For a character who has been mentioned in Natsume Yuujinchou since season one, Reiko remains the character most shrouded in mystery. For every flash back or memory Natsume has of Reiko dealing with yokai we’re presented with just one more puzzling piece of a complex character who died a long time ago. Yet she remains a driving factor behind so many of the interactions in Natsume’s Book of Friends and so I wanted to take a moment to look at her a bit more closely.
Not that we have all that much to go off of. With few exceptions, all the information the audience gathers about Reiko comes second hand and is heavily interpreted by the one conveying the information. For yokai, Reiko was a human they either feared or held in awe. Some yokai developed a fierce attachment to her whereas others would flee at the very mention of her name.
It is difficult to tell how Reiko felt about yokai. The story that she was frustrated and so picked fights seems likely given she did in fact force a large number of yokai to write their names in her book, and yet there’s much more to it. The young and naive yokai she met who wanted to see the ocean was given the chance to do so many years later due to his encounter with Reiko. While on the surface it looked like she was being horrible to him, she ultimately gave him the chance to fulfil his wish. Admittedly she could have gone about it in a nicer manner but it was still kind of helpful.
Plenty of other yokai were also helped by their encounters with her. However, some were not. Others were beaten and then abandoned and left with a helpless feeling of being abandoned. At various points Reiko might have been able to have become friends with one yokai or another, much as Natsume has, and yet she continued to hold herself aloof.
We also know Reiko had dealings with the Matoba exorcists, though again, other than brief glimpses we don’t know exactly to what extent those dealings went.
What we do know about Reiko is that she was someone who refused to compromise who she was. She was different from other people and they shunned her because of it but she didn’t try to hide her nature. She was fierce and strong and seemed whimsical but there was kindness in many of her actions. We also know that at some point she had to have had a child or else Natsume wouldn’t exist today for us to enjoy his adventures.
I’d love to learn more about Reiko as she is a truly fascinating figure whose actions have had far reaching consequences as she left her mark firmly in the yokai world.
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