This anime was recently introduced to me by some friends and I felt it was fairly appropriate, given the sheer number of youkai and the spookiness of the season, to share some of my thoughts on it here. Despite being full of monsters, this show has up an incredibly upbeat feel about it. It’s a really calming and relaxing to watch, especially this month. As a break from all of the spookiness in the air, it certainly fits the bill!
We watch events through the eyes of Takashi Natsume. From a very young age he has the ability to see and interact with spirits, which he inherited from his grandma, Reiko. While this might sound like an awesome power to a lot of us, it left him an outcast with no real friends and caused him no end of trouble. So when he finds out about his grandmother’s ‘’Book of Friends,” a book with power over a whole host of youkai, you’d think he’d finally get some use out of it! But our friend Takashi is the definition of a nice guy… even if he doesn’t always act like it. The show follows him as he spends his days helping spirits and returning their names, thus loosening the book’s hold over them.
Natsume Yuujinchou (full Japanese title) was aired in 2008, so the animation is still solid, if a bit dated. Not ground-breaking by any stretch of the imagination, but the style fits the theme of the show and in a way that’s kind of hard to describe, it’s really calming.
The characters are fairly standard, with the notable exception of Nyanko-Sensei (who you might have guessed) takes the form of a cat… Again the design, while good, isn’t incredibly unique and the transformation is a little abrupt. BUT! and it’s a big one, the dialogue between him/she/it… (I’m not really sure) and Takashi is stunningly well done. The comedic timing and general wit had me and a bunch of my friends laughing out loud, and is really a highlight of the show. In general as well, the writing is really good. There are a bunch of great lines and bits of dialogue scattered throughout the show which the anime does a great job of bringing to life.
One downside to the show, in my opinion, is how quickly the youkai are passed along. There were a cartload of characters I really liked and weren’t really seen again. I know it’s a part of episodic manga and anime, but it’s not really my thing. I’m a big fan of character development and 5-10 minutes in an episode just isn’t enough in most cases.
The show isn’t driven by any particular plot either, and feels very episodic. On paper it’s difficult to see what you might see in this show to choose it over any other similarly themed anime. Ushio to Tora for example has a very similar basis but chooses to follow a more battle driven story line where every episode has its fair share of thrills. But like I said, what this show does, it does amazingly well! I can’t help but feel relaxed watching this show, but in a way that doesn’t put me to sleep either. You’ll have to watch it yourself to see what I mean.
There are a whole host of sequels and spin offs which I’m looking forward to watching, and the manga is still ongoing! So, if you’re in the mood for some PG rated ghost stories and a main character who strongly resembles a steamed bun, then check it out and let me know what you think!