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Natsume Yuujin-chou San – 08

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「子狐のとけい」 (Kogitsune no Tokei)
“The Little Fox’s Watch”

Given that I’ve been counting the days until another episode of Natsume Yuujinchou with Kogitsune for the better part of three years, it was always going to be hard for it to live up to expectations. Amazingly, it did – this episode was everything I love about this series.

While the amount of time Natsume and the little fox spend together is quite brief – I worried for an agonizing moment that they might never meet face to face at all – that only serves to heighten the emotion of their reunion. As well, the episode weaves in several other elements which both contribute to the Kogitsune story and work splendidly on their own. It’s always welcome to see a chapter where Natsume spends time with Shigeru, a rare thing indeed for the series. His role in the Fujiwara family if often to be the silent and supportive figure, as his wife makes the more overt emotional connections to Natsume. But Shigeru cares deeply about his adopted son and always strives to show it without pushing Natsume too hard. He’s an extraordinarily kind man, it always seemed to me, who doesn’t call attention to himself.

The other terrific elements this week surround Kogitsune (Yajima Akiko) himself. I love the fact that both he and Natsume have grown in the last year, and this episode gently reminds us of that. He’s still being bullied by the two baka youkai who were tormenting him before, but the little fox is fighting back now – using his claws and throwing rocks – and as with most bullies, these aren’t interested in a prey that fights back. He’s found a watch, lost by some human on a nature walk – cracked, but still working. It’s a kinetic watch, which winds itself through the movement of the owner. Fox-boy also befriends the Kami (84 year-old legend Katou Seizo) who inhabits the boulder he climbs upon every day, watching the trains in the hope that Natsume might be coming to visit. The old God plays a counterpoint to Kogitsune’s breathless impatience and emotional intensity, calmly advising the boy that – as witness the watch he now wears –a human’s time is different than a youkai’s time, just as his own millions of years of patient observation are their own unique perspective.

The actual driver for the events of the episode is a pottery class being led by Yasui (Atari Kousuke, very authentic in a minor role), which Shigeru wants to attend. Yasui is the potter who created the teacup Natsume picked up for Shigeru during the first season, when he initially met Kogitsune. This brings in another wonderful new element, seeing Madara/Nyanko-sensei in a vulnerable state due to the injuries he suffered in last week’s episode. Nyanko-sensei has always been the strong one and it’s interesting to see him unable to even lick his wounds. Natsume seems to take to the protector/parent role, worrying constantly about his white pig-cat, and armed with some advice from old pal Hinoe (Okamura Akemi – damn, this ep is a real seiyuu-fest) about a medicinal herb for youkai, Natsume packs Nyanko-sensei gently into his duffel and he and Shigeru board the train for the mountains.

Maybe this episode is something of a litmus test for whether Natsume Yuujinchou is a good fit for you. This is the most unabashedly sentimental face this series has to offer, but but I think it’s the one that fits it best. This is why I love this series better in its heartwarming, episodic form than in the plot-driven style we saw in the last two weeks. Others may very legitimately feel differently, but that’s me – episodes like “The Little Fox’s Hat” and “The Little Fox’s Watch” never fail to move me. It’s not science and subtlety – Kogitsune is preposterously cute and loveable, and prone to tears where Natsume is concerned. Nastume’s worry over Nyanko-sensei, his relationship with Shigeru, the noble sacrifice of the old Kami, the art Natsume paints on his pottery – it’s pure, unadulterated emotion.

But I think Natsume Yuujinchou is best when it revels in its essential nature – it’s not a story that’s guarded or detached, that makes you work hard to figure out what to feel. It just makes you feel – very deeply and profoundly, in my case. For the millionth time I’ve said it, creating something that’s simple and profound at the same time is extremely difficult and truly remarkable, and this story does that. I can’t look at that brave little fox, so lonely and so pure and unvarnished in his love for Natsume, and not be affected. Maybe you can – I won’t think any less of you, if so. But filler or original, episodic that it might be, I’d take season after season of stories like this from this series and be ecstatic to have them. No other show can do this kind of story this well, period.

 

Preview

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August 23, 2011 at 12:23 am
25 comments »
  • August 23, 2011 at 12:38 amImaxFilm

    dang it… he really looks like a girl to me!!! plus he wore a yukata like suit thus makes him more girly…

    either way i hope to see more of him… NO HER!!!

  • August 23, 2011 at 12:47 amGuardian Enzo

    Sorry, Kogitsune definitely is 100% a boy – even the mangaka says so. I actually thought it was pretty clear originally, even more this time. I think the story works better that way anyway.

  • August 23, 2011 at 1:25 ammomogoldfish

    Is there a problem if I’m loving these one-shot ‘fillers’ way more than the manga chapters so far this season? But its probably just a testimony of how moving Natsume can be when it gets all its elements right. I really really love the watch analogy they use here where everything – Kami, humans and beasts have different lifespans and yet their brief interaction is still meaningful. T-T

  • August 23, 2011 at 2:36 amMrBrownSound

    lol, I was holding off the manga for this since I liked the anime so much, so up until this point I thought the fox spirit was a little girl. It still amazes me how well the anime is for this series, without much work visually. I’m somewhat tired of the wait, I think I’ll jump on the manga from here.

  • August 23, 2011 at 2:56 amShadiic

    I felt sad this episode. I think that the reunion was heartfelt and I was glad that the two were able to catch up.

  • August 23, 2011 at 5:20 amEri

    Guardian Enzo, I realized that I’m a lurker when it comes to this series. But I do agree about feeling ‘deepy and profoundly’. This series overwhelms me so much that I cry and laugh at the same time in each and every episode.

    • August 23, 2011 at 12:33 pmToppers

      Absolutely agree with this post. There’s something about this series that is so profoundly moving (ノД`)・゜・。

  • August 23, 2011 at 5:33 amKarmafan

    This is a solid series that delivers week after week. It may not be as splashy as other series and probably does not have as many fans as the top anime series this year but it consistantly delivers a great episode in every way week after week. The music in this series could not be more perfect either.

    This is the kind of series you never want to end.

    • August 25, 2011 at 3:01 pmFaye

      I completely agree with this comment. Natsume is a damn good, underrated anime that I’m only too happy to recommend to others.

  • August 23, 2011 at 5:43 amLitho

    I prefer episodes like these. The last 2 with good-guy/bad-guy didn’t really do it for me.
    Definitely no Mushishi (nothing is), but still a goddamn great series, this.

  • August 23, 2011 at 7:09 amliz

    There is nothing I can but the fact that the fox boy is cute and that this episode was tranquil and bittersweet as it always it. But once again I’m worried since the introduction of matoba things are going to start get serious and move the main plot forward. (not that its a bad thing but…) I love the episodic stories more ^_^

  • August 23, 2011 at 8:14 amStereoman

    IDK why but I always end up crying when the fox is involved. xD Not because I’m sad

  • August 23, 2011 at 12:37 pmVT

    Just curious, Guardian Enzo, do you read the Natsume Yuujin-chou manga???

    • August 23, 2011 at 12:45 pmGuardian Enzo

      Off and on. I’ve read most of it and never saw this chapter, which leads me to believe it’s an anime original. It’s not surprising given the talent behind the anime that its fillers are often among the best episodes.

  • August 23, 2011 at 5:46 pmJade Falcon

    This makes me so nostalgic for Inuyasha.

  • August 24, 2011 at 4:35 amZaku_Fan

    I actually find episodes like these more interesting than those like the last 2. The stand alone episodes have a strong tendency to deal with various concepts in a meaningful and emotional way

  • August 24, 2011 at 5:10 amEri

    Just finished watching this episode with subtitles.

    As expected, I bawled my eyes out from crying and my throat sore from the lump forming to keep me from crying. T T

    • August 24, 2011 at 7:25 pmGuardian Enzo

      Kogitsune gets me every time. Every damn time.

      • August 24, 2011 at 9:44 pmEri

        I think I’ll lay the blame on Yajima Akiko for delivering a touching performance every time!

  • August 24, 2011 at 9:58 amjreding

    The aspect of time running faster for beasts than for humans reminded me of Makoto’s arc in Kanon which was one of the most moving anime experiences I’ve had so far.

    Kogitsune is somewhat similar, like having all the energy and emotions of a human’s life packed into a much shorter timeframe.

  • August 24, 2011 at 4:30 pmNhelraios

    It was quite the tearjerker. Like you I wish we’d get another episode with the little fox boy.

    Next ep. is gonna be awesome, I can feel it.

  • August 25, 2011 at 3:06 pmFaye

    So many sweet moments in this episode – Shigeru noting how Natsume’s grown, Natsume trying to lift the kids up, Kogitsune’s “Natsume, Natsume, Natsume!” when they’re finally reunited… The fox Natsume painted on the bowl XD

    I was also kinda worried they wouldn’t end up meeting, so I’m really glad they did. Can’t wait for the next episode!

  • August 25, 2011 at 9:25 pmCorn

    Aww that God of the Rock…rest in peace

  • August 26, 2011 at 6:03 amKaikaze

    Uh-huh! I’ve been waiting for Kogitsune’s appearance for quite some time, and I’m glad too that this episode didn’t disappointed me at all! T^T

    The moment when Natsume was going to paint ‘something’ on the teacup’s plate, I highly expected that he’ll paint a fox or something, and he did :D And yet I still cried a river for something that I already expected! That’s the magic of this series, eh?

    I totally agree with you, that I prefer episode like this compared to the last two weeks! As much as I love Natori-san and Matoba in those episodes, in the end I’ll come back to this series for episode LIKE THIS! And yeah, it’s something that’s uniquely Natsume Yuujinchou! :DD

    Unrelatedly, I didn’t realize that Yasui was voiced by Kousuke Atari until you mentioned it here! But I’ll honestly say that Yasui’s voice did gave me some kind of impact! So when I know that Kousuke-san voiced him, I was like.. ‘Oh.. no wonder :DD’

    The time that Kogitsune and Natsume spend together in this episode was so short and yet so precious :) Throughout the whole episode, they’re somehow connected to each other! Seriously with Kogitsune’s obvious growing (physically and mentally), and then Shigeru pointed out that Natsume had grown too, it’s such a brilliant way to connect these two souls :D

    Anyway, the old Kami’s sacrificial will be forever remembered T^T Such a noble sacrifice!

  • August 26, 2011 at 9:49 amGuardian Enzo

    Kaikaze, that’s a good microcosm of why this show works – it doesn’t have to surprise you to be effective.

    Atari Kousuke is so different from the voices you normally hear in anime. I don’t think you realize how similar most seiyuu are until you hear someone totally different. This series is a terrific one for seiyuu performances though, in the leads and the one-off characters. How great is it to hear Seizo Katou in a major role?

    I hope we get more Kogitsune. His fillers are as good as any manga material…