One of the things that I’ve come to really enjoy about watching anime is that I have the chance to see types of shows that I would never see on American television. Natsume Yuujinchou falls into one such type – the supernatural slice-of-life show. As I’m typing this, I’m trying to think of an example of a similar show over here and can’t. This show also takes a different view of spirits then one I’m used to seeing; in that instead of being characterized as evil or good they are, by-n-large, lonely creatures.
Final Series Score: 12/12 Perfect
Pros: the animators create the perfect atmosphere for the show through their use of the OP/ED and animation style/quality and pacing, the characters Natusme and Nyanko-sensei make a good team as do their seiyuus, we meet a wide range of different characters through the course of the series and their stories never are boring
Cons: Natsume’s motivation in episode 1 didn’t make too much sense to me (manga does a better job of spelling it out), it’s only 13 episodes long
Awards given to this show by this blog
- Best Male Character for Summer 2008
- #1 Top Anime of Summer 2008
Natsume was born with his ability to see spirits. As a child he didn’t realize that other people didn’t see the same things as he, which caused a lot of trouble for him especially after his parents died and he went to live with his relatives. These relatives found him creepy and he gets passed around until finally landing in the household of a distantly-related older childless couple. Natsume, not wanting to be a bother to them, covers-up his ability as best he can.
His life isn’t made any easier when the spirits of the area realize he is Reiko’s grandson. Reiko had the same ability and many of the same problems as Natsume. However, instead of trying to pretend the spirits weren’t there, she fought them and when she won, she would have them place their names in her book and she gained the ability to control them. This book is called the “Book of Friends” and when Natsume is made aware of it’s existence, he finds it in the stuff that he got when his grandma died.
The “Book of Friends”, as you’d imagine, is a very powerful item since Reiko defeated so many spirits in her time. As a consequence, many spirits would love to get their hands on it and many other spirits would simply like their names back. To help protect himself Natsume extracts a promise from Nyanko-sensei to be his bodyguard. So over the course of the series we get to meet spirits that want the book or want their names back or just Natsume’s help.
Thoughts and impressions
If you remember back in July when I did my initial impression post for this show, I talked about having a problem with Natsume’s motivation in returning the names to the spirits. I still feel the same way, in the anime Natsume mentions that he wants to finish his grandma’s work by returning the names to the spirits. From what the show says she was the one that went around collecting names, not giving them back so why was her work not finished? This issue was much better handled in the original manga by Natsume saying that he didn’t want trouble so if a spirit showed up wanting it’s name back – he’d give it back. That makes a lot more sense and I wonder why Brains Base didn’t go with that.
By the halfway point of the series, I’d completely forgiven the show for Natsume’s motivation in the first episode because we were being treated to episode after episode of slice-of-life perfection and this perfection continued on throughout the rest of the series. It was like a symphony where every part to the show played it’s part perfectly and together it was so harmonious.
One of the things that I particularly liked about this show was the slow evolution of Natsume’s character throughout the series. He starts off unhappy that he has this ability and you could tell that he didn’t much like the spirits either. This slowly changes as we progress through the series and by the end, it appears that he’s might actually be happy that he has his ability and that he enjoys the company of the spirits. This slow evolution reminds me of another show, Sketchbook, because we watch as Sora slowly becomes less shy over the course of the series and it’s not really apparent unless you watch the first episode again how much they have changed.
I’m almost positive that this show will end up in my top 10 shows for 2008 and with the second season starting in January, maybe it’ll be in my top 10 for 2009 as well. So, if you haven’t had the chance to catch this great show, I’d strongly recommend that you do.
- 13 episodes
- genre: Supernatural, Slice-of-Life
- animation studio: Brains Base
- director: Takahiro Omori
- OP: “Issei no Sei” by Shūhei Kita
- ED:”Natsu Yūzora” by Kousuke Atari
- Seiyuus of note: Hiroshi Kamiya, Yuki Eiri