Welcome to one of the most tranquil settings with Natsume, Nyanko-sensei and the gang~
|There’s nothing more relaxing than coming in after a busy day and sticking on an episode of Natsume Yuujinchou. It’s quiet, reflective and gentle. An overall soothing experience. I’ve been waiting a long time for S3, and I can’t wait to see if it’s everything I’ve loved and missed about the franchise.|
|Oh gosh, Natsume is baaaccckkk!! I’ve been waiting WAITING for this to happen! Yess!!! Give me my Natsume x Tanuma-er, I mean, give me youkai now!!!!!!!|
|Aah, my dear Natsume! How I love you dearly… If you don’t know, I’ve been a fan of this series since I discovered it via a friend, who supplied me the first season. There was no looking back after that. But before getting into the latest season; firstly, apologies for this delayed first impression, spanning to two episodes (LOL!). If you aren’t on twitter, let me tell you that my best friend got married recently and of course I was the best (wo)man and thus had too many responsibilities to juggle around with. However, I’m back in full swing and let me get you up to speed on what’s been up with our main protagonist; in short, the story of Natsume Yuujinchou so far.|
It’s interesting to note that all the important background information about Natsume is pretty much reiterated in the first episode. In short, Natsume Takashi has a special ability to see supernatural beings known as youkai, spirits, demons, etc. This is a trait passed on from his grandmother Reiko who was so powerful that she challenged and defeated almost every youkai she met in exchange for their names. She stored all these names in her Book of Friends, which was part of her will to Natsume. If you are getting an evil image in your head, think again because yes, a youkai’s name gives the owner controlling power over them but she was simply lonely and did this for company. She was a delinquent to most, skipping classes and fighting playing with her youkai friends as nobody got her deal.
Natsume took all of this in his stride and didn’t even hate his grandmother for passing on this unnatural ability to him. Of course, it’s not really her fault but keep in mind, Natsume is one of the kindest people you will come across in anime, somewhere up there around Kokutou Mikiya (Kara No Kyoukai). So, he’s just too nice and there have been times when this niceness has caused him much suffering but not for long because some of his friends actually came through, saving his neck.
Both the previous seasons had small 1-2 episode arcs introducing new characters yet it built upon the back story of Natsume on how Reiko met different youkai during her long journey, which affected her personality and had repercussions in Natsume’s life. He was orphaned at a young age and due to his special ability, he has been passed around in the family. Growing up, he has learned to keep to himself and not reveal his ability. For a change, he’s been living with the Fujiwaras (an old couple) for some time without a hitch and he’s become quite fond of them because they treat him as a part of their family.
If you want to know how Madara got into the whole mix, Natsume just happened across him in the first season. He took up the role of guarding Natsume for the condition that when he has passed on, he can have the Book of Friends. Yeah, you can say, not one of the purest intentions but seeing him work over time in protecting Natsume shows you that he’s doing an okay job. Of course, he’s a lazy, fat cat (of course, he insists that he’s not a cat); though very cute too. I mean just look at that round belly, which he fills with lots of sake and whatever food he can gobble up.
Bottom line, this is something reminiscent of all the nicety in the world. The atmospheric feel of the series is inherent even in the sometimes feared and adorable youkai who come for different runs at Natsume. Unlike Reiko, he has met humans who he can call friends and thus he’s not alone as his grandmother. He lives his life trailing a line of youkai who have different stories to tell about his ancestor but it’s not like repaying other’s sins; it’s more like enriching the experience of life and how little events leave big impact in one’s life.
Like any other day, Natsume’s first goal is to reach school safely because somehow or the other, bad youkai are always after him either because they want revenge for their name being taken or simply want to eat him because he’s delish. Seriously.
Natsume did successfully run from the Menos Grande-ish youkai but gets trapped by an obaba, who threatens to curse him if he didn’t help her out. Lesson learned, not be nice to old ladies, Natsume… At least recognize they are blind yet scary youkai obaba. Of course, this encounter leaves him rattled, and the presence of Kagejawan (an exceptionally made teacup that absorbs earth’s power and becomes a youkai. It warns a household of incoming danger and sometimes even protects them sacrificing itself instead), doesn’t do any good as the teacup jangles up and down at night warning him of some form of danger lurking around.
Just another day in the Fujiwara household
He visits the old youkai next day to find out that she had actually met Reiko, who had saved the tree she was fond of because of the beautiful and fragrant flowers. The mix up was all due to some low-life youkai spreading rumours about Reiko being worse than a demon. She helped out the old lady just like Natsume but was taken aback when she found out that she was not human. Of course, obaba misunderstood her as a powerful youkai herself and gave up her name when defeated. Natsume returns her name to her in the ceremonious way of breathing the name out of the page torn from the book. The Menos Grande did try to get in the way but Madara came to Natsume’s rescue and even his shoulder remained unhurt as the Kagejawan sacrificed itself to save him.
We again meet Tanuma, a close friend to Natsume who is one of those few people knowing about his ability. He can see silhouette of youkai himself but is not powerful as Natsume to see them clearly. His father is a temple priest who exorcises the grounds from all kinds of youkai to keep it safe. However, Natsume happens about on a lot of merrymaking mountain youkai and finds out that grounds are clear from priest’s mantra because he has gone off for a month to the main temple.
Of course, he double checks it with Tanuma who has some worries of his own because he’s been witnessing a scary-looking youkai skulking around the temple grounds, spilling its blood. He gets more worried, when he hears Natsume’s name whispered. Being a good friend, he yells at the youkai for staying away from his friend but gets no response.
On the other hand, Natsume is stalked by a youkai who presents a very sad story of being separated from her brother and the village of Ukihara (a legendary beautiful village for youkai), because they were lured out of their separate realm due to the festival merrymaking of humans. The shiki youkai (she seriously resembles Nao!) tries to manhandle Natsume and steal his Book of Friends but Misuzu (another old youkai acquaintance) comes in time for the rescue and Madara soon follows.
Natsume pieces together the information that the youkai lurking around the temple is shiki youkai’s brother and needs to be freed of his name from Book of Friends. Of course, Nyanko-sensei is never happy with the name return because he wants all of them when Natsume would have passed on. Anyhow, the climax happens when Natsume goes to check on Tanuma because he left school early due to a headache. He discovers that the temple ground held the festival place where the youkai were lured from Ukihara but the shiki youkai is not the sister rather a culprit banned from the village because she broke a flower stem. The brother in the story lost his sister soon after he came to earth and wandered around in despair. He met Reiko in an abandoned building where he epic failed at rock-paper-scissor with her and got his name down as her slave. Srsly… was Reiko into SM play? Kidding.
This sequence is delightfully reminisce of the manga!
Stop being a douche, Nao! Deliverance is done and you get to spend time in heaven as a flower stem~
Just as Natsume returns Kanawa’s name, the other youkai spill his blood to reopen the village gate. It works too; though, what you sow is what you reap and she gets punished for her ill behavior. A superior youkai turns her into a flower stem and welcomes Kanawa to his home. Kanawa remembers Reiko and wishes if only she were there because she wanted to see how magnificent his village was. He also offers Natsume to enter the prestigious village with him but he declines because he already had many good friends on earth.
Of course, one of them is Tanuma. That brofist proves it too.
Pretty much everyone returned from the previous seasons to recreate the wonder of Natsume:
- This is Takahiro Omori’s favourite project. Of course, you know him from most of Brains Base’s brilliant titles like Jigoku Shoujo, Baccano!, Durarara!! and Kuragehime, just to name a few. Natsume is unique in itself because Omori keeps on coming back to it. It’s not usual for such a critically acclaimed title to keep on coming back for seasons but it’s a delight for fans and I can bet Omori enjoys the process just like the fans (Though, give us the second season of Durarara!! already!!!).
- Akira Takata has done the Character Designs, while Yukihiro Shibutani returned as Art Director. Sadayuki Murai is the new addition for being the owner of Screenplay.
- As previously, this time too, the music composition is by Makoto Yoshimori, the same dude who has delighted us with Baccano!, Durarara!! and Kuragehime music.
- Opening sequence “Boku ni Dekiru Koto” is performed by quite a rookie band: HOW MERRY MARRY. Their previous works only consists of ED2 of Soul Eater during it rerun, though I still quite liked it. That Natsume feel is there:
- Ending theme “Kimi no Kakera feat. Miyamoto Emiri” is performed by Kōsuke Atari, who also did the first season’s ED. I also liked his ever changing voice in Bleach ED13. Somehow or the other, he is always able to show emotions through his voice as if it’s palpable yet quite soothing. Love the animation on this too.
- Natsume is voiced by Hiroshi Kamiya. Yep, you can already see me fangirling excessively on this, right? My most favourite seiyuu after all and I loved him as ZETSUBOSHITA, Arararagi-kun, Orihara, Takemoto, Otanashi and Zess to name a few.
- Madara/Nyanko-sensei is voiced by Kazuhiko Inoue, who is usually entertaining and sometimes quite epic (whenever he transforms to his real form). You know him as Kakashi from Naruto and some of you even know him as Yuki and You. :3
- Reiko is voiced by a very powerful seiyuu, Sanae Kobayashi. Don’t be fooled by her sweet voice, she can cut stone with it as she has played Lucy in Elfen Lied, Namie in Durarara!!, Ennis in Baccano! and Allen in DG Man; I’ve named just a few so you can imagine.
- Kazuma Horie voices Tanuma, however he hasn’t done many major roles except for in Kiba and Goulart Nights and who remembers that?
- Some more interesting cast includes:
- Natori (Exorcist/Actor by profession, the dude with a tattooed lizard, moving all over his body) is voiced by Ishida Akira. Yep, another bishie.
- Sasada (Another classmate who knows Natsume’s truth) is voiced by Sawashiro Miyuki. She needs no introduction.
- Takaya Kuroda (Simon, dude!) voicing Misuzu the youkai.
- Seiji (another exorcist but a ruthless one) voiced by Junichi Suwabe. If you don’t know him, you’re a loser.
Sigh~ Why is Natsume so perfect? Is it just something in the air? The water? The team that bring Natsume to us, the original mangaka, these are people who know what they’re doing. Who get it. I got sucked into this episode very quickly, probably because it’s been such an anticipated sequel for me, so I don’t really know if I can be as objective as I usually am. Faults? I found none. There were some animation goofs, but they were so very slight that you’d really have to be watching intently to notice, and they don’t hinder the episode’s enjoyability at all. I’m glad that the recapping they did for any new followers was subtle and fast; if you’re joining the party this late you really should watch the first two seasons before you get into this one. Not because you’ll be lost otherwise but because they are amazing, and you owe it to yourself to watch them.
It’s all very nostalgic now, the feel of this series. The story was as what I’ve come to expect, which is just effortlessly engaging. It’s like when someone whispers to you, you kind of can’t help but be interested in what they’re saying! Cause it’s quieter it has more of an impact, …and I bet I’m totally not making any sense right now. Anyways, what really made me nostalgic was the use of the “threat music” when Obaba-San was looming quite intimidatingly over Natsume. It’s a great little piece of music they’ve been using since S1, and it’s really effective if you’ve heard it before and can equate it to all of his other hairy situations. Was a nice little touch that I’m glad they’re keeping. I have to say though, I prefer the ED to the OP. Season 2’s OP was so upbeat and fun it’s hard to better it, and I don’t think this one quite matches up. The fact they re-use animation, or re-cap some of the scenes, from the previous season I didn’t like either. The ED is just perfect though, the song, the animation sequence, all of it just matches up beautifully.
Natsume is a total gem, plain and simple. People call it boring, complain about the lack of overall story, but what they don’t appreciate is that that’s just the kind of story it is. It’s not meant to be a big loud, demon slaying fest with loads of action or gore, and I think it’s nice to have a bit of change of pace for once and not have an anime where you’re lost if you pick it up in the middle. Natsume works in its wanderings because you could catch an episode here or there, without knowing the story or anything about it, and it would still be enjoyable. There’s a charm to its simplicity and delicate nature that makes it very hard to hate; maybe because it is such a harmless show. It’s fluffy and honest, and just beautiful. What more can you say?
I’m glad that we get to know more about Reiko’s feelings just by the first two episodes. Not that I don’t mind random youkai, but we’ve had enough of that for two seasons. It’s time we learn more about Natsume’s dead grandmother, Reiko the boss. It seems that when the youkai started to be fond of her, Reiko became the one that wanted nothing to do with youkai; she missed being a normal human with normal human friends. I’m more intrigued about her now, since obviously she ended up being married to a human. Did she rejected her youkai friends and move on to another place, pretending that youkai never existed (the old Natsume)? Or maybe she found someone that’s similar to her? Did she die hating youkai? Seeing Reiko’s expressions in the first two episodes, I can’t help but thinking those kind of questions. And of course, THAT YAOI VIBE IN EPISODE TWO. *fangirl squeal*
I have nothing to say about Natsume except that I LOVE ALL of the episodes. ALL OF THEM. And the manga too. I can never find anything bad in the story not get bored with it, fillers or not. There is something in Natsume’s storyline that will always make you turn back to it. You will sit for days watching it, and you won’t get bored; if you like sweet heartwarming stories of course. The only problem for me is how shady Reiko is. I want to know more about her and it seems like they’ll focus on her more this season, so I have no problem now.
The art is beautiful, as always. It’s so soft, and the colors they use are so warm. It really fits the story and the setting of the series (a small village with crappy school uniforms). The animation also really fits the series. I have no complains about that. The songs are…well, I prefer the singer for the OP to be Long Shot PARTY rather than this new band. I think Long Shot PARTY’s main vocal really fits Natsume series well. And the opening is, um… Why so many reused animations? But that’s all right, I guess. I don’t find the opening to be as addictive as the second season’s though. AND, the OP is lacking Natori. What the hell, I want my Natori! The ED on the other hand is great; I love how it shows the bond between Natsume and the Fujiwara family.
I know I’m not rambling a lot here, but that’s because that’s just how much I adore Natsume. I think everything about it is Great with capital G, and I can only find few mistakes in it. I know how I love the fact that although the stories are sweet and emotional, it’s not one of those series that are overly-dramatized. It’s also not meant to be an anime that will make you shed tears (such as AnoHana). When you start shedding tears when you watch this, it’s because you’re overly-emotional, not because it’s meant to make you cry. Yeah, I’m over-worshipping it. But it’s just soo good~ Seriously, watch Natsume. WATCH IT.
Oh man… I feel like going completely blank after writing such a long first impression, even when I’m somewhat handicapped. But no, I can’t stop myself and I can go on for another page because this one is quite close to my heart. After the two seasons, it actually feels like nothing was amiss and the story just flowed after one another. You would imagine the seiyuu would have forgotten how they voiced their characters or the Director could have taken liberties to ‘upgrade’ the franchise but none of this is valid for Natsume. I have to give it to Brains Base and Omori for maintaining the consistency in everything. It was literally like catching up with an old friend who you met after a long time but even with time and/or distance nothing changed and you talk to them exactly as if it was an everyday affair.
I’m so glad that we are seeing more of Reiko because in the beginning two seasons, she just came as a bonus or got a few episodes that kept everyone engaged but not a ‘lot’ was revealed. It’s finally progress time and I’m sure curious to know who she met and married; I hope it’s someone who changed her life. What she thought about her legacy and did she ever got out of the phase of ‘hating humans’ and living recklessly, challenging every other youkai? Did her powers wane? What’s the significance of Book of Friends? Was it all just a joke of seeing who is the strongest or a legacy that she wanted her heir to have so that they are never alone like her? If you scratch at the surface, everything Reiko did had two sides to it and if at one point evil youkai are after Natsume to get their hands on the book, there are good youkai out there as well who protect him from harm’s way (Madara/Misuzu just to name a few) and remember Reiko with fondness.
Natsume is definitely a big problem solver and always goes over himself to solve the youkai troubles just like his grandmother. He’s just more honest about it and doesn’t go the round robin way. Overall, these two episodes have really setup the pace for this season and I am expecting to see some old faces and more development around Reiko. OP is definitely at par with the previous ones but I enjoyed looking at some old characters, while ED is simply perfect. As Yuki Midorikawa is still working on the manga and it’s serialized monthly, not sure how much progress can be expected but I will count on Omori to stay canon to the original work. So, all in all, I’m a happy camper and can’t wait for the next episode!
Did I just hear Yoshimasa Hisoya (Shichika from Katanagatari, Yukitaka from Level E, Nezumi from No.6) in the preview?! Squee~ False friends sounds interesting and maybe this dude is some jilted kid from his old school who came under some misunderstanding due to Natsume? Join me next week to find out! Ja ne~