Reviews: Natsumes Book Of Friends
This is my favorite series for the immersing mood and atmosphere. Every episode is heart-wrenching in one way or another, although it doesn't quite reach genuine Tear Jerker territory because most of the tragedy happens to minor characters. And there are a lot of them; In a nutshell, the series uses an episodic format to give us a short story about a different yokai with his or her own background each episode. Some are recurring, but many are one-shot characters. While the episodic nature is the series' main selling point, giving it a chance to tell many different tales rooted in mythology and painted with emotional drama, it is also its one major weakness. Other than the title character and his manekineko Vitriolic Best Bud, the other major characters...the Fujiwaras, Tanuma, Taki, Nishimura, Kitamoto, Sasada, Natori, and Matoba...are not fleshed out as much as they probably could be. However this is not too much of a big deal as they are developed just enough to show what they mean to Natsume, to give the audience a good idea of their unique personalities...and to inspire lots of fanfiction, since they, along with the world they live in, are developed just enough that you can't help wanting to see more. (Seriously, it feels like questions are intentionally thrown in and never answered just to keep the reader or viewer guessing.) As I've already stated, the atmosphere is very immersive due to great storytelling often aided by slightly melancholy, but very beautiful, piano music. The pacing never feels too fast or too slow for whatever conflict the author has in store for Natsume and his friends. The series is packed with many fun, sad, peaceful and stressful moments so it is never dull.
Natsume Yuujinchou: A Beautiful Series
Natsume Yuujinchou is an extraordinary series from an ordinary concept. You may think it's just a rehash of every "kid who can see spirits/yokai" show ever, but this series is unique and has a beauty all it's own. Many people compare this show to Mushishi and with good reason: it's episodic, quiet and spiritual. Some might say boring, but I never found it to be. Still, while there are definitely moments of danger and action, it's predominantly Slice Of Life, following Natsume Takashi as he befriends various yokai and people, coming to terms with the ability that has haunted him all his life and lead him to become alienated from others. Where Mushishi has fatalistic themes with bad things happening to good people, Natsume Yuujinchou is much more light-hearted and focuses on loneliness, friendship, acceptance and life. The story begins when yokai show up demanding Natsume hand over "The Book of Friends", a notebook made by his grandmother which contains the names of yokai and can be used to control the yokai whose names are written within. Each episode focuses on helping out various yokai, returning names from the book, or defeating dangerous yokai who want to kill Natsume and take the book for themselves. There isn't a strong overarching storyline, instead each episode advances the themes of the story in subtle, but strong ways. The emotion in each episode is never over the top, but is still deeply powerful. Certain episodes seriously made me cry. The technical aspects of the series itself are well done. The soft music carries the mood, with great opening and ending themes that fit the series. Some of the yokai designs might seem a little boring or generic, but the animation itself is always very well done and never off model or stilted, and other yokai make up for it by being more interesting to look at. Natsume is also a great main character, very admirable and sympathetic, never whiny or annoying. His yokai companion, Madara, is simultaneously adorable, hilarious and cool. Their relationship is one of the best parts of the series. Increasingly amazing, each season is better than the last, introducing new characters while revisiting and expanding on old ones, with more seasons on the way. All in all, this is an awesome series. Especially if you like contemplative stories focused on characters, you'll adore Natsume Yuujinchou.