The Lost Backlog of Summer 2014 #10: Natsume Yuujinchou

By request, this week’s post will feature GIFs

Seeing as I had no confidence in the summer season, I decided to invent a backlog of shows to watch from one of three different areas. The tenth anime on this list was Natsume Yuujinchou, which aired in the summer of 2008. I had previously watched the first episode during last year’s random show watch. I marathoned the first season of the show, and these are my thoughts on it.

Last year’s watch was one of just many random episodes so I couldn’t really take in entirely what I was watching since it was just one part of a journey toward ending my day. At least this time I could pay attention without regretting my decision to leave things up to a random number generator. After Mushishi, this happened to be another episodic show that featured a protagonist that could see mysterious creatures. That’s really where the comparison between the two ends.

Natsume is the story of a high school student, Natsume Takashi, that can see and interact with spirits in the same way his grandmother Reiko did. He inherits the Book of Friends from her and sets about on a mission to free all the spirits from the book that were captured by Reiko. He does this with the assistance of a bodyguard spirit named Madara that most often takes the form of a cat.

That’s really about as far as the plot of the first season of the series goes. Like I said, it’s fairly episodic, so each episode has it’s own individual plot, but I don’t think that’s where this particular show shines. I think the bright spot is actually in how the characters are able to grow over the course of the series and the Book of Friends actually works as a great analogy. Since Reiko had taken their names to make them slaves at her command, it wasn’t very much about Friends at all. What Natsume does over the course of the show is to use the book to make friends of his own. It’s not so much a terrible book that enslaves those inside, but a coffee table book that is used to start conversations.

That’s not to mean there’s no consequence to his being in possession of it. Madara and Natsume work out a deal to have the book passed onto when Natsume dies because it is still a very powerful item. It just becomes less so as more names come out of it. So that means the other spirits with not so great intentions are after it. Fortunately, he’s able to build a solid stable of allies to help him through any problems. The most exceptional of these was with the young kitsune boy named Kogitsune who was being bullied and they do genuinely form a friendship from that point.

It’s also worth mentioning the development of the group he hangs out with in high school. He starts out mainly as the guy who occasionally sees weird things and by the end of the series, he had a few friends who just accepted it as part of who he was. There was also a slightly muted angle where a girl named Jun at least seems interested in Natsume insofar as to where he was traveling on one of his personal missions, but that seems to go nowhere for the rest of the season.

My overall impression of Natsume ultimately ended up being that it is a good show to pass the time, but I didn’t find it particularly exceptional. It might be a show that improves with time and additional episodes, though I’m not going to continue with it further at this time. So really, it’s an incomplete impression that I don’t think is going to be resolved anytime soon. I think as far as a recommendation on whether to watch this depends on how someone wants to go into it. If they were to care about Natsume’s long term character development with his new friends, then I’d say they would need to commit some time to watching probably all of the episodes from all of the seasons. Otherwise, I think this is a show that can be dropped into, which doesn’t make it bad, but it becomes a different kind of show.

Next Week: It looks like I will be initiating some survival strategies.