Backed with a unique solid plot and character development that encompasses the heartfelt struggles with loneliness and indifference from society between beings in the human and spirit world, Natsume Yuujinchou, or Natsume’s Book of Friends, is a really touching show that delivers just the right mix of drama, comedy and suspense strong enough to move one’s heart every episode. This anime is episodic, so you don’t have to watch the other ones to be able to relate. Season 3 just started airing last July 5, so better catch up!
Plot: Ever since he was a little orphan, Natsume Takashi has been shunned by the people around him, both friends and foster families alike, because he always talks to and looks at things that are not there. But in reality, he can actually see Ayakashi (beings from the spirit world, not dead human ghosts), an ability he inherited from his late grandmother Natsume Reiko. Upon her death, Reiko bestows her prized belonging, the Book of Friends, to Takashi. This book comprises the names of the Ayakashi Reiko bullied into servitude, which she can also call and command anytime.
Having the coveted Book of Friends in his possession, Ayakashi in the neighborhood began attacking Takashi with the hopes of stealing it from him. At such times, he would just run to the nearest shrine where such spirits cannot enter. On the first episode, he accidentally releases a sealed Ayakashi in the form of a fat cat named Madara while running for his life.
Realizing that the book is actually much closer to him than he originally thought, Madara, or Nyanko-sensei as Takashi calls him, tried to get the book by force. But Takashi didn’t budge an inch. As the only blood relative of the misunderstood and lonely Reiko, he felt he needed to keep the only tangible object that links the two of them. It seems that returning the names of the Ayakashi in the book, via the ritual taught by Madara, would give Takashi snippets of memories when Reiko and that certain spirit made the contract. Natsume now wanted to return the names to their original owners. But there are also very powerful and evil spirits bound in the book, Madara warns him.
Madara eventually gave in to Takashi’s plight, out of respect. The two of them then made a deal to each other: Madara would protect him whilst returning the names of the Ayakashi and in return, he would get the Book of Friends once Takashi dies, or what’s left of it. This is a good offer for Madara since (1) human lives are relatively short for Ayakashi and (2) this is a very unusual yet interesting situation for him that ponders curiosity and fascination.
The show starts with Takashi trying to deal with the pains and feelings of isolation brought by his ability to see Ayakashi, just like his grandmother. Originally, he despised the Ayakashi and wanted nothing to do with them as they are the cause of other people maltreating him. But then he comes to appreciate them after realizing that they aren’t much different from humans – where both sides have both good and bad people, and all are struggling to survive. Seeing the situation as is, he would find comfort putting others before him, and helping them as if he was obliged to.
There isn’t much action and fighting as one would anticipate, but you could say the juicy content of this anime lies in the heartrending climaxes of the various relationships between humans with fellow humans, Ayakashi with other Ayakashi, and the interaction of both – mostly suffering an undying pain that is later relieved with a genuine gesture of the heart, thanks to the selfless Natsume lending both Ayakashi and humans a hand in their generation-long heartaches.
I’d love to share with you all the OPs and EDs of this anime, but I’ll you’ll just have to make do with the 2nd OP. I’ll leave the others to you when you watch the anime. ‘Til next time! :D
P.S. If you watch carefully, the first part of the OP would show some of the characters in key locations, then the last would be just the same, except that it’s probably through the eyes of Natsume since Ayakashi are actually there. Brilliant!