I continue trying to finish my winter season series reviews before the spring season ends with a review to the sequel of one of the best slice-of-life series in recent memory – Natsume Yuujinchou or Natsume’s Book of Friends. Before it started, I was a bit apprehensive; on one hand, I was excited to get more Natsume but I was also worried that the sequel wouldn’t be able to captivate me like the first season did. Were my fears unfounded or were they right on the money?
Final Series Score: 12/12 Perfect
Rewatchablity: 4.5/5 – High
Ending: 3.5/5 – Very Good; sums up the main story threads nicely, especially for a slice-of-life show
Animation: 4.5/5 – Sublime
Pros: The relaxing feel to the show along with Natsume’s desire to help those that ask for his help leaves the viewers calm and feeling good afterwards, great cast of characters all the way from the main characters to the one episode minor characters, Natsume and Nyanko-sensei make a great pair of main characters, a visual treat to watch with high quality animation and an animation style that compliments the show’s feel, an awesome soundtrack that works perfectly with the show, superb voice work by the vocal actors
Cons: those looking for the second season to exactly mirror the first season might be put off with the greater focus on Natsume and his character growth
Awards given to this show by this blog
- Runner-up for Best Male Main Character – Winter 2009 Season
- Best Non-human Character for Nyanko-sensei – Winter 2009 Season
- Runner-up for Best Story – Winter 2009 Season
- Ranked #3 in Overall Top 7 Anime of Winter 2009 Season
From the first season we learned that Natsume was born with his ability to see spirits and this ability wasn’t an easy burden to carry. As a child he didn’t realize that other people couldn’t see the same things as he. So while his parents might have put up with it, when they died and he went to live with relatives – they found him creepy and didn’t want anything to do with him. Eventually Natsume gets passed to a distantly related household of a older childless couple. This couple treat Natsume kindly and he attempts to cover-up his ability because he does not want to be a bother to them.
This is made more difficult because the area in which this couple lives in is the same one that Natsume’s grandma lived in. She had the same ability to see ghosts as Natsume and spent her time picking fights with the local spirits and when she beat them would have them write their names in a book. This book, known as the Book of Friends, gives the user the ability to control those spirits that have their names written in it. A very powerful item in the right hands and with the recent passing of Natsume’s grandma – the current owner is Natsume. When these spirits realize the Book of Friends is close by again, some try to get their names back and others want the book for nefarious purposes.
The second season picks up pretty much where the first season leaves off with the focus shifted a bit from the individual stories connected to the ghosts connected to the Book of Friends towards Natsume’s relationship with other people and the ghosts as well as being able to balance the two.
Thoughts and impressions
When this finished up in the beginning of April, I remember thinking that I was going to rate this an 11.5/12 because I didn’t quite like it as much as the first season. I missed how the show focused on the stories that accompanied the ghosts that where tied to the Book of Friends and instead focused on Natsume and his attempts to balance fitting in with humans while still being able to see ghosts. It wasn’t the same; it was very close, hence the almost perfect score, but not quite the same thing.
And that’s what I had penciled in as the score. When I got to the grade for the ending, I wanted to make sure I got an accurate score so I popped in episode 13 and it became apparent rather quickly that I had forgotten how much I liked the show. So after episode 13 finished, I couldn’t help myself and I immediately rewatched episodes 12,10, and 1; I’d’ve probably watched more but I was trying to write this review. In none of these episodes did I find myself thinking the same things I did when I watched these episodes the first time. So, either I was being overly picky the first time or I’ve accepted the second season for what it is and looked at it on it’s own terms. Whichever is the reason, I no longer felt that anything but a perfect score would be right.
I was somewhat leery of actually changing my score, though, since I had settled on something but then I figured that rewatching those four episodes meant I’d rewatched slightly more then 30% of the series and since I allow myself to adjust scores after a rewatch – I could, in somewhat good conscience, change the score and I did.
Reading three paragraphs as to why I felt the need to give Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou a perfect score as opposed to a perfectly good 11.5/12 might leave some reading wondering if the show was worth fussing this much over and I’d have to answer yes. There is so much going for it. I’d start with the main characters – Natsume and Nyanko-sensei. Both characters, individually, are very memorable characters but together they’re even better. Natsume’s resolve to not bother those around him that he cares about because he can see spirits as well as being more then willing to risk his life to help a ghost that’s come for his help makes him a very likable and sympathetic character. Nyanko-sensei is a very powerful spirit that seems to have taken a liking towards the cat form that he was trapped in for a long time. And any show that features a sake-drinking talking cat is a winner. Something specific to this season was how the animators really brought out how Nyanko-sensei actually liked being around Natsume. I suspected this was the case from the beginning but it was a nice little touch to see him slowly act like a friend towards Natsume.
I think ultimately it was because Natsume makes such a great character that I didn’t mind the focus shifting towards him and his dilemma about humans and ghosts. Something that didn’t change about the show is how well the animators harmonize the animation, music, and storytelling of the show. Nothing ever feels out of place with this show and I feel this is one of the best ways to show the mastery of the animators. The one downside to this is that since they do such a perfect job that it’s easier to not even realize how good of a job they’re doing. When I did my seasonal awards, I didn’t give this show best soundtrack and I had a commenter say that he/she felt it should have won. Since there was still a couple episodes left to air, I made sure that I listened to background music and I realized the commenter was right. It was so good, I didn’t realize how good it was without specifically looking for it. Kinda like how Omar Vizquel was the best shortstop in the past25 years (if not one of the top shortstops of all-time) but he was so good at it that many people didn’t realize how awesome he was because he made it look routine.
One of the other new things that this season added was a handful of reoccurring characters and hinted at a more involved plot then just the stand-alone nature of the series up to this point. This was probably a necessity since at some point the show would run out of interesting stories and be forced to start recycling material – to the determent of the series – but that doesn’t mean it’s also an interesting way to expand the story. It also opens up more possibilities with the storytelling and makes the viewers hungry to see what happens next. Yes, that’s my subtle way of saying I want a third season as soon as possible.
This, along with the first season, are one of the few titles that I’d recommend to just about any anime watcher since I think there’s something for just about everyone – with the possible exception of those anime fans that need fighting and explosions every 10 seconds to stay interested. There are some scenes that I’d term action scenes scattered throughout the series since some spirits resort to violence against Natsume. People that enjoy good characters are amply covered as are people looking for something that puts them in either a calm or happy mood. So to are people that enjoy watching a series that can make them shed a tear or two since some of the individual stories can really get to you. The supernatural angle calls upon the local culture and helps add yet another layer to making Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou interesting and different. And don’t forget the sake-drinking talking cat spirit that everyone can see (and have a different name for); you can never go wrong with a sake-drinking talking cat.
- 13 episodes
- genre:slice-of-life, supernatural
- animation studio: Brain’s Base
- director: Takahiro Omori
- OP: “Ano hi Time Machine” by LONG SHOT PARTY
- ED: “Ai Shiteru” by Kourin
- Seiyuus of note: Hiroshi Kamiya, Kazuhiko Inoue, Rina Satou, Miyuki Sawashiro, Akira Ishida