Synopsis: Natsume Yuujinchou focuses upon a boy, Natsume Takashi, who has the power to see supernatural beings that others could not. As a result, many people have either thought he was crazy or treated him as a sign of bad luck. All of this would change once he got his hands on a strange book that belonged to his grandmother, Reiko, which contains the names of all the spirits that his grandmother had contracted into helping her. Natsume, accompanied by Madara, a spirit who disguises himself as the large cat Nyanko-sensei, resolves to free the spirits from their contracts, making new friends in the process and learning how to live in harmony with humans and spirits.
Main characters: Exhibit a lot of growth and development.
Natsume and Nyanko-sensei: Interactions are fun to watch.
Atmosphere: Subdued, but absolutely beautiful.
Storytelling: Sentimental, uplifting, even heartbreaking at times, but wonderful.
Music: Soft and unobtrusive.
Natsume Yuujinchou Review
The concept of the episodic anime series revolving around supernatural beings is a relatively new phenomenon. But it’s a genre with a stellar track record. Natsume Yuujinchou, Brains Base’s latest foray into the genre, doesn’t pack a punch like Mushishi, but it is enjoyable in its own right. By taking a down-to-earth approach to its stories and filling them with emotional moments, this series forges a connection between the humans and the spirits. This allows the viewer to understand and sympathize with the characters and makes the anime’s poignant vignettes all the more memorable.
From start to finish, Natsume Yuujinchou rarely wastes a second. Each episode builds itself up by focusing upon a simple theme like lost love or reconciling disagreements between friends. The familiarity and relatability of such situations are crucial to this series. Once the audience understands the basic premise, the episode can then develop the emotional side and draw it out to great effect.
And develop the emotional side it does. Each episode brings forth its distinct mood flawlessly, regardless of the subject matter. Whether the episode is trying to aim for comedic fare, a sentimental moment, or an uplifting experience, the episode hits the mark more often than not. I found myself content to sit back and be taken along for the ride.
None of this would have been possible if the series had not taken care to develop the characters. The spirits themselves are fleshed out rather well. Each one has a distinct personality and detailed backstory that makes it easier for the audience to empathize with them. However, where this series excels is how they develop the main characters, especially Natsume.
Natsume’s role makes him the bridge from one episode to the next. Though he starts out as a reluctant protagonist, by being forced to interact with spirits, his stance towards them softens. Furthermore, his interactions encourage him to break out of his shell to socialize with people more. This progression is slow and subtle, but the Natsume at the start of the series is different from the one at the end. The honesty of the feelings and emotions that go into Natsume’s development is disarming in a way that’s almost ARIA-eque. That is, it grabs at the audience’s heartstrings by encouraging them to reach out and form that emotional bond with Natsume.
The artwork and the soundtrack immerse the viewer into Natsume Yuujinchou‘s subdued, enchanting setting. Even then, the series shines brightest in the way it tells its stories and develops its cast. Just be prepared for the occasional bout of waterworks that comes with this ride.