6 CommentsAnime Analysis / By Scamp /

Natsume has won me over again

You may have noticed that I like to make fun of Natsume an awful lot on this blog. 4 seasons we’ve gone of Natsume commenting on the weather and his gaggle of friends for whom we’re supposed to care about and awww shucks, I can’t stay mad at Natsume. I do genuinely like the show and how it has honed the fine craft of storytelling better than most out there. It’s not what I usually go for, and I certainly think Mushishi handles these same kinds of stories a bizillion times better, but it’s ever-expanding tale on loneliness and acceptance is one that I do rather enjoy. After 3 seasons though, it was starting to bug me that the show was stagnating. That is, until episode 7.

Let’s do a recap. There was a gradual development of Natsume was from detached loner to one with a loving family and friends, all while coming to terms with his ability to see yokai. After 3 seasons, that had all been done. There was nothing else left to explore in that direction, yet the story was still banging on these same points. We needed the story to evolve in a different direction. My theory was that it would explore further the relationship between exorcists and yokai, particularly as Natsume has been having an awful lot of altercations with them recently. Others were desperate for the show to finally tell us what happened to Reiko, Natsume’s grandmother, and how she ended up with children in the first place. Neither of those were the direction it took, and what kinda pissed me off was how bloody obvious this direction should have been to me.

Episodes 6 and 7 of season 4 were a double episode in which Natsume is captured in a jar by a yokai and taken as a gift to some more powerful yokai. The crux of this story was that Tanuma figured out what was happening and decided to go help Natsume. Being in the jar though, Natsume couldn’t ward Tanuma off from entering the world of the yokai further. Tanuma thought Natsume would be happy if he went to help him, but that has never been Natsume’s stance. He has always tried to ward yokai off from interfering with his family and friends, getting noticeably uncomfortable whenever it looks like a yokai will start to interfere with his private life. This has led to Natsume appearing a bit distant from his friends at times, as he won’t tell them exactly what’s going on. But he’s also aware that bringing them into this world is dangerous for them, and tries to shield them from it.

This all comes to a head when Tanuma gets attacked by a yokai and almost gets killed. He now knows the full extent of what goes on in the yokai world, and there is no real turning back. This thread is coming to a head more and more often over the course of the show. It’s a wedge he’s driven between himself and everyone else, yet it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep that wedge in place as he becomes more well-known in the yokai world. It never mattered in the past because he was a loner, but now it does. That’s the conflict the story has been focusing on lately, and I feel kinda stupid that I didn’t notice it until episode 7 where it was shoved in my face. It gives the series a huge breath of life to it because it now has a clear conflict again.

To finish off, and while I’m talking about episode 7 [big spoilers here]

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  1. Hogart
    Posted February 17, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    I felt this arc was too contrived for too little payoff. To me it was just two episodes of sub-par Natsume Yuujinchou “beat the evil youkai” stuff, only saved by some good comedy and forcing Natsume to (once again) be worried about his friends. I’ve been waiting two seasons for something more interesting than the obvious “he’s lonely, yo” material, but I’m with you.. I can’t get angry at Natsume Yuujinchou. Even when it’s being redundant it’s still superior to the bulk of anime.

    • Scamp
      Posted February 18, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

      This is something other than “he’s lonely though”. That’s why it’s important

  2. Posted February 18, 2012 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    I think Madara has never been very subtle about having an agenda and a connection with Natsume but Natsume was so hungry for anyone to fill his loneliness in the first season he never called him on it and now he’s too used to Nyanko-sensei being around to see it. I’m glad the story is moving in this direction because the divide between human and Youkai is one Natsume has needed to resolve for a very long time.

  3. Mr. Anon
    Posted February 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Here’s to season 5.

  4. Posted February 19, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    And the next one will be about that Matoba old lady, right? Can’t wait.

    Good to see they’re doing exactly what I expected, since the two first episodes of this 4th season. Hope we can get some nice conclusion to the series.

  5. Posted February 20, 2012 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    He now knows the full extent of what goes on in the yokai world, and there is no real turning back.

    Except for when he considers running away/ moving again after what almost happened to Tanuma, perhaps. But, of course, he doesn’t, which should continue to make things interesting. I’m also looking forward to finding out more about the exorcists, even though

    [the] ever-expanding tale on loneli­ness and accept­ance is one that [I also] rather enjoy

    and is probably my favourite aspect of the show. Formulaic perhaps, but the treatment always feels fresh to me.

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