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]