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Natsume Yuujin-chou San – 12

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「帰る場所」 (Kaeru Basho)
“A Place To Go Home To”

Natsume Yuujinchou gives us its strongest episode since 08 with its penultimate effort, a nice hybrid of the themes of the third season with the emotional tug of the first two. But whether I was supposed to or not, I felt a little conflicted about events at the end of the episode.

Given the focus on Natsume’s developing ties with the human world this season, it was only natural that the anime reach into the manga for an origin story – in this case the tale of how Natsume came to live with the Fujiwaras. Given that Natsume’s guardians are easily my favorite of his human companions and that the episode also featured a compelling youkai story, it was an overall winner for me.

We’ve certainly had glimpses of Natsume’s painful childhood before, but never this long or this detailed. A run-in with an old youkai nemesis has left Natsume laid up in bed with a fever, dreaming of old days. Mostly he dreams of the last family he lived with before the Fujiwaras took him in. They seem like decent enough folk, especially their biological son (played by Sakurai Takahiro unless my ears deceive me) who seems genuinely sympathetic towards Natsume. But like all the others before they grow frightened by the boy’s odd outbursts and strange terrors, and the fact that he’s not their son doesn’t help matters. Through a one-eyed youkai who sees Natsume as a potential “pet” we learn that things have sometimes been even worse – parents beating Natsume, or “forgetting” to feed him.

Well, there’s few things more heartbreaking than a lost boy and Natsume certainly qualifies. It’s hard to see him in that state, isolated and lonely despite his kind heart. Into this dark place like a beam of light shines Fujiwara Touko, a distant relative who has suddenly taken an interest in Natsume’s welfare for reasons that aren’t made clear. She and husband Shigeru are Natsume’s anchors in the human world, straightforward and kind and patient, and it’s wonderful to see at last how they came into his life. It begs the question of whether he’ll ever find the courage to trust them enough to reveal the truth about himself.

That said, there’s a sadder element to this story and that’s the youkai whose arrival at the start of the episode put Natsume in a sickbed. Originally she saved him from another youkai, and took an unhealthy interest in this strange and lonely human child. I certainly recognize why Natsume was afraid of her, and why it was so important to him to escape from her before going with the Fujiwaras. So he seals her using an old pit trap, which is sort of sad even if necessary – and no doubt the reason why she was so pissed when she somehow escaped and found him at the Fujiwaras. But when Nyanko-sensei (apparently) destroyed her, I couldn’t help but be a little sad – because in part, I think her initial interest in Natsume was driven more by her own loneliness than anything else. It also makes me a little sad because it continues the “Us vs. Them” motif that has taken center-stage this season, with the youkai more often in a straight adversarial role than being tragic temporary allies as so often in the first two.

We reach the end next week, with what looks like a light-hearted manga omake adaptation. I know this isn’t a wistful story about youkai-human interactions, the Book of Friends and Natsume coming to understand Reiko anymore. But as Natsume Yuujinchou steps away again for another couple of years, I hope it leaves us with an episode that honors the spirit of the story it used to be. Natsume deserves to move forward, but it’s important to honor the past, too.

 

Preview

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September 19, 2011 at 10:00 pm
27 comments »
  • September 19, 2011 at 10:23 pmbello

    watching every episode of natsume yuujinchou just warms my heart, its like covered by a charm that makes you want for more. too bad the show is going for its last episode next week (or so i’ve read),
    well every show has to come to an end, yet i’m still hoping that its just a season ender and there’d still be more to come. sigh ><

  • September 19, 2011 at 10:24 pmsatuors13

    Season 4 ANy1? LOL

    • September 20, 2011 at 9:32 amAni_BEE

      Yes but I don’t mind waiting another 2 years for it to have some sort of conclusion. ^__^

  • September 19, 2011 at 10:31 pmcklaighe

    I love this episode. TwT

    Certainy One of the best this season.

    • September 20, 2011 at 9:31 amAni_BEE

      I think I spoiled this episode for myself by reading the Manga chapters that correspond first. I didn’t get the same feeling I had reading the manga of Natsume desperation in this story arc. I know it’s there but the pacing seems fast to me. lol

      It was nice to see Madara again though. ^_^

  • September 19, 2011 at 10:33 pmcklaighe

    Natsume has shown a lot of different emotions this episode… Love Rank Up! TwT T3T ToT T_T TAT

  • September 19, 2011 at 11:33 pmrufe

    Ok…I honestly didn’t enjoy this episode that much. Touko came off as a little weird to me and I also didn’t like that they destroyed the demon.

    If I remember the manga arc the next episode should have a more youkai friendly story.

  • September 19, 2011 at 11:45 pmCorn

    Good episode. But I miss the scene where Natsume gives Youkai back his name by using the Yuujin-chou. I guess it’s because this season focuses more on Natsume’s relationship wit the people around him but I hope to see it in the final episode of this season or something.

    I was curious how Natsume ended up in the Fujiwara house so it was good they included this story.

    Thanks for blogging this once again.

  • September 20, 2011 at 1:04 amMomogoldfish

    I love how they used the same voice cast as the drama CD that came with the season 1 DVDs for the previous family! Btw if you understand Japanese those are definitely worth a listen, being of the same calibre as an anime episode.

    As to the relationship between Natsume and the Youkais, I wouldn’t say that’s its adverserial, since unlike Reiko, Natsume had never shunned humans. The most striking development this season for Natsume is his increasing confidence that he can actually survive in human society and live a (relatively) normal life, which is the feeling he clearly conveyed to the youkai.

    Still I think the episode could benefit with Natsume learning more about the youkai’s feeling. Maybe it’s the fact that they changed the scriptwriter but this season did reduce the focus on the youkai quite a bit.

  • September 20, 2011 at 3:14 amDana

    This episode was more about Natsume for me than anything else, so more of a focus on the youkai may have distracted from the emotional punch of Natsume’s story. I understand what you mean about it being sad, but the youkai seemed to serve more of a stmbolic purpose, and I was to sad for Natsume to thinnk on a creature that preyed on his loneliness.

    We may not have that long to wait…there was only a season between the first two seasons.

  • September 20, 2011 at 7:24 amZaku Fan

    The youkai had to be banished. From the series, youkai are pretty fixated in their emotions when they have them. Its like facing an angry hulk. You either run away (not possible here) or you smash them unconscious so they can calm down when they wake up.

    I don’t think the youkai got destroyed there as there seemed to be some communication between the dissolving mask (which from the various mask wearing youkai in the series, does not represent the youkai itself) and Natsume

  • September 20, 2011 at 7:40 amKay

    Madara just chased the youkai away, only the mask was broken. When I read the manga I even thought he was surprisingly too nice. Then realized that he really listen to Natsume.

    2 insights I get from this episode.

    1) Being shifted around a lot, combined with his weird behavior make him unable to form a bound with anyone. At some point he started to lay down by the fact that he’s a freak, and a problem.

    2) Because of that, he has little to none self value. The first thing he talked when threatened to be the youkai’s pet was if he disappear, his current family will be in trouble. The “no I won’t” never ring in mind until he knew the Fujiwara visit. That’s when he allowed himself to hope.

    This youkai make me think of the one who cursed Taki, the type that entertain themselves by watching people suffer. She didn’t seem like a negotiable type. If he don’t go with her, she would just eat them all because she can. So his desperation was understandable. If someone want to kill people I care, I’m sure won’t sit around and wait for miracle to have mercy.

  • September 20, 2011 at 9:37 ammeiji-era

    Loved the Hospital Scene. This is, by far, is the Best scene in any anime I’ve ever seen. And that’s not an overstatement.

    • September 22, 2011 at 7:11 pmMrmz

      The hospital scene certainly brought tears to my eyes (And rarely cry about shows to the point ppl call me emotionless) Really live that show and that episode was no exception!!

  • September 20, 2011 at 10:54 amKethy-chan

    Beautiful episode! Oh, I love Touko-san and her husband! They’re sooo nice!
    2 fav scenes: the hospital, when Natsume cried, saying he wanted to go with them, and when Nyanko-sensei (in full form) comforts Natsume and Natsume “pets” him.
    Too bad it’s almost over !!
    Season 4 please !

  • September 20, 2011 at 11:51 amMrBrownSound

    I didn’t really like this episode much, but I really did like the parts about his past. The manga chapter of this episode was pretty good though.

  • September 20, 2011 at 5:20 pmEri

    Another heart-warming episode. I love flashback scenes. :)

  • September 21, 2011 at 1:43 amNiana

    For most parts I liked this episode. It did a good job of animate these two manga chapters, which I come to love. I particular liked the scene with Toko under the light in the night, because it was what I felt when reading, Natsume was in the dark and then the Fujiwaras came and his whole world lightened up. What felt a bit different was, that in the manga it was the first time in this series I was really scared of a youkai.

    Whatever the reasons of the youkai had been it was its own fault of getting sealed. The end with the destroying part is a different story(if it was destroyed, which is left a bit open), but as you said Natsume didn’t do it, Madara did.
    In the manga Madara said “I chased it away” then a cut to Natsume who is lost in thought over the broken pieces from the mask and then Nyanko Sensei’s. “Go asleep…”
    This scene is very much up for your interpretation. Mine is that the one who felt most like you is Natsume himself.

    I liked the (short) special chapter the next episode seems to be based on very much. It was a lot like a meeting with old friends and it was nice to see Natsume act with youkai again.
    Natsume didn’t have a real home in any world, the youkai world and the human world, now he has two special and important places, with Nyanko Sensei (kind of) being the link between them and that is so nice for me to see. There were pretty dark places this season went, but for me it didn’t felt that antagonistic against youkai. (can only speak for the second part as I didn’t watch the first). Maybe it was more antagonistic in general, with Matoba and some other stories, and we get to know that both Youkai and human can do bad things, but I didn’t get an “us vs them” feel not in the slightest.
    I hope you will like the last episode. It is really sad to see someone so disappointed in the stories of this Natsume Yuujinchou season.

    • September 21, 2011 at 5:50 amKay

      Just want to say I agree with you about this season introduce a fair share of dark human and youkai. And I like that they show both sides of the coin. This season seems to say nothing is black and white. Like how the family he stayed with was not that bad.
      We’ve meet good human, dark human, good youkai and a dark one. They have their own reason and perspective. It’s how you decide to interact with them that matter.

    • September 21, 2011 at 9:48 amGuardian Enzo

      I’m not that disappointed, really – just not loving it quite as much.

  • September 21, 2011 at 5:43 amicy

    YAY just saw the news that 4th season is announced! =D it will air on january 2012!

  • September 21, 2011 at 7:21 amChione Ice Dyrken

    4TH SEASON OF NATSUME YUUJINCHOU CONFIRMED!!! SHARE THE LOVE!!!
    http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2011-09-21/natsume-book-of-friends-get-4th-season-in-january

  • September 21, 2011 at 9:49 amGuardian Enzo

    Well, that was quicker than I expected. I think we may need some anime original material at this point. Of course, with this series that’s a good thing!

  • September 21, 2011 at 4:28 pmCorn

    4th Season!!!! YESSSSS

  • September 21, 2011 at 4:38 pmEri

    YOSH!

    4th season FTW!

  • September 22, 2011 at 4:09 amLeticia

    I loved this episode, so sad yet so heartwarming, you gotta love Natsume <3 Aaaand so happy to hear about a fourth season coming soon, yay!! *____*

  • September 25, 2011 at 5:48 pmFaye

    I loved this episode. It was such a tearjerker. I mean, the idea that Natsume had been more than ignored by his past caretakers crossed my mind, but we couldn’t know for sure just how bad it got until now. Every episode reinforces how great of a kid Natsume is, but this is one of the ones that really hits you. I was all kinds of sad when the first thing that occurred to Natsume when the youkai suggested kidnapping him was that it would inconvenience his current family ;-; I am so glad this wonderful kid is happy right now…

    Also, middle school!Natsume is adorable and I was pleased to see Madara in his full form again since he’s only shown himself once or twice this season :’)

    I actually waited to watch this episode since I didn’t know how well my heart could take finishing Natsume just yet, so I’m glad I can say that I just can’t wait for the fourth season in January!