A critical analysis of Natsume Yuujinchou
Natsume Yuujinchou, or Natsume’s Book of Friends has been announced to be getting a sixth season as of 2017. The first season aired in 2008. The first 4 seasons were produced by Brain Base, who has also produced works such as Baccano, Yahari Ore no Seishun wa Machigatteiru, Tonari no Kaibutsu kun, Spice and Wolf and the recently acclaimed Watashi ga Motete Dousunda. Season 5, on the other hand, was directed by the studio Shuka, who has played an important part in producing series like 91Days, and Du(rararara)x.
Natsume Yuujinchou chronicles the daily life of Natsume Takashi, a young teenager (in high school of course) who has the ability to see youkai. Youkai in Natsume Yuujinchou, are Japanese monsters, unable to be seen by anyone except a select few. On one hand, youkai refers to spirits. These spirits range from manifestations of objects like trees and rocks to actual spirits of human beings.Youkai also refer to beasts like Kitsune’s and Kappa’s. And while Natsume Yuujinchou focuses on youkai, the odd appearance of a minor god or two is very well received by Natsume. His parents passed away at a young age and after having been passed around relatives, he was persecuted for his ability to see youkai. Labeled as a liar, he spent his days alone. Cue the opening of Season 1, where the Fujiwaras have taken him in. While looking through his belongings, he finds a book belonging to his grandmother, Natsume Reiko. Cut to future, Natsume is walking near a temple when he accidently sets free a youkai, who proceeds to try to consume Natsume. Upon seeing the Book of Friends in Natsume’s possession, the youkai stops his attack to explain the purpose of the book. According to this youkai, Natsume Reiko defeated many youkai and sealed their names in the book. By using the book, one can summon the bound youkai to do their bidding. The once angry youkai makes a deal: he will serve as Natsume’s bodyguard in return for the book. Natsume agrees and gives him the moniker Nyanko-sensei.
As someone who has watched all five previous seasons of Natsume, I can safely say that I am utterly flabbergasted at the addition of another one. Seriously, what is wrong with the directors here? Why are there so many seasons? The ups and downs even each other out and the result is self-evident mediocrity. Its endearing moments are cancelled out by the fact that Natsume is an absolute idiot, who apparently can’t even recognize he has friends, even when they’re risking their lives to help him. And while the animation is excellent, the shows plot gets quite repetitive. The episodes are usually Natsume doing one of three things:
1) Helping an innocent youkai with some problem (Problem may or may not include getting his name back from the Book of Friends)
2) Escaping from youkai who
- a) Wants the book of friends
- b) Wants to eat Natsume
- c) Wants his name back from the Book of Friends
3) Wallowing in self pity over the fact that he’ll never truly be part of either the youkai world or the human world.
Of course, that is only the usual episodes. Special episodes scattered throughout the series serve as pleasant breathers and are quite different. For example, in one Natsume visits his hometown and finds that a fox youkai wasn’t as scary as he thought it was in his childhood.
One of Natsumes oddities is that, unlike other youkai-related anime, most fight scenes end up looking like this:
And while Natsume Yuujinchou as a series may have its share of shortcomings, one positive aspect of the show is that Natsume is only trying to decide between the two worlds of youkai and humans.
Safe to say, there are myriads of other anime which Brain Base or Shuka could be directing. Baccano for example, could very well do with a second season. Instead, their time’s being wasted on yet another season of Natsume’s overwhelming averageness. In hindsight, maybe Studios Brain Base and Shuka just have a shit ton of money to spend. Either way, I am extremely salty about Baccano not getting a second season and may be taking it out on Natsume just for that reason.