Originally diving into this series at Season 3, I thought i might be at a disadvantage given the fact I didn’t digest folklore that helped drive the first twenty-six episodes of Natsume’s Book of Friends. Luckily, thanks to NIS I had the chance to revisit the material that made season 3 such a winner. As I touched upon our last review, I’ll give you the rundown of what this heartwarming anime series is all about. The story revolves around a boy named Natsume Takashi who has the ability to see YÅokai, supernatural spirits and monsters of Japanese folklore. Yokai often take an animal form, but can appear in more human-like forms, and range from the curious to the mischievous. Takashi’s ability to see the Yokai comes from his grandmother, Natsume Reiko, from whom he also inherited his looks, as he’s often mistaken for her by the Yokai. When Reiko passes away, she leaves him a strange book.
As such, the anime cultivates a cornucopia of emotions. Viewers can expect an abundance of tears and heartfelt smiles, as well as a few guffaws. As one person once described to me, its a good series to fall asleep too. The music, which compliments the subtle elegance of emotions and broad strokes of animation make this demo worthy material to show off anime to your friends. It rushed back feelings of nostalgia to a time where I was really into Mushi-Shi. I certainly agree that Mushi-Shi is the easy comparison, but Mushi-Shi is also more dense, more adult, and more interesting. Mushi-Shi will leave you with hard questions about life to mull over, while Natsume is focused more on the trials of growing up.
Each episode is a story. When it ends it usually means that it’s done, no more. We might look back and remember but that’s it. All of the stories are interesting and yet simple with a mystical vibe around all of them. I found myself in awe, I couldn’t wait to see what Natsume would bring to me next! The artwork on the box is superb, it looks like watercolor and it draws the eye. Inside you have the book (a wonderful addition) which has an episode guide and artwork for each of the characters introduced in the show. Season 1 and 2 are in single dvd cases each with two discs in each. With the recent news that Season 4 will be released in a few months, it seems like a no brainer to complete this set.
A small gripe with the series is it seems to be aimed at a younger audience and might shy from crucial details. All of the characters are also well-designed and easily distinguishable, but I wish their faces reflected their emotions more often. Sometimes, it really bothered me when Natsume in particular remained blank-faced even though his body language and the pitch of his voice indicated that he was angry or frightened. On the other hand, it seems like the human characters fall flat for a bit, because the main beauty is when a Yokai comes to get it’s name back. Folklore is front and center with this series. The Book of Friends is highly prized by the Yokai, as whoever owns or possesses the book can summon and command any Yokai whose name is contained within the book. It takes a few episodes to really wrap your mind around this concept.
If you’re in the mood for a fantasy anime with a slower pace, then I’d recommend giving this one a try. Me personally? I loved it and really had to find someone that I had to gripe about from keeping it from being a perfect anime. Luckily I am a fan of slower paced anime, and every time we meet a new yokai, their story unfolds to reveal a complete personality and an interesting backstory. It is like unwrapping a gift every episode. The main question on everyones mind is should you pick this set up? Wel, instead of just thirteen episodes and one full season, you’re getting two along with the artbook and case. It is a great companion piece, a great series, and one you should add to your collection.