Anime Review: Natsume Yuujinchou

Natsume Yuujinchou (Book of Friends) has been one of my favorite anime series since 2013. I suppose you could call it a mystical slice-of-life about a boy named Takashi Natsume and his ability to interact with youkai or supernatural monsters, spirits or demons in Japanese folklore. His grandmother Reiko Natsume also had this ability, and would take youkai’s names after she encountered them and put them in her Book of Friends. Ordinarily if this happens to a youkai they would become slaves to the one that took their name, but Reiko never had ill intentions for them and rarely, if ever, actually called on them. Takashi decides to give the youkai back their names along with his “bodyguard” Madara, a powerful cat-like youkai he calls Nyanko-sensei.

Precious days with kinds friends. A beautiful yet fleeting story about people and spirits. Natsume Takashi had been able to see youkai ever since he was young and inherited his grandmother Reiko’s Book of Friends. He spends his days with his self-proclaimed bodyguard Nyanko-sensei and freeing the youkai that were bound to the book. Natsume continues to find ways to protect the precious days where he tries to find which path to follow through his connections with spirits and those involved with them and being helped out by friends who share the same feelings – Crunchyroll

Huh, maybe I should’ve just used Crunchyroll’s summary from the beginning… Anyway, with the release of the sixth season I’d like to finally do a review for this blog. Before that though, I thought I’d plug the review I did on Crunchyroll three years ago for the first four seasons.

When I first started watching Natsume Yujin-cho, I was surprised at the lack of action in a show that has “monsters” who like to attack a boy who can see them. Over time however, I began to appreciate Natsume for his methods of trying to befriend both humans and youkai. This show has been one of my favorites because it manages to teach good messages while still telling great stories. I’m sad to see the series end, but this season delivers just as much, if not more, than the previous seasons in terms of plot, message, and tear-jerkers. It gets a 5/5 for being one of the few happy-go-lucky “slice of life” animes to keep strong without turning into a snooze fest after a few episodes. It easily deserves the four seasons it has had, and could easily pull off another four if the writers and animators wanted to make it. But for now, I’ll have to say goodbye to one of my favorite series. Goodbye Natsume Yujincho. I will miss you.

It seems my writing style and vocabulary haven’t changed all that much since then… Might need to do something about that. I was also surprised to see that I didn’t write a review for the fifth season, which I thought I was going to be reviewing today, but to be honest each season is more or less the same — which is why this review will be over the series as a whole and not necessarily specific to season six.

To point out one of my often favorite things about a great anime, the art in this series is simple amazing. I hate to use this phrase but it’s breath-taking — especially when showing landscapes. Natsume Yuujinchou is also a master craftsman of the emotional rollercoaster. If you can watch an entire season without tearing up then I question your humanity. That said it’s not necessarily a sad show, so much as it is profound, melancholy and sweet. Some episodes are rainy days while others are the peak of spring. I don’t really enjoy using flowery language like that but it’s a perfect metaphor.

Friendship is definitely the defining theme of this series, and if the title doesn’t spoil that one I don’t know what does. What makes Natsume really admirable though is that he values the friendship of humans and youkai alike — a value I find equally admirable when reflected in real life’s society. I always find it funny that the youkai he encounters mistake him for his grandmother because in their eyes all humans, especially relatives, look alike. Much like Japan, or the rest of the world for that matter, the youkai are very xenophobic are prefer to stick to their own kind. But a few are more accepting of Natsume and the bonds they make are really beautiful to witness.

For a show that’s so heartwarming and unique, it’s hard to really point out too many flaws. If anything I often feel like it’s biggest flaw is also one of it’s strengths. There are times an episode or two might feel too long, but then before you know it you’ve finished an entire season and then you’re caught up unsure if they’ll make any more. Honestly I would consider myself ungrateful if I complained about episode length. Oh and speaking of unique, shows like this really are hard to come by. The more popular Mushishi might be the closest example I’ve seen, but I’d say it lacks the warmth and humor of Natsume Yuujinchou.

All in all, Natsume Yuujinchou easily deserves

5/5 Yokai


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