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Natsume Yuujin-chou San – 09

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「秋風切って」 (Akikaze Kitte)
“The Fading Autumn Wind”

This week represented an extremely mellow and low-key – even by Natsume Yuujinchou standards – followup to the emotional intensity of lasy week’s Kogitsune appearance. This one was pretty much all Natsume, start to finish – I can’t think of another episode where the spotlight was so unerringly shining on him.

The dynamic of the last few episodes has been quite unusual due to Nyanko-Madara’s incapacitation. His absence of his big stage presence leaves a gap that’s hard to fill, and the threat level to Natsume goes up exponentially when he’s not at full strength. It’s no accident that Hinoe showed up when she did last week – being a natural target with great power who still doesn’t really know how to use it, she knows full well he’s at risk until Nyanko-sensei recovers.

That’s really been a strong theme of the last two eps, especially this one – the support system that’s grown up around Natsume, both youkai and human. The focus this time is on his human friends, who played a larger role in this story than any before. Kitamoto (Suganuma Hisayoshi) and Nishimura (Kimura Ryohei) have mostly been comic relief, but we got a good sense of this week just how much they care for Natsume in that particular way that boys often do in shoujo. Seriously, they’re good kids and they clearly see Natsume as a bit nuts (always traveling with the pig-cat, for starters) – but also a nice guy who always seems to land himself in weird trouble. I think they’ve taken it upon themselves to help Natsume be “normal” and fit in, though it’s clear they’re not exactly at the top of the social ladder themselves.

The setting of the culture festival is always a gold mine for mining the old chestnut themes of adolescent life in anime – crushes, team spirit, treasuring the halcyon days of youth in a wholesome yet spirited manner – and with this week’s “threat” not really being much of a threat the focus is squarely on those themes. There is a problem youkai – a little rock with a face. Apparently having hitched a ride with Natsume after the latter fell into the river and being free of thousands of years on a streambed, the spirit inside it is anxious to learn about the world of living things like humans. It senses that Natsume is powerful and he has a secret, though Natsume isn’t quite sure what that is.

The moral of all this is that while Natsume thought he was protecting everyone from the youkai, they were all protecting him from himself (as they saw it, anyway). Sasada, Toki, Tanuma – they’ve all taken the awkward Natsume under their wing without him realizing it. Heck, he’s even become a hit with the ladies, as witness the adoring reception he got while working at the bazaar his class set up for the festival. In the end Nyanko-sensei did rouse himself from his sickbed in time to save Natsume from the relatively harmless rock spirit – though his real intent was to not deny himself the pleasures of squid – but it was the gestures of the humans that really meant the most. Kitamoto and Nishimura came to his house just to offer to get Natsume out of working at the shop, as he seemed worried about it Then, they ended up teaching him how to ride a bike – a skill he never learned because there’d never been anyone to run along behind him, pushing. As only this series can be, that’s sad and uplifting at the same time.

There’s no question that this episode was at the outer limits of what makes Natsume Yuujinchou work – it was overtly sentimental, and extremely narrow-focused in terms of plot. I think if you can see the significance of the bicycle scene and not be bored by it or find it maudlin, you get this series. If not, well, I’ll concede this sort of thing isn’t for everybody. This was an episode for the hard-core fans, but I think it’s nice to see Natsume’s progress in building a normal life take the spotlight. In truth his life will never be truly normal because of the secret he harbors, that the rock spirit saw – but if, someday, he can bring himself to tell the Fujiwaras and the rest of his friends at least it won’t be so much a secret anymore. He’s not strong enough to do that yet, but Natsume took a big step this week.

 

Preview

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August 29, 2011 at 9:35 pm
32 comments »
  • August 29, 2011 at 9:44 pmHope

    Finally those two goofball friends of his play a bigger role. (:

  • August 29, 2011 at 10:11 pmEri

    I don’t find this boring at all.

    As you say, the bicycle thing is a big step considering how isolated Natsume has been. Another reason for me getting teary-eyed once again. T-T

  • August 29, 2011 at 10:44 pmsynkronized

    I’ve really liked this season. Natsume Yuujinchou still offers a lot of the original magnetic atmosphere that drew me into the series when it first aired. But I love how, through all of the meandering events and episodic stories the series has actually established a theme for Natsume. This whole season has revolved around how he no longer remains a lonely, ostracized boy but has genuine friends and people that care about him. The message carries a lot of weight because we’ve had two full other seasons to establish how Natsume’s life works.

  • August 29, 2011 at 11:22 pmDelwack

    I saw this episode mostly as Natsumi’s reflection on his own human life. He saw, felt and lived in a way that he wouldn’t have been able to even fathom 2 seasons ago. It just goes to show how much he’s change, and how far the bits and pieces of kindness Natsume has shown throughout these seasons (and even through his entire life) have come back to reward him. Reaching this point has been a subtle, powerful, beautiful thing.

  • August 29, 2011 at 11:43 pmCorn

    That rock creeped me out so much.

    But I really loved this episode. It highlights the kind, caring side of Natsume even more and I’m so glad there was an episode where it focused on Kitamoto and Nishimura. They didn’t seem to have much importance in the story but this episode changed my view about them completely. They really accept Natsume and are such amazing friends to him.

    And Nyanko-Sensei didn’t do much in this episode but I felt like I saw the new side of him. His protective, caring side. I always knew he cared about Natsume but for him to witness Natsume crying and understanding him, I really like how this episode focused on that aspect as well.

  • August 30, 2011 at 12:17 amanifan

    I fall in love with this anime now…beautiful story

  • August 30, 2011 at 12:23 amFaye

    I think this was actually my favorite episode yet. I usually can only vaguely muse what my favorite episode of the season is, but I was enraptured with this one very quickly. It was very touching and kinda different from all other episodes but in a good way. My heart broke when Natsume was crying because of Kitamoto and Nishimura’s offer ;-;

    I was so glad to see Kitamoto and Nishimura get more screen time since they’ve been such background characters. Plus, I’m a sucker for boys-being-boys (think Oofuri) so I adore what boyishness they bring out in Natsume. But yeah, Natsume is such a sweet, lonely kid and this episode really reinforced that idea for viewers. Loved it!

    • August 30, 2011 at 12:47 amEri

      Agreed. More screen time for Natsume’s friends. :)

    • August 30, 2011 at 1:08 amGuardian Enzo

      Yes, OoFuri was exactly the sort of thing I had in mind when I said “in that particular way boys oven do in shoujo”. It’s preposterously idealized and I doubt any man would ever write it, but when it’s done well it has a heartbreaking sort of innocence to it.

  • August 30, 2011 at 12:35 amJeremy Giberson

    I thought the bike riding scene was a flashback to when they became friends. Didn’t it occur while he was passed out?

    Any way, I really enjoy the show but I’m always disappointed in his insistence to keep his ability from his friends. Before, he didn’t really have proof–but now he has nyanko sensei. He could totally be like “No really guys, watch, I’ll have a spirit lift me into the air” and then ask nyanko to fly him onto the roof. Even if they aren’t able to see nyanko in his wolf form, they’ll sure as heck see him float up to the roof!

    • August 30, 2011 at 12:46 amEri

      It’s easy to say things without having to do them yourself.

      For Natsume, a person who has problems opening up because of his abilities, it’ll be harder for him to just announce it. I feel for him. :-S

  • August 30, 2011 at 12:44 amEri

    Natsume’s realization: He’s not alone. That he has friends who care for him, who supports him. People who are patient and willing to wait until he opens up everything about himself.

    I really love slice of life stories like this one.

  • August 30, 2011 at 3:58 amMichael

    Somewhat off topic, but Natsume related.
    http://myanimelist.net/forum/?topicid=321235

    Natsume San sold about 9,800 DVD and Blu-rays in debut week, hopefully this means a fourth season is likely.

    On topic: another great ep, natsume is definitely lucky to have really amazing friends like that, bike scene was adorable!!

    It amazes me this show hasn’t been licensed yet.

  • August 30, 2011 at 4:24 amAndré

    Natsume should tell his friends and his family about his ability to see youkai. I mean, it’s not like he can’t prove it and he’s not a kid anymore. I nice and serious conversation should be enough.

    • August 30, 2011 at 12:51 pmBambi

      Things you studied as a child won’t change easily, I think Natsume experienced that if he spoke about it, people found him creepy, so it was easier to act like nothing happened. And how could a child that never had a serious conversation start one and tell people that he is not “normal”. He has a relativly normal life this way, there’s no reason for him to involve more people in his mess.

      • August 30, 2011 at 2:08 pmAndré

        Again, as I said, he’s not a kid anymore. We can see that he really wants to tell to some people about his problems. He’s still kind of weak and afraid of rejection, and this part of his personality is starting to annoy me. During the second and first season, I could understand why he didn’t want to tell anyone, but know he has some pretty loyal friends. Actually, hiding something like this from such good friends is kind of wrong.

        And he won’t be involving anyone in his mess because of this. It’s not like people will join him to form a Ghost Hunt club or anything. And they also won’t be able to help him because youkai encounters are pretty random, so it wouldn’t change anything.

      • August 31, 2011 at 6:42 amKay

        Actually, the “won’t be able to help” part is the main reason he can’t bring himslef to tell anybody. It’s not “They won’t accept me!” that’s he fear at this point. There’s one comment from Tanuma in the manga that was cut off, or may be it will be in next episode, I’m not sure. He tells Taki he Show Spoiler ▼

    • August 31, 2011 at 5:24 pmliz

      @this is actually directed at kay but yes natsume did already tell tanuma this at the festival in season 1 or 2 when the fox showed up again for the second time. The dream on the another hand has not happened.

  • August 30, 2011 at 4:57 amLitho

    THIS is what Natsume Yuujinchou should be about. No lizard-tattoo guy, no “ayakashi-busters” and their weirdo buddies, no (or little angst)!!

    Just Natsume trying to lead a life with the people/youkai around him.

    • August 30, 2011 at 9:45 amRingo

      While it’s nice having these types of episodes about Natsume and his friends (even the latest chapter was just about how he and Nishimura first became friends), but I don’t know if I would like every episode to just be focused on relationships.

  • August 30, 2011 at 6:01 amMads

    my nyanko-sensi is baaaaack! my god he’s sooo adorable! and I love the bond that exists between him and Natsume. Also, Natsume is one of the most wonderful anime characters there ever was. If most people were half as thoughtful as him, the world would be a more peaceful place IMO

  • August 30, 2011 at 6:01 amTinxtin

    This episode made me want to cry. The way he cried at night because he realised his friends cared for him…I have no words. This episode wasn’t boring at all. I actually really enjoyed it.

  • August 30, 2011 at 8:47 amLeticia

    I fall in love with this series over and over again… It never ceases to amaze me <3

  • August 30, 2011 at 1:00 pmBambi

    While watching this episode a quote was echoing in my head and this is what perfectly expresses my feelings for the series: “I love Natsume Yuujinchou. I love love love love love Natsume Yuujinchou.” Really. : D

    • August 30, 2011 at 7:30 pmGuardian Enzo

      Hmmm – I’ll have to remember that one…

  • August 30, 2011 at 8:04 pmMockman

    While I could echo most of the comments already written, I enjoyed how his youkai friends came over to guard him and drink. And typical of Natsume, he couldn’t say no to them, nor did he pass judgement on them.

    Right now, he inhabits three different worlds, that of the youkai, of humans who understand, and humans who don’t. I wonder if he’ll ever try to link them. Of course, with this show’s pace, it might be on target for season ju san. While he seemed to want to commit to the youkai world, mostly out of desperation, the people around him and his unique circumstances have made that difficult. This makes for an interesting story.

    Haven’t seen much of the book lately. Maybe the series needs a title change.

    Haven’t seen Reiko in a long time either.

    • August 31, 2011 at 3:07 amPip

      “Natsume’s book of friends” – while literally, it is about a book of names from youkai which Reiko forced to be her friends, and passed down to Natsume, the series is also arguably Natsume’s own story being “recorded” and how he’s making friends both among humans and youkai.

      Sort of. :D I think the title is fine, haha.

  • August 31, 2011 at 7:25 pmKJ

    I think Natsume hasn’t beaten down any boss youkai at the very end yet this season iirc, it was always nyanko-sensei or something else :<

  • September 1, 2011 at 2:38 pmChione Ice Dyrken

    Is there any indication that this third season will end at episode 13 or ongoing for more episodes?

    • September 2, 2011 at 12:28 amGuardian Enzo

      13 eps again. But it appears the series has lost none of its popularity, so after the manga has another year or two to zip ahead again we’ll probably get a 4th season.

      • September 2, 2011 at 12:07 pmChione Ice Dyrken

        :D Thank you so much for the info! but to wait for another or two years for another season is….depressingly sad.. =’{ so long! ><

  • September 1, 2011 at 8:51 pmumesketch

    Its occasional episodes like this that make this series shine even more. Since most of the series is meant to be taken as stand-alone stories, episodes like this change the pace nicely. And the timing of this episode was perfect with everything that happened the past few episodes. And of course us fans love to see Natsume’s development alongside his ups & downs.

    My only gripe is, for being such an important episode in character developments, I felt that the animation quality was really sub par this week, which made me sad.