friends who are girls that he has helped in the past, labelling Bunny Girl Senpai a harem would be to do it a gross mis-justice. Sakuta is solid in his choice of Mai from the very first arc just as Kirito remains clear in his choice of Asuna. Regardless of how many other girls each series has, they just aren’t following a harem pathway and that’s just one of many things I love about both of them at this point.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 6 - Sakuta

Back to Bunny Girl Senpai though, the conclusion to the Laplace’s Demon story was every bit as fantastic as the conclusion to the first arc was. It brought the pieces together, gave us an emotional release, and the characters grew from the experience. I really liked how they ended up resolving the time loops. Admittedly, this anime isn’t exactly going for a logical reason why these things happen or why they stop. It is very much about the feelings of the characters and coming to terms with them.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 6 - Sakuta and Tomoe

The next arc seems to be focused on Futaba, though Sakuta has also encountered and entangled himself with another girl Makinohara (who apparently was the girl he met on the beach back when but now she’s younger than him). Based on this episode I would think that the anime was going to deal with Futaba and then focus on Makinohara, but, based on what the rest of the show has done I won’t be surprised if the two cases end up linked somehow.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 7 - Sakuta, Mai and Futaba

It also seems like Sakuta’s one male friend, Kunimi, may end up playing some sort of role this time around, which would be nice given he’s just kind of been hanging around in the background all this time.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 7

Still, seven episodes in and we still have fantastic dialogue, some really great characters, the cutest moments shared between Mai and Sakuta, and a little sister character that isn’t actually annoying. Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai continues to go from strength to strength and I have high hopes as we lean into this new arc.

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Karandi James
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