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Manga / Natsume's Book of Friends
aka: Natsume Yuujinchou

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Natsume Takashi & Nyanko-Sensei.

"Ever since I was little, I have sometimes seen strange things. As others cannot see them, they are most likely what you would call 'youkai'".
Natsume Takashi

Natsume's Book of Friends (Natsume Yūjinchō) is a Shoujo manga written and illustrated by Yuki Midorikawa. It has been serialized in LaLa since 2005 and is still ongoing.

Natsume Takashi is one of those manga protagonists. All of his life, he has possessed the ability to see spirits. He's been tossed about from home to home for most of his life, unable to fully interact or be honest with people due to the way they tended to react to his bizarre ability. As a result he has No Social Skills at all. So yeah, kid's got angst.

Natsume's ability to see spirits is a power he inherited from his grandmother, Reiko, who made a personal hobby out of gathering the names of as many spirits ("Youkai") as possible binding them to her servitude via writing their names in the titular Book Of Friends - a highly prized item that many denizens of the spirit world desire for themselves. Upon her death, Reiko bequeaths to her grandson several of her belongings - including the Book.

Upon discovering the purpose of the Book of Friends, Natsume makes it his mission to return all of the names his Grandmother took to their appropriate spirits. Yes, including the evil ones who want to kill him. He spends his time releasing the various spirits that come to him for help from their contracts and trying to stay alive in the face of the ones who'd rather just eat him and take the book for themselves.

One spirit in particular, Madara (aka Nyanko-sensei), who spends most of his time in the body of a lucky cat (when he's not going One-Winged Angel on us in which case he appears to be an giant inugami), is particularly helpful when it comes to the not-letting-Natsume-get-eaten thing. He serves as Natsume's bodyguard and spiritual adviser, and his main motivation is apparently to possess the Book of Friends - which Natsume has promised to Madara, should he be killed.

There is an anime based on the manga divided in four thirteen-episode seasons, with a fifth announced for a Fall 2016 season release, after a hiatus of 4 years (the fourth was released in the Winter 2012 season). The sixth season followed in Spring 2017.

An appropriate word of description for this series would probably be "heartwarming". It's been described as "Tactics, but less violent", though it definitely has its moments. The occasional outbursts of action are balanced out against gentle explorations of the supernatural, basically it's a light-on-plot, Slice of Life take on the spirit world, and a sometimes exciting, sometimes peaceful foray into the world of the supernatural.

Many of the chapters, especially in the first-half, were stylized to be closer to stand-alones so that anyone starting the series could have a basic understanding of the plot (though some stories are up to three chapters long).

This manga provides examples of:

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  • Abusive Parents: Natsume once had an abusive drunk as a guardian, and another that purposely neglected to feed him.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: The kitsune boy all the way. Maybe Kai too, with a dash of Tsundere?
    • Natsume when he was a child
  • Adults Are Useless: Subverted. Many of the adult characters in the series, some without who don't have or even know about the ability, make positive impacts in Natsume's life. While sometimes they do require Natsume's ability for help, they also do their fair share of work. Justified for some adults in Natsume's childhood since they can't see ayakashi.
  • Ambiguously Evil: The end of chapter 62 can give that impression about Natori. Some youkai may also be applicable to this.
  • The Alcoholic: Nyanko-sensei, and a lot of the recurring youkai.
  • Ambiguously Human: Some youkai look very human-like to the point where occasionally Natsume and Nyanko-sensei can't tell them apart. However, Natsume's ability to differentiate seems to be more powerful compared to some exorcists.
  • Animation Bump: Episode 10 of Zoku features the series' most fluid, dynamic animation to this day courtesy of Tetsuya Takeuchi.
  • Androcles' Lion: Saving youkai occasionally turns out to be unexpectedly useful later on.
    • One extremely powerful youkai jumps to Natsume's defense, saving Natsume and Natori from an evil ayakashi trying to eat them, because Natsume helped him earlier in the episode. This is a pretty big reward considering all Natsume did was cover up a puddle in the road so that his servants could pass despite the fact they could just as easily have walked around it. It was probably a Secret Test of Character or something...
      • It might have more to do with the East Asian concept of honor and duty. Quite a few Chinese (and I'm sure Japanese as well) folktales have people or spirits repaying small debts in grandiose manner.
    • That, or the servants weren't smart enough to figure that out.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Sure, Natsume believes in spirits, but not fairies. Fairies couldn't possibly exist.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "Which is more important to you? Humans or youkai?"
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Reiko's challenges to the youkai vary from battle duels to rock-paper-scissors.
  • Art Evolution: The most noticeable change would be Nyanko-sensei: his facial expression used to be more fixed and pronounced (the ink are thicker and resemble closer to a porcelain maneki-neko), compared to now where the line markings got narrower and some of the cheek marks are removed (resembling closer to the current anime appearance).
    • The art for later seasons of the anime look more polished compared to the first seasons. Natsume in particular looks a bit younger in comparison to how he was drawn for the first two seasons.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Care For Each Other: A non-romantic example though not fully a Vitriolic Best Buds, Natsume and Nyanko-sensei do really care about each other. Specifically examples include where Nyanko-sensei saves Natsume from a group of masked-youkai, fully claiming his responsibility of being his bodyguard. In the anime Natsume shields Nyanko-sensei from Matoba's dagger, even with Matoba reminding Natsume the possibility of Nyanko-sensei using Natsume. Not that it started off that way nor will either two admit it directly.
  • Author Appeal/Signature Style: partially covered faces. The more human(oid) a particular youkai looks, the higher is the chance that is would have its face partially or completely covered most of the time. Benio, Hinoe, Hiiragi, Tsubame, and several others have something ( butterfly / hair / Noh mask / veil / etc. ) covering part or whole of their face. Even Natsume does this to pass off as a youkai.
  • A Shared Suffering: Natsume and Natori.
  • Baby Morph Episode: Chapter 78 where Natsume is de-aged to a child, though he has no memories of his current life.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: The Fujiwaras were the only guardians who ever wanted Natsume to live with them. And it's this that pulls Natsume off the brink of the Despair Event Horizon and gives him enough courage to fight back against the Ayakashi that wanted to make him its "pet".
  • Bishie Sparkle: Actor and part time exterminator Natori gets at least one parody of this in almost every episode he appears. Natsume and Nyanko-Sensei like to mock him for this.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Many characters in the series pull this off but mostly Madara, who usually arrives just in time to save Natsume when he gets in over his head.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The Omibashira mansion which also rearranges itself to prevent guests from escaping.
  • Bitter Sweet Ending: Several episodes, notably episode two, where the shrine "god"'s last worshiper dies, and he vanishes along with her, only to meet her immediately in the afterlife, and finally speak with her. Natsume even offers to take her place, but the spirit claims that won't work "because you and I are friends".
    • In the manga, the two don't meet in the afterlife. Instead, the "god" simply disappears, though Natsume does say that he hopes the two of them saw each other again.
    • Also, any episode dealing with a broken bond between a Human and Youkai. Because, you know, they don't all hate each other. The staggering briefness of a human's life in comparison to that of a youkai is a point of interest, scorn, and heartbreak amongst them.
  • Blindfolded Vision: Many of the humanoid youkai wear masks which cover their eyes and Sasago keeps her eyes bandaged.
  • Body Snatcher: One or two get their hands on Natsume. There's also the mask youkai in chapters 53 and 54.
  • Brought Down to Normal:
    • A minor character in one episode could once see the youkai - but at some point, his ability mysteriously vanished, leaving Natsume to wonder whether the same thing might happen to him one day.
      • And then next season, it temporarily does.
    • Another example is when one of Natori's colleague's, an exorcist, also mysteriously loses his ability to see youkai. This causes a lot of distress for the shiki, not only because their contracts can no longer be undone but that they could no longer directly communicate with their master, despite how much they want to.
  • …But He Sounds Handsome: Nyanko-sensei (in Madara form) indulges in this when he and Natsume go searching for a black Nyanko-sensei doppelganger. It backfires.
    Madara: Have you seen a lovely black cat with a sheaf of papers in his mouth around here?
    Natsume: "Lovely"?
    Benio: No, but I did see a gluttonous, fat-headed one running towards the Youkai banquet grounds.
  • Cliffhanger: The end of season 2, episode 6.
    • Season 3, Episode 6 leaving Natsume unconscious and at Matoba's mercy.
    • Natsume Yuujinchou Shi episode six: The episode revolves around Nyanko sensei's efforts to get Natsume out of a magic jar. Turns out it wasn't just a joke; an ayakashi that intended on taking Natsume in the night so he could be used as an offering to a powerful spirit was the one that tossed it in, and he does eventually 'nab poor Natsume. The episode ends there.
  • Cast from Hit Points: Freeing youkai from the Book Of Friends is exhausting business.
  • Collateral Angst: Doesn't happen often but when it does, Natsume is the recipient or some of Natsume's friends are.
  • Conveniently Placed Sharp Thing: How Natsume escapes Matoba's shiki for the first time by using a broken cup shards to cut through the paper bindings.
  • Consummate Liar: This trope is overall played with. Natsume grows into this when he realizes in his childhood that nobody can see or hear ayakashi, lying in order to cover any incidents caused by ayakashi and personal problems. Natori feels that he can relate to Natsume as he went through similar ordeals, offering a place to stay "if he ever got tired of lying" (though Natori also falls back into it, time to time). In more recent chapters, Natsume has learned to talk to others about his problems though time to time, he still can't always tell the complete truth.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Many years ago, Reiko befriended a young boy who lived in the same neighborhood as she did. She even exorcises a malicious spirit from his house. Said boy was Shigeru, the adopted father of her grandson Natsume and the house became inhabited by the same evil spirit again, leaving Reiko's grandson to finish the job.
  • Corner of Woe: Natsume does in the jar's non-existent corner when thinks about the possible aftermath if his foster parents never found out where he went.
  • Creepy Child: Natsume and Reiko were considered this while growing up.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Nyanko sensei. It's subverted though. You know almost right off the bat that his somewhat laughable cat form isn't the real him and that he's an extremely powerful ayakashi.
  • Cute Monster Girl: While most Youkai resemble inhuman or Gonkish monsters, there's a number of youkai that instead resemble attractive individuals wearing masks. There's a couple of Bishōnen among them, but many of them are female.
  • The Dark Arts: Chapter 62 and episode 3 of season 5 reveals, while not all of it is are necessarily evil, there are a few spells and practices that exorcists deem as illegal because of their harsh nature or unintended side effects. So far, these include:
    • a contract between a human and youkai that uses the real name of the youkai. Instead, a new name is given until the end of the partnership. Using a youkai's real name will bind its life and fate to the contract medium, and force the bound ayakshi to any command, word for word, which includes crueler actions. Therefore, the Book of Friends would also be considered illegal since it's a collection of these contracts. However, the power required to wield it very high and so the technique is considered a myth, making its existence unknown to most humans.
    • spells that allow relatively normal people to see youkai due to potential side effects which includes Taki's circle.
    • a technique that sacrifices coerced, weak-willed ayakashi into a doll to create a stronger ayakashi. It is invoked by a Matoba clan exorcist but the ayakashi was uncontrollable and fled to the Hakozaki residence.
    • the scarecrow ayakashi in chapter 80. It can be created intentionally or accidentally by powerful humans, especially if there were strong feelings when creating them. The reason is because they are human-created souls stuck in a restricted vessel. According to Shibata in the anime, the Nishi-sama spell would also count.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: A few of the ayakashi seem Obviously Evil at first but end up averting it. Special mention goes to season three episode two's focus guest character and Misuzu, who seems intimidating and callous at first but proves to be on Natsume's side.
  • Deathbringer the Adorable: This little guy. (Actually a Youkai possessing a snow-bunny Natsume made). D'awwww!
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Zig-zagged. While he does love them dearly and some his previous foster parents were not-so-pleasant, he is pretty happy living with the Fujiwaras
  • Despair Event Horizon: Natsume was on the border of one before he was taken in by the Fujiwaras, nearly resigning himself to become the pet of one of the many Youkai that stalked him because he felt like he had nowhere else he could go.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Occasionally, Natsume needs to dress up as a youkai to find more information about or to just enter their premises. Natori and once Tanuma as well.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: One Ayakashi's a bit disappointed to learn that Natsume doesn't match her his grandmother's reputation
  • Expy: Kaoru and Aoi draw many parallels to Dezel and Rose, including sharing the same voice actors. Like Rose, Kaoru is a female human, has the ability to see creatures that most normal humans can't, but her ability isn't at the same level as Natsume's. She ends up forming a close relationship with a non-human that eventually blossoms into love. Unlike Dezel and Rose, however, Aoi doesn't die and both get a happier ending.
  • Fantastic Racism: Though this is toned up in the anime, the antagonistic Matoba clan holds the Youkai to be creatures inherently inferior to humans, believing they possess no emotion or empathy and are thus meant to be in human service. The context is upped in season 4, where the Matobas aggressively hunt a tribal clan of monkey youkai (wearing tribal masks and brandishing spears, no less) who openly wonder what they ever did to humans to deserve this treatment. In the anime, Matoba is later seen punishing one of them for the "crime" of entering a human home (this was changed from the manga where he tortures the ayakashi to get Natsume to talk about Reiko).
  • Festival Episode: the final episode of the first season, and a few lower-key ones after that.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: A downplayed version but could be described about the relationship with Natori and Madara.
  • Flash Back: Natsume gets a few, usually to childhood events. When he returns a youkai's name to them, it's accompanied by a Flashback to the event during which they lost their name to Reiko in the first place.
  • Flash Back Echo: While this series is generally a Slice of Life, there will occasionally be arcs that are a few chapters long or special overarching plot chapters that tend to pop up. Usually, the next normal Slice of Life chapter will reference at one point certain a quote from the most recent arc that, depending how he takes it, will shape Natsume's character. This pattern is more noticeable in the later half of the series.
  • Foil: Reiko and Natsume, Natori and Natsume, Matoba and Natsume, Natori and Matoba... in fact, any human dealing constantly with youkai are this for each other.
  • Foreshadowing: In episode eight of the first series, Natsume thinks on how horrible it would be to suddenly not be able to see youkai any longer - and surprises himself when he realizes how much he means it, when he's spent all his life wishing to be ordinary. This makes it all the worse in the sequel series when he actually does lose his ability.
  • Food as a Bribe: How Natsume often gets Madara to help him out with different problems.
  • Fountain of Youth: Tsukihigui are youkai that makes things, animals, and humans new/young as a way to show it's gratitude, and sought by sorcerers for it's power. It de-ages Natsume as a result from Natsume helping him out of a pot. It believes that is the desire of humans and animals and questions Nyanko-sensei's reasoning when he requests to turn Natsume back.
  • Furo Scene: Usually provided by Natsume.
  • Geometric Magic: Natsume can call forth youkai in the book of friends that he's seen and knows the name by drawing a magic circle, have a mirror, and giving a part of himself (blood would do).
    • Natori has magic circle patterns he uses in exorcising.
    • Taki has a magic circle pattern, passed down from her grandfather, that allows youkai to be seen by anyone.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: the second chapter of the manga has a local spirit who is greatly reduced in power because hardly anybody believes in him any more, and dies when his last sincere worshipper does. (Interestingly, Natsume can't help with this, because it needs to be worship as a god rather than mere belief that the spirit exists.)
  • Goldfish Scooping Game: Played by the fox child and Natsume in the anime, during the Festival Episode.
  • Good Parents: Not just the Fujiwaras, but presumably Natsume's actual parents too. A lot of his guardians in between though...
  • Gotta Catch Them All: Inverted. Natsume is trying to free any youkai bound to his grandma's book.
  • Gratuitous English: Nishimura saying "INTERNATIONAL" when both he and Kitamoto thought Natsume knew a foreigner girl (though it was a youkai). Another time when Nyanko-sensei is wandering the school grounds, singing "want you" part in english when Taki repeats that line in is a creepy, seductive voice before grabbing him. All instances were Played for Laughs.
  • Hellish Pupils: Natsume, his grandmother, and 80% of youkai have these.
  • Heroism Incentive: First subverted, then played straight. When Natori initially offers Natsume to become an apprentice, Natori informs him that the pay is good but Natsume still refuses. In another encounter however, Natsume jumps on the opportunity when Natori asks the sealing of a youkai has good reward pay.
  • Humans Are Bastards: a few youkai are of this opinion, and many have good reason to be, but it's not by and by the rule. The anime is far from leaning in favour of this trope alone. It also shows that humans can be pretty awesome sometimes, too and many Youkai either have a fascination with them, just don't find them all that interesting, or want to make a tasty snack out of them.
  • Idiot Crows: Joked with in episode 11 of series one, where Nyanko-Sensei yells at the crows not to call him an idiot.
  • If It's You, It's Okay: Hinoe's solution to the whole Stupid Sexy Flanders situation with Natsume.
    Hinoe: If I just don't think of you as a boy, there's no problem.
  • In Love with the Mark: Chapters 37 and 38 deal with a starving Ayakashi that took human form so that she could eat a human, only to end up falling for him instead.
  • Interspecies Romance: Several between youkai and humans.
  • Invisible to Normals: the youkai are invisible to most people in the series, with the odd exception.
  • I Know Your True Name: Requirement in order to control or release an youkai from the Book of Friends.
  • I See Dead People: Sorta. Depends on whether the youkai count.
  • I See Them, Too: Natsume's meeting with Natori has this result. Natsume also asks Tanuma whether he can see the youkai standing on the school field - Tanuma claims he can't - but he does see a vague shadow of their presence.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: One youkai's human love can no longer see her and has since grown to fall for another, human woman - the youkai is only glad that he has found someone to love again and isn't lonely anymore.
  • I Was Just Passing Through: Nyanko-sensei often insists that he's serving as Natsume's bodyguard so that he can have the Book of Friends once Natsume bites it. Given that he has yet to give a clear answer as to why he doesn't just eat Natsume and take the book, it's probably just an excuse.

  • Kids Are Cruel: Many children shunned and rejected Natsume through his childhood because he openly told people that he could see ayakashi at the time. When he'd learned his lesson, the damage had already been done. Many kids laughed at him. In season 2, you learn that some children even followed him home and threw rocks at him as a sick game of make-fun-of-the-weird-kid.
  • Killer Rabbit: One of the creatures that Natsume encounters by chance is a "karu", which looks exactly like a little ball of fur with two small eyes and is really very cute. When it gets agitated, however, it opens an oddly-shaped mouth with tiny but very sharp fangs, and its fur puffs out into poisonous spikes. And there's a rumor that karu eat other youkai and similar sources of spiritual power, and they travel in packs...
  • Killing Intent: Some of the youkai. Detected on their second encounters by Natori from Kai and Matoba from Madara.
  • Kimodameshi: The "Test of Courage" occurred in one episode - this being Natsume Yuujinchou, it's obvious what ended up happening.
  • Last-Name Basis: The only people who address Natsume by his first name, Takashi, are the Fujiwaras. He and his friends all call each other by last name, with or without an honorific.
  • Left Hanging: Mostly related to Reiko. Who was Reiko's baby-daddy? Why is she always seen in her high school uniform in a youkai's flashbacks? Why did she never actually use the book of friends? There are hinted to be answers to these questions, but fifteen volumes into the manga, we still have not gotten them.
    • And: Could Takashi's mother see youkai? Who or what killed Takashi's parents?
      • It has been said that Takashi's mom cannot, though this is known by word.
    • Maybe to a lesser extent but how and who sealed Madara in the first place?
  • Life/Death Juxtaposition: Fuzuki is the god of the Absent Moon and Houzuki is the god of the Harvest Moon. During the competition in the Moon-Splitting Festival in the anime, Fuzuki says that if he wins the competition, he'll make Misumigahara barren for ten years, and Houzuki says he'll make her bountiful and healthy if he wins the competition instead.
  • Mascots Love Sugar: In "To You From Bygone Days", Nyanko-sensei can be distracted from his job as Natsume's yokai bodyguard by the prospect of eating dango. He spots the suneko jump from a cyclist passing by, it's just that he's too preoccupied with the treats Natsume is buying him. Consequences of being a Big Eater, huh?
  • Mark of the Supernatural: Humans have relatively normal appearances whereas ayakashi have a larger variety to choose from. Humans that have strong ability to see normally have an odd/rare eye or eye color. This includes:
    • Reiko and Natsume have white hair in the manga and golden eyes in the anime.
    • Natori and Matoba have red eyes (which classmates of the former have noted).
    • Nanase with grey eyes.
  • Mayfly–December Romance:
    • Any relationship between a youkai and a human is doomed to end this way, it seems, because of the human's short lifespan in comparison to a youkai's. Although youkai have the potential to live for centuries, death for them can be quite sudden when it does come.
    • Notably averted with Shibata (human) and Murasaki (youkai). It was Murasaki who was about to disappear. There was also a firefly youkai who died before the human she loved.
  • Meaningful Echo: Natori calls Natsume "a nice kid... just a nice kid" not long after their first meeting. It turns out this is exacty the same thing a youkai once said to Natori himself, when he helped her as a child.
  • Memento MacGuffin: The Book Of Friends is one for Natsume of his grandmother, who had the same ability to see youkai. The MacGuffin part is more for the youkai who seek to possesses it for power.
  • Mentor Mascot: Nyanko-sensei handily manages both of these at once...with minimal Magical Girl vibes, at that.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: What Nyanko-sensei claims is responsible for his more cat-like tendencies.
  • Morality Pet: Ironically, Natsume is more Nyanko-sensei's.
  • Neck Lift: Natsume is often subjectated to this by youkai though he usually does manage to slip through it.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: Unusually for a shoujo series, there's very little romance or even Ship Tease between the characters. Creator Yuki Midorikawa has said that the manga was born out of her desire to write a supernatural story without a noticeable romantic element (something her editor pushed her to add to her previous manga). Even the occasional romance between minor one-shot characters are rather subdued and low-key.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The titular book is not a list of friends, it's a magical artifact that Natsume's grandmother used to make the youkai listed in it her unwilling servants, a practice more commonly known asslavery.
  • No Social Skills: While Natsume is perfectly fine at being polite (he thought if he wasn't, people would have yet another reason to throw him out of their house), but he's terrible at actually developing friendships with other people and has problems sharing his concerns with anyone, even if he logically knows that he really should.
    Natsume: I’m sorry, Tanuma. I know that you and Taki will listen to me, but I’ve never talked to anyone about this stuff before. No one’s ever listened to me before... I don’t know how to talk about it.
    • In fact, those who are able to see or sense ayakashi have somewhat poor social skills. This includes Matoba, who seems to have No Sense of Personal Space in the anime. Natori used to have this problem but developed out of it as he got older.
  • Not What It Looks Like: To his intense embarrassment, Touko once walked in on a half-dressed Natsume while he was examining a youkai-made mark on his chest in the bathroom mirror. She thinks he's doing something else.
    Touko: Well, you are that age...
  • Obviously Evil: A few youkai, although some of them simply lack morals as opposed to being truly malevolent.
  • Oddly Named Sequel: The second season prefixed Zoku (続), meaning "continued", to the title, making it Zoku Natsume Yuuijichou.
    • Zoku spelled with a different kanji (族) can also mean "family" of a non-genetic nature, like True Companions. This has a lot of significance to Natsume since it's what he gained throughout the course of the series.
  • Only Six Faces: The manga falls victim to this (Natsume and Nishimura could be twins). The anime, less so.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Played straight and possibly invoked by Nyanko-sensei when he talks to Tanuma while impersonating Natsume. While the others did notice he wasn't his usual self, they assumed Natsume just wasn't feeling well. Tanuma does catch on and manages to make him reveal himself, much to Natsume's dismay.
  • Paper Talisman: Commonly used by exorcists like Natori and Matoba. The Eastern Forest was initially covered in them to prevent the youkai and, unintentionally, Natsume from escaping. Reiko carries a bat covered with them.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Well, there's Natori's exorcist "disguise" for starters... sometimes even managing to forgo the hat and still not get recognized by passerby. Not only that, but when humans want to blend in with youkai, their most drastic measure usually is to just cover their eyes with a literal paper-thin mask of some sort. Might be slightly justified in the latter case though, given the nature of youkai.
  • Parental Substitute: The Fujwaras are this for Takashi. Already in high school, and this is the first time he has felt like he is part of a real family.
    • Meanwhile Natori straddles an uncomfortably thin line between this and Ho Yay.
  • Parents for a Day: Nyanko-sensei in recent chapters and the OVA when it comes to kids stuck in the forest, much to his dismay. Tanuma and Taki during the de-aged Natsume chapter.
  • People Jars: Natsume temporarily gets stuck in one though it might also be used on youkai as well. While it was first just fun and games, things take a turn when Natsume gets taken away with the purpose to be given as an offering which leads to another set of events.
  • A Place Holds Memories: In "The Door of Memories" and "Long Way Home", Natsume visits some relatives to pick the key of the house where he lived with his parents before their deaths. During the visit, he's surrounded by painful memories of the time he passed with these relatives, bullied by his bigoted cousin and haunted by an evil youkai who wanted to eat his memories. When he finally visits his parents' home, Natsume spots a drawing he did on the wall when he was small, remembering vaguely that his father didn't punish him for this; however, he can't remember anything else about his parents and breaks down in tears.
  • Pretty Boy: A number of the male characters, but actor and part time exorcist Natori really plays it up, complete with the rosepetal motifs and bishie sparklies. In his own words, he can't help being fabulous.
  • Sideways Smile: Often done by youkai, especially if they are trying to deceive Natsume. At the end of chapter 62, Natori does on as well when referring to the Book of Friends but it's hard to tell what his true intentions are as both the wording and art style make it ambiguous.
  • Remember That You Trust Me: Years of Cassandra Truths and bullying means that Natsume tends to be secretive even with people he knows he can trust. In his words, he's never really learned how not to.
  • Right Behind Me: Nyanko-sensei actually joins in on the Nyanko-sensei bashing before the other Youkai actually realize that he can hear them.
    • One time, Natori catches Natsume and Madara laughing at his one of his sparkling commercials from behind. In the manga, Natori then mockingly teases them by using the same line from the commercial on them, much to their dismay.
  • Sailor Fuku: Inverted in that this is their high school uniform while the more professional-looking ones were seen more in middle school though this might be because the main story takes place in a more rural part of Japan.
  • Scapegoat: Flashbacks showed Natsume often had to act as one by taking the blame when the youkai caused vandalism because years of experience showed there was no way to prove otherwise. There is also a cup youkai who acted as one to prevent Natsume's arm being bitten off by taking on the misfortune on itself and dying.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Some of the youkai are usually seal in certain mediums like special pots, mirrors, etc. However, whether the sealed youkai is evil or not varies (though it is never taken to the extremes).
  • Secret Test of Character: Turns out that Natsume being marked with the Five Day Curse from a particuarly vicious spirit was orchestrated by one of his own contracted youkai, who wanted to test Natsume to see whether he was worthy of holding onto his name.
  • Shout-Out: In the dub of Taki's introduction episode, Madara has an Imagine Spot where he sings Reading Rainbow.
  • Sideways Smile: Sometimes, when the youkai are trying to deceive Natsume, the camera will pan to their side profile just as they are smirking deviously.
  • Slice of Life: This show's secondary theme, alongside the supernatural.
  • Sleep-Mode Size: Nyanko-sensei's Lucky Cat form
  • Snowball Fight: Episode two of Zoku.
  • Soul Power: With varying amount of it. People with enough spiritual power can see, hear, and touch youkai, and can do things like seal evil spirits, perform exorcisms, and punch youkai clear across a room; they can also hear what Nyanko-sensei is actually saying, instead of it sounding like he's just meowing. Those with just a little spiritual power can hear Nyanko-sensei, but not do any of the other things. Also, there are some cases where people with strong senses losing their power when they get old.
  • Stepford Smiler: Natsume's smile is mentioned by various characters to be 'fake'.
    Nishimura: I felt like that was the first time I saw the ever smiling transfer student smile.
  • Stock Footage: Natsume's method of returning the spirits names to them, (it's really a rather pretty piece of stock).
  • Stupid Sexy Flanders: Besides the incident mentioned in Attractive Bent-Gender, Natsume's managed to fluster Hinoe with a smile.
    Hinoe: Dammit, why do you have to be a man?
  • Subordinate Excuse: Implied to be why Hiiragi becomes one of Natori's Ayakashi servants.
  • Taking the Bullet: Sorta. In chapter 26 Natsume takes an arrow for Nyanko-sensei although it kind of doesn't live up to its merit as the next one hits and disables Nyanko-sensei for several days. And in the anime, Matoba manages to hit both of them with one arrow.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: One of Nyanko-Senseis several explanations for not letting the Ayakashi get to Natsume is because Natsume promsied Nyanko-sensei the Book of Friends upon his death - he regularly calls Natsume "His Prey" - and no one else's.
  • 13 Is Unlucky: Taki's curse included having the last 13 people who she called by name to be killed, which Nyanko comments to be a merciless number.
  • Those Two Guys: Kitamoto and Nishimura like whoa. Although they do get way more screen time and focus than most examples; a good deal more than Taki and Tanuma, in fact, despite being unaware of Natsume's abilities. Just not much character development other than being friendly, hilarious, and Nishimura has a crush on Taki.
    • Though they did teach Natsume how to ride a bike part way through the story.
    • They now have their own focus chapters—chapter 51.1 (Nishimura) and chapter 51.2 (Kitamoto). These detail how they each met Natsume and became friends with him through unsuspected encounters with youkai, and a little on their home lives and families.
    • There's also a youkai example with the cyclops and bull youkai. They get a well-above-average amount of focus as well.
    • There's also the mean, palette swapped versions of those two youkai that hang around the mountain where the fox youkai lives.
  • Tsundere: Hinoe has her moments. Also Madara and Natsume to each other. Don't EVER try to point out the fact that they get along well, or BOTH of them will deny, deny, deny.
  • 12-Episode Anime: Thirteen episodes, all four seasons.
  • Unfinished Business: Depsite not quite being ghosts, a lot of Youkai seem to have some particular task they're desperate to complete before they move onto the next world. Many seek Natsume out to do this.
  • Unsettling Gender-Reveal: Hinoe, who really liked Reiko, gets as far as groping Natsume's chest before it dawns on her that he's actually her Identical Grandson. She is not pleased.
    Hinoe: ...Where are your boobs?
  • Villain Takes an Interest: Matoba in Natsume and Nyanko-Sensei. Nanase does this initially with Natsume and Reiko though to a much lesser extent.
  • We Can Rule Together: Downplayed as Matoba offered Natsume twice to join his clan and that Matoba isn't an outright villain. However, he is a lot more casual compared to other examples of this trope because he has other ways of getting Natsume to work with him.
  • White Mask of Doom: Many youkai wear them, some more closer to Cool Mask, though not all of them are evil. The Matoba clan's artificial youkai wear them that are made of paper but are powered through malevolent intentions.
  • The Worf Effect: The Matoba clan and Matoba himself quickly establish themselves as to not be messed around with by being able to not only cause serious damage to Nyanko-Sensei in his Madara form, but knock him out of it altogether.
  • You Are Not Alone: Most of both series' deal with Natume steadily working this out, one Tear Jerker at a time.
  • You Can See Me?: Many youkai are often highly surprised when a human does just that.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Seems to be the Matoba clan's philosophy in regards to youkai (and sometimes humans if they get in the way).
  • Youkai: Well, obviously... some of those which have appeared thus far include a kappa, kitsune, oni, tengu, shīsā, and sunekosuri among others.

Alternative Title(s): Natsume Yuujinchou, Natsumes Book Of Friends