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Natsume Yuujin-chou San – 10

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「割れた鏡」 (Wareta Kagami)
“Broken Mirror”

It’s back to a more conventionally plot-driven style for Natsume Yuujinchou this week. And once again, this series seems to be disproving the axiom that canon is always better.

Over the course of three seasons Natsume has consistently delivered superb examples of what is generally referred to dismissively as “filler”. Except that the filler for this series – such as the previous two episodes – is very often among the best the show has to offer, whether anime-original or not. That’s obviously a credit to Brains Base, director Omori-sensei and the various writers who have worked on the last three seasons.

I’ve tended to find the more plot-heavy episodes less interesting this season, manga material or no, and this current arc is no exception. It’s good – this series is never less than good. Plus, it’s awfully nice to see Nyanko-sensei feeling better and back in all his snarky, cuddly-badass glory (like waving bye-bye to Tanuma – how cute was that). But the story – broken mirror and the youkai who possesses Tanuma in order to get it back – left me about as cold as any Natsume Yuujinchou story has. It’s not that I dislike Tanuma and Taki. They’re fine, and quite important as they’re the only two close friends with whom Natsume can be honest about what he sees. I just don’t find either of them as engaging as some of the other regulars, and frankly a lot of the youkai.

In addition to the matter of the youkai whose mirror was broken in the lightning storm, there’s at least one other youkai after the mirror – a shadowy, gaunt figure who carries a hammer to smash mirrors (and bihsounen’s heads) with. There’s also the most overt bromance we’ve had in a show that’s known for it, and some snuggling between Taki and Nyanko-sensei (on the prowl for squid, as always this season). It’s interesting to see Natsume and Tanuma more concerned with trying to protect the other than themselves – Natsume in unique in that he always wants to protect others, yet possesses a quality that always seems to make others want to protect him. Some sort of shoujo mystique, perhaps.

But for me, I think a review of the series’ run would show that in most cases, the best and most memorable episodes have something in common – a memorable youkai guest character. In fact, most of them are sympathetic and often tragic youkai. Kogitsune, Kai, the Tree Youkai from earlier this season, the forest guardian Gen, the chick Tatsumi – the list goes on and on. This show always works best for me when it focuses on the intersection of the human and youkai worlds, and gives voice to the lonely youkai who often enlist Natsume to help them in various ways. The episodes that introduce “threat” and don’t have an engaging youkai presence somehow lack the warmth that’s this series’ best feature. And of the episodes that do focus on the human element, the ones with the Fujiwaras in a central role have the most heart – and often work the best.

It’s hard to watch a series you love change even a little bit, I suppose, and there’s certainly some positives that have come of that change this season. I do enjoy seeing Natsume’s ties to the human world grow stronger, and his discomfort and distance with people grow less. And this episode – last last week’s (which I preferred to this one) – shows further evidence that Natsume is becoming even more rooted in the human world. That’s a good thing, but a little depressing, too.

Like Christopher Robin growing up and losing touch with the Hundred-Acre Wood, perhaps it’s a natural process that Natsume’s world will become more and more entwined with his own kind, and less with that of the youkai – in fact, there’s been nary of mention of the titular “Book of Friends” or Reiko for over a month, unless I misremember. That’s healthy for Natsume but a little sad for me, and not a good sad in the same way a great Kogitsune or Tatsumi episode is. But that’s just my being sentimental I suppose, though I admit I’ll be rooting for a final arc this season that’s cut from the heartwarming cloth this series does best, rather than a fast-paced dramatic one.

 

Preview

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September 5, 2011 at 8:42 pm
30 comments »
  • September 5, 2011 at 9:39 pmbakabakashiEROGE

    this show is timeless

  • September 5, 2011 at 9:41 pmpgal

    But the previous episode was not a filler.

  • September 5, 2011 at 9:42 pmMichael

    Enzo, i agreed with everything you wrote (which is quite rare :P), especially regarding how “filler” tends to be better than an overall plot. I really enjoy this series and i’m glad that someone in the blogging community does such a wonderful job at covering it.

    I’m that kind of person who watches the shounen/big name shows (i.e Code Geass, Death Note, Bleach..etc), but this show is truly one of a kind. I’ve never watched a show where i can truly relate 100% to a character, but for Natsume i can relate completely with him. This show reminds me of Miyazaki’s films: Sweet, heartwarming and a message anyone can relate to (in Natsume Yuujinchou, the message is understanding others and oneself) all put together in 24 minute portions. This show truly excels at what it sets out to do, so much that my expectations for this series are always high (higher than any series i’ve ever watched), and still i have not seen a truly bad episode.

    You’ve done such a great job at blogging this series (and others, like No. 6)!

  • September 5, 2011 at 9:58 pmIrational Promise

    What pgal said. Though there might have been some filler material. =w= /need to re-read the chapter

    Also, though I agree that this show has /amazing/ fillers (I tend to hate all fillers), I enjoy the manga material and more serious stuff more with Natsume. It’s probably because those fillers and Natsume-like stuff that the more action/plot oriented things are so much more enjoyable. Though, it may also be because in the manga the plot-like things are getting pretty interesting. It’s a shame that arc probably won’t be animated this season. ;A;

    Nonetheless, this season’s been amazing showing how Natsume and all his friends/family has grown over the course of these three seasons.

  • September 5, 2011 at 10:20 pmCorn

    Ikayaki Wanchu~

    I’m so glad we have more Tanuma. Last season he and the rest of Natsume’s friends didn’t appear much and I am glad this season is more focusing on his friends and the bond they share with Natsume.

  • September 5, 2011 at 10:44 pmChione Ice Dyrken

    Hrmm..actually, i don’t mind the plot-driven episodes, but like what Enzo said, the ones that aren’t are the more heartwarming scenes of the series. And I agree that the main aspect of the “Book of Friends” and Reiko has indeed been missing from this season (he returning names | youkai chasing after him for it) I thought that should have been the main object of the series..the book itself. I, too, agree that Tanuma and Taki aren’t that strong of a character for involvement, but since Natsume has now become more comfortable with his human companions, he will be more inclined to have them by his side more besides his ‘bodyguard’.

    Though it does feel kinda sad. I thought it was sweet with what the youkai-s did (coming to his house when Nyanko was injured to provide protection), but now, Natsume can rely on his human friends just as much… =\

  • September 5, 2011 at 10:48 pmGuardian Enzo

    I’ll clarify that, thanks – filler in the global sense as in “no real plot”. Though I confess I didn’t remember last week’s chapter being in the manga.

    • September 6, 2011 at 4:15 amAndré

      I always says this about Kaiji. I know it’s not filler, but it feels like one because, basicaly, nothing happens in each episode (specially in this last arc). I have a friend who doesn’t understand when I say: “oh, Kaiji’s last episode was a filler”. Hahaha.

  • September 5, 2011 at 11:25 pmKay

    The only 2 fillers I can find this season is episode 2 and 8. And while those 2 fillers are the good stand alone, I believe it help highlighting the later episodes especialy the latest 2. You could feel the time has passed, and Natsume is growing. Less Reiko and Youjinchou related also show that he’s starting to gain a life of his own. Not living under Reiko’s shadow. He can’t stay interact with youkai alone forever, because while they understand each other to some degree, the youkai did not stick around. It would be plain sad if Natsume has helps many, but fail to live his own life and form relationship with his friends and family.
    Agree with the comment above that the recent manga chapters has been really good.

  • September 5, 2011 at 11:51 pmFaye

    The realization of how absent the Book of Friends has been from this season makes me a little sad, but I still really liked this episode. I enjoyed the suspense and even more screentime of Natsume’s friends, though I hope the season does end on a softer, tear-jerking note.

    It’d be great if we could just get a whole ‘nother season! …but we were lucky enough to get a third season at all, so I’m satisfied either way.

  • September 6, 2011 at 12:10 amsynkronized

    The fillers in this series do a seriously good job in capturing the atmosphere and charm of Natsume Yuujinchou.

    I tend to like both the plot driven episodes just as much. The plot driven ones build upon Natsume’s perspective of Youkai which clashes with the typical exorcist’s attitudes towards spirits. That serves as quite an ironic situation given that humans who he would supposedly relate to have a colder and more alien attitude than the youkai Natsume’s interacted with.

    Oh and any episode with extended Taki screen time wins.

  • September 6, 2011 at 2:59 amDana

    I actually don’t feel the same way at all. My favorite story arcs are the ones that have a bit of intrigue and show Natsume with his human friends solving a mystery. I will agree that I liked the last episode better, but I had been looking forward to that episode for a while and it was in no way filler.

    It was stated in a post before mine that only two episodes this season were filler, perhaps you just prefer the more episodic stories.

  • September 6, 2011 at 3:46 amKim

    Personally I think it’s a bit hard to judge a two parter. It’s not that we don’t have an interesting Youkai in this story, we have two . The one with the hammer and the one possessing Tanuma. At this point we just don’t know much about them, but I expect those details to be filled in next week, along with what the mirror is.

    However comparing Natsume to Christopher Robin works really well. He even looks a little like him. Even though the change is for the better for Natsume, for us viewers it is a little different to see him getting along so well. Characters in the series want to protect Natsume but so do we. And now he isn’t as alone as before.

  • September 6, 2011 at 5:23 amMockman

    One of the things this show does better than most is have good, menacing youkai. Most shows follow the bigger and louder is badder ideal. But one skinny youkai with a hammer can put a chill into you when done well.

    This complements and contrasts the more typical, gentle pacing of the story.

  • September 6, 2011 at 5:59 amrufe

    I’m pretty sure this episode is from the manga. I’m very sure the last one was not, the little fox brings back memories of Urusei Yatsura =/

  • September 6, 2011 at 7:11 amCTT

    Not a filler. I read this in the manga.

  • September 6, 2011 at 10:23 amZaku Fan

    This plot is ok. The more boring ones are those with the lizard guy. The female youkai is hinting at the mirror being extremely precious to her emotionally given she fought to hang on that desperately. Given the series style, the youkai’s story should be strongly sentimental

  • September 6, 2011 at 12:14 pmMyna

    Get off the screen, Taki. You’re ruining the bromance.

  • September 6, 2011 at 9:21 pmMomogoldfish

    ^But then we won’t get a threesome (jks)

    I am confused now, is Nyanko sensei a cat or a dog?! I mean cats don’t usually take walks like that right?

    Have to agree that the fillers were my favourite episodes this season, lets hope this short arc changes my view.

    • September 6, 2011 at 9:54 pmGuardian Enzo

      Most definitely a cat in that form. Natsume walks him on a leash because it’s cute. Although in point of fact, a few people take cats for walks on leashes, too.

    • September 7, 2011 at 6:46 amrufe

      Saw a bunch of cats all on leashes in Osaka. I have to admit that was a shock…

    • September 8, 2011 at 3:36 amMomogoldfish

      I’ve never owned a cat so I had no idea until now XD

      Ok next question: Do masters usually allow pets to put leashes on them? Or is Nyanko sensei completely domesticated now?

      • September 8, 2011 at 4:42 pmGuardian Enzo

        Depends on who you ask – Nyanko-sensei or anyone else!

  • September 6, 2011 at 11:23 pmZhiroc

    I love this series, so I’ll preface my comments with saying that I hadn’t been looking for a change, nor would I have been disappointed to have more shows like those in the first two seasons.

    But I’ll have to say that the creative team has written Natsume into a bit of a corner. He and the Book of Friends are trouble magnets, and he is more and more concerned about causing trouble for Touko and Shigeru. These are getting to come into conflict, as he generally doesn’t seem to have much of way to protect them, or himself (except for that one solo sealing/exorcism).

    It’s going to get to the point where his reliance on others to pull his fat out of the fire, and the serendipity of them being there, will begin to wear kinda thin.

    I hope they come up with a Natsume-style solution to this. Long ago, I began to wonder if he might gain allies among the Youkai who would volunteer to go under “contract”, and he might call on them from time to time to help. To me, building such active partnerships doesn’t violate the tone. But constant luck does….

    • September 7, 2011 at 1:13 amKay

      All I can say is, wait and see. All the built up in this season are there for a reason.

      Contract? This is Natsume we’re talking about. ;)

  • September 7, 2011 at 1:35 pmSimon

  • September 8, 2011 at 9:38 amreia

    Hmm… i wonder since when did Tanuma change his way of calling Nyanko-sensei?
    It somehow changed from Ponta to Nyanta-sensei^.^

  • September 8, 2011 at 11:57 amYukie

    I actually don’t mind the plot-driven episodes. I still find the sentiments of the show safe and sound among the antics of the characters. But I do agree that we haven’t seen Reiko in a while.

  • September 11, 2011 at 12:32 pmBlux

    Pfft, this show doesn’t have nearly as much comments as it should have. I can’t wait till the next episode though. It’s coming to an end way too soon :’(

  • September 11, 2011 at 6:26 pmsealouse

    I am kind of disappointed in the lack of Book of Friends episodes, but I am glad these 2 support characters got more time. Definitely my favorite ones out of the human cast.