A month ago, TWWK offered all of the readers on this blog the opportunity to decide what anime you wanted me to review. I am stunned at the result. I never imagined that Natsume Yuujin-Cho would win, especially against Sword Art Online. Well anyway, prepare yourselves as I am about to begin.
Natsume Yuujin-Cho (aka Natsume’s Book of Friends) is a series I have watched twice and read four times. The story revolves around an orphaned boy named Natsume Takashi who has basically spent his entire childhood being passed from one family member to the next over and over again. He has spent his life being rejected and living in fear, when suddenly he is invited to stay with the Fujiwara’s. The Fujiwara’s are a childless older couple with distant family relation who choose to take Natsume in and want to care for him.
Natsume, however, tries to keep them at a distance as he fears that if they find out about his ability, they will get rid of him. Natsume’s ability is to see and be able to interact socially with yokai (or spirits.) This also means that they can interact with him and since he has such spiritual ability they perceive him as being tasty to eat. This causes lots of problems as other people can’t see the very real threats he deals with and describing them makes Natsume seem crazy. Then on top of all of this, there are a number of yokai out for revenge against him. Natsume comes to find out, after releasing the super powerful yokai named Madara, that he has inherited a book from his grandmother, who could also see yokai, in which she wrote down the names of the yokai she deceived. She wrote down their names and basically enslaved them. She however died very young, and Natsume inherited her book and her powers. Instead of using the names to control yokai, he with the help of Madara (aka Nyanko-sensei) give the names back. Natsume must do all of this while trying not to be eaten and not draw suspicion from his school friends and the Fujiwara’s.
I originally decided upon watching Natsume Yuujin-Cho after reading a review of one of the anime seasons written by Annalyn in 2012. I remember being really intrigued by her review, so I decided to give it a shot. The series did not disappoint. The show is slower than many other shows that I like, but in the case of Natsume Yuujin-Cho, it helps the audience learn about the characters and feel the effects of Natsume’s personal struggle. The muted art style allows for an almost poetic feeling of harmony, while the action sequences contrast the art and create a stronger effect without having to be flashy. The show flows smoothly between episodes and stories, but there is also a large amount of emotional tension. This tension is the driving force that keeps the audience engaged, waiting for whatever may be coming, like the flow of tension and release in a symphony piece. Natsume Yuujin-Cho remains one of my favorite anime because of the depth of character each character possess and the extraordinary amount of character growth through both personal and interpersonal ways. The story is really well written, and it carries the feel of a redeemable tragedy, that is leading into something more hopeful.
One of the main parts of Beneath The Tangles is focusing on spiritual aspects of shows and seeing how they fit various beliefs. The spiritualism in Natsume Yuujin-Cho is based off of Shinto beliefs, with a bit of Japanese Buddhism thrown in. For me personally, this was not a problem for me in watching this show. The yokai are treated as fanciful or ferocious characters, rather than gods as we think of them in the west. There are a couple of moments that put me on edge, but I tend to be highly sensitive to these kinds of things and I would expect most people would have no issue. That being said, I believe that this show offers a very interesting perspective into the beliefs of Shinto and how spirits or yokai exist in these beliefs. I also think Christians should have enough discernment to know what effects them, and what they can handle.
I personally can really relate to Natsume’s struggles. I won’t go into a lot of detail, but the struggles of depression, fear of rejection, the orphan spirit, and sensing spiritual things are all struggles I dealt with growing up and still deal with. I may go into this more at some point, but for now know that these struggles are real. If you are going through this kind of stuff, know that there is always hope, and don’t be afraid to speak up. Not everyone will listen, but there are people who will. Like Natsume, you will find people who really care and who can relate. Don’t give up. I wouldn’t be here today, if God hadn’t rescued me from this stuff. He pulled me out of the darkness and though I am still recovering, I am no longer trying to do it alone. Keep it up and if you need any help feel free to message or comment below.
Now, back to the review. I recommend Natsume Yuujin-Cho. Highly, highly recommend it. It is in my top three favorite series of all time and is very close to my heart. Thanks for picking this series everyone and thank you for responding to the poll a month ago. Be blessed and enjoy the series when you pick it up.