Review: Natsume Yuujinchou

夏目友人帳 (Natsume Yuujinchou), or "Natsume’s Book of Friends", is based on a manga about a youth who can see spirits. This trait seems to have been inherited from his grandmother, who made it a hobby to go around challenging and defeating spirits. She collected the names of these spirits into the Yuujinchou of the title, which grants its owner control of all the spirits within, provided that owner knows their real names and faces. Having received it as part of his inheritance, Natsume Takashi decides to return their names, a decision that brings numerous complications to his life.

I think I only started watching Natsume Yuujinchou in earnest after a certain episode in Macross Frontier. But there was also a conversation I had with a friend, about the existence of spirits [幽霊・妖怪etc] and about people who can see. I cannot, as we say, "see", but there are many people who alledgedly can, especially in Japan and other Asian countries. I wonder if it’s due to religion or the fact that most Western countries are consumered by materialism, which would naturally draw people away from the spiritual.

Takashi’s experiences reflect certain other stories involving seers, with xxxHOLiC springing to mind as the most ‘vocal’ about the issues they face. As Yuuko says, it is incredibly difficult to convince others that something they cannot see/experience exists. That was the source of much of Takashi’s pain when he was a child – he was continually told not to tell ‘lies’ about seeing things, but those spirits existed to him! The early deaths of his parents (I don’t actually remember much being said about them) left him in the care of various relatives who kept passing him on due to his creepiness. Eventually, he stopped trying to talk about the spirits, becoming extremely introverted and avoiding forming close relationships with anyone else, both for his own sake and so as not to cause any trouble for them. After all, possession of the Yuujinchou is something that many powerful youkai would seek.

As might be expected, this is a very episodic story – each episode introduces a new youkai whom Takashi must interact with. Often, these experiences inadvertantly affect Takashi’s schoolmates and the two people with whom he is now living, if only because his strange actions (such as a supposed sleepover in #12) worry them. However, this points to one of the main focuses of the story – that of relationships. The youkai that Takashi meets, helps and is helped by contribute to the development of his relationships with other characters in the story, including the spirits themselves. Furthermore, many of the stories focus on the relationships that spirits have, both with each other and with humans. If there is an overarching message, it’s that everyone is important to or can affect someone else, even if the person themself doesn’t realise it. In connection with that, those who feel the importance of someone close to them should let them know. Even something like a genuine "I’m happy to see you" can make a huge difference. Maybe my students should watch this…then again, I don’t think they’d get the point…

Well, there is much more to Natsume Yuujinchou than that – the manga is still going and even the anime indicates that there might be a larger story involving one of the characters whom Takashi has met (he’s voiced by Ishitan, btw. I’d almost forgotten his voice already). Given that a sequel will be airing in January, will I regret not keeping this one? Only time will tell. I’m not too keen on watching it again though….

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

2 Responses to Review: Natsume Yuujinchou

  1. Pingback: Review: Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou « opinionated? well…sort of…

  2. Pingback: Review: Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou | HOT CHOCOLATE IN A BOWL

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