Title: Natsume Yuujinchou San
Genre: Drama, Slice-of-Life, Supernatural
Summary: Ever since he was a child, Natsume Takashi could see spirits. As an orphan, he was passed around among relatives until he was taken in by the Fujiwaras. In the town where his grandmother once lived, Natsume finds out that he has inherited something more than spiritual power- the “Book of Friends”. Essentially a collection of contracts, each page bears the name of a spirit Reiko defeated and allows the owner to command it.
Review: How can the story of youkai and human capture the hearts of many? Beyond the straightforward plot are complicated but genuine emotions anyone can relate with. Continuing from the first two seasons, Natsume’s days are filled with more interactions between human and youkai. Each episode is told from Natsume’s point of view engaging viewers into his innermost thoughts and feelings.
Natsume is extraordinary not for his spiritual ability but the way his character had grown. Recognizing his weakness in being alone and learning how to depend on others more, he is not a wimp that Nyanko-sensei had always teased him to be. By experiencing kindness from the people around him, he himself became a gentle existence treasured by both his human and youkai friends.
The backstory with his friends Kitamura and Nishimoto, as well as how he was adopted by the Fujiwaras, was definitely heartwarming. Finding people who would stand up for him and actually want to be with Natsume created a place he could call home. Other than the recurring youkai and human characters, the first and only human villain introduced in this series was Matoba Seiji, head of an exorcist clan and portrayed as someone who would employ any method to gain power.
There are various reasons youkai come to Natsume. Some simply want their names returned freeing them from their contracts while others seek to use the Book of Friends for their selfish gains. Other meetings are coincidental, others purposive. An episode may end and a youkai remains nameless but their presence in that single episode leaves a lasting impression and sense of familiarity. They may be different beings but they feel the same emotions that humans have. An episode is never round-about and has an amazing way of concluding with a completely satisfying and touching story for both human and youkai.
In one way or another, his guardian spirit Nyanko-sensei, or Madara in his true form, manages to defend him from the more violent youkai that Natsume encounters. This was the promise they had. Madara would guard Natsume against youkai and he would receive the Book of Friends when Natsume dies. Contrary to what he usually says about Natsume being his dessert or not caring at all if he dies so long as he could get the Book of Friends, Madara is quite protective of Natsume and almost run amok when Natsume was injured trying to shield him. He is also an effective source of comic relief with all the silly faces he makes and the mindless banter with Natsume.
Aside from their personality, each character is faithfully adapted from the manga and rendered with simple lines and light color palette. Background art is similarly done, almost like a watercolor painting. Coupled with fluid animation especially when Natsume returns a name, it is simplicity at its best and works well for the series.
A soft piano melody plays as a youkai recounts how she only wanted to cure a friend’s illness and when another only wishes to find someone to talk with. A playful tune for Nyanko-sensei’s antics and a combination of piano and traditional string music evokes nostalgia. Every piece of music suits the atmosphere perfectly well stirring emotions that viewers can feel even beyond their monitors. The opening and ending themes are always something to look forward to as they best represent what the series is all about- fun and light-hearted, at the same time deep and emotional. The opening sequence did a good job of animating and recounting the more significant meetings Natsume had in the past two seasons.
Final Say: A gem waiting to be discovered. This is the perfect description for a beautiful series that does not even try to stand out but those who have caught a glimpse of its radiance can’t help but boast their find. Natsume Yuujinchou San remains consistent in what it has done best- episodic plot, well-established characters, modest art and animation, and the right mix of music. One would never tire of this high priority watch.