According to the most recent Season’s Preview done by the Bokutachi no Blog team, it seems that at least half of my writers have never watched Natsume Yuujinchou. I know, now that the series is into its fourth season, it seems daunting to start at the beginning, but I think the story and characters are so believable and easy to invest in that you’ll find yourself breezing through the first three seasons and onto the fourth.
Or you could just start with the fourth.
Natsume Yuujinchou is one of my favourite series. Each story is touching and impactful in revealing more about the protagonist Natsume Takashi or those around him. The series focuses heavily on him, though that’s not to say the side, supporting characters are undeveloped or not well created. In fact, the most recent season (Natsume Yuujinchou San) spends a lot of time building on Natsume’s relationships with the humans and non-humans in his life. Season one and two focused primarily on Natsume’s Book of Friends, and getting to know his grandmother, Natsume Reiko who was the original owner of the Book of Friends, through these encounters. Season four has begun with a completely different story: Natsume’s clash with the Matoba clan.
The Matoba clan was introduced last season as the antithesis of everything Natsume stands for. The Matoba are exorcists who care neither for yokai nor humans, and will exploit both for their own gain. Unlike the Natori clan who are more prone to seal away dangerous yokai, the Matoba will eliminate any yokai who does not prove to be useful to the clan. After a short recap of the general premise of Natsume Yuujinchou as a series, the fourth season dives into the action right away with Natsume running into Matoba territory and ends before he can safely escape the Matoba compound. I doubt the entire season will focus solely on Natsume’s derision of the Matoba clan’s ways, but it’s a good place to start, and it makes sense as well. Up to this point in time, the series hadn’t introduced a consistent villain; sure there were “bad” yokai here and there (like that super creepy puppet whose limbs had been scattered all over Taki’s house) but no one who could really oppose Natsume.
What I find most interesting about the conflict though is that rather than coming up with a very strong and menacing yokai, Natsume is dealing with a human who more or less has the same abilities to see and interact with yokai as himself. No doubt the two will be compared in many ways, perhaps even including the way they were raised and how their current perspective pertaining to their interaction with yokai came to be.
The opening was okay; I’ve seen better openings with some of the previous seasons. I’m personally not a fan of the song they used, but I like how the images used tell the story of how Natsume started as a lonely child who struggled with his interactive-yokai abilities but over time, grew up to have friends and learned to manage his ability more effectively. I’m quite fond of the ending though, both of the visuals and the music. The song and art style falls in line with what I now consider a ‘typical Natsume Yuujinchou ending’: soft, gentle music, and lovely, water colour-esque images. The animation of the episode, however, seems… not as stellar as last season, but maybe that’s just me. Don’t get me wrong: the animation is still great, and there are still moments of iconic Natsume beauty, but for some reason, I feel like the third season was the best animated.
I know sometimes, when a season first starts, we compare the shows and see which has the “best” first episode. I don’t think Natsume Yuujinchou had the “best” episode in that it was really flashy or did anything shocking or crazy. But I do think it was a good start to a good series. It makes sense and doesn’t waste any time introducing the storyline. Even the (re)introduction of characters is done well, without any unnecessary talk or screen time. Nyanko-sensei also makes a grand return being both useful (or perhaps not all too useful, haha) and funny. I remember seeing once an anime award post (probably done by the fabulous max team over at Sekijitsu) that listed out who that season’s best supporting female and male characters were; I feel, that in the same way, Nyanko-sensei deserves a best supporting character award – perhaps in the non-human category.
Well it’s no surprise that I’m definitely looking forward to this fourth season of Natsume. But I’m not sure if I’ll be reviewing it just yet. There’s maybe one or two other shows I’m considering for episodic reviewing but it’ll depend on what my team chooses and how bad those shows may turn out to be.
But you should definitely watch Natsume Yuujinchou Shi. Or at least bump the series up on your “to watch” list.