「浮春の郷」 (Ukiharu no Sato)
“Floating Spring Village”
Natsume may have leveled up to a real boss aloha shirt, but in every other respect Natsume Yuujinchou continues about its business as if it had never left the airwaves for a couple of years.
For all that, this has always been a show that shifts subtly as it progresses – holding strong to the themes that make it the visual poetry it is, but allowing the characters to grow and change in subtle but meaningful ways. What’s fascinating about that is that while the actual manga chapters are adapted out of sequence, the character development is progressing in much the same path as the manga. We see development in Nyanko-sensei’s attitude towards Natsume, certainly, but it’s in Natsume himself that we’ve seen the biggest changes.
What started in the premiere continues this week, as a larger part of the series is concerned with Natsume’s connections in the human world than before. It manifests in simple things like the casual familiarities in gestures and conversations with his school friends, and in more meaningful ways like the way this episode will end. But it’s ironic that as Natsume grows closer to his late Grandmother by meeting the youkai she interacted with, it appears he’s becoming more and more different from Reiko as a person.
Our lonely youkai this week was Kanawa, who became trapped in our world after following the music of a shrine dance that opened the door to his beautiful village Ukihara (Floating Spring), hidden from human eyes. His young sister followed him through the portal, and died here, leaving Kanawa alone and ill with a sickness that causes miasma to seep from his body. No, he’s not seeking jewel fragments – Kanawa only desires to find the way back home so he can die in peace there. Along the way his name was taken from him by Reiko, who extracted a promise to show her his village if he was ever able to find it.
As so often happens in Natsume Yuujinchou, misunderstanding causes Kanawa to be viewed as evil, not just by humans but by his fellow youkai as well. His best hope for getting home is to return to the shrine where he first entered our world, but that shrine is on the grounds of the temple where Natsume’s friend Tanuma (Horie Kazuma) lives with his Priest father. With the Priest away for a month, Kanawa is finally able to return and search – but he unwittingly sickens Tanuma with his miasma. And another youkai Sagume, exiled from Ukihara, seeks to use Kanawa’s blood to force her way back in. It’s in the happenstance meeting of Kanawa and Natsume that the situation can be brought to a peaceful resolution – because Natumse has visited the Temple out of concern for Tanuma.
This was yet another very strong story, right in the sweet spot for this series. Kanawa was a great character design, with his rusted body ringed with iron looking like something torn from the pages of a Tezuka manga. But the telling moment of the episode came as he offered Natsume the chance to go with him to his beautiful village, as Reiko had hinted she might. Who can say what Reiko might have done – whether she really hated humans as much as she pretended – but Natsume Takashi is not Natsume Reiko. His roots are here, with his friends and with the Fujiwaras, and here he stays.
I wonder – did Reiko manage to win all those youkai names via Janken? And how did she get so good at it? Perhaps we’ll find out next week, when another of the most loved manga arcs, “False Friend”, is brought to life by Omori-sensei and the magicians at Brains Base. In the meantime, I’m having a great time watching this back-to-back with Ikoku Meiro – two incredibly heartwarming and emotionally transparent series that complement each other perfectly.
To be honest I was a bit worried that NY will eventually suffer from sequel decay syndrome but this episode 100% reassured me. Loved the appearance of Ukihara village with its marriage of Japanese Noh and seemingly Western folktale influenced metamorphosis and bizarre rules. Also, Kanawa’s “itai” made me smile a sad smile.
AWESOME episode!!! I gotta love this new season XD the only thing I want to see now is the shuuichi “the guy with the birthmark that moves all around his body. I wonder if he will show up in this season. I hope so…he is one of my favorite characters
I think that my love for Shuichi is unfairly tilted toward his birthmark. I remember seeing it crawling up his face and thinking ‘whoa, that’s cool!’
I like his companion with the one eye mask. I think her name is Hiragi or something similar.
I miss that fox spirit from season 1. I still reckon it should have been a female spirit so Natsume can pedobear.jpg
Implying you can’t still pedobear.jpg if it’s a boy? Plus it looks girly enough <_<
ah, the hell with it, he’s already bisexual enough so why not xD
“The Little Fox’s Hat” was definitely one of the best eps, maybe in my top 3. I hope we see that character again, too.
I like pretty much all the supporting cast but I confess, Shuuichi isn’t one of my favorites. When he’s around the series tends to feel more “conventional” to me somehow, with more plot and less of that certain wistful sadness that makes this show so great. I did think it was funny how the first time he showed up, it was “Hello Mr. and Mrs. Fujiwara, I’m an actor and male model. We’ve never met but I’d like to take your impressionable underage stepson on a trip to an onsen, where we will bathe together naked. Would that be all right?” Naturally they were fine with it…
That scene was hilarious, but who can resist his charms ^^ . Its true, when Natori appears the episodes focus more on the plot, but I think I enjoy his appearance because it caused Natsume to think more about his relationship with the youkai, and its nice for Natsume to have a ‘older brother’/’mentor’ to help him. I also believe that Natsume needs to learn to protect himself from the evil youkai, and he has some strong hidden spiritual abilities.
Natsume and Tanuma are totally gay 4 each other haha NICE lol
Next episode looks really interesting.
I remember in another anime, HunterxHunter, in the Greed Island OVAs they explained some sort of psychology to predicting what your opponent will throw based on how their fist moves. I can’t remember what it was exactly but it was interesting. Maybe Reiko’s been watching HxH? 🙂
Great episode, as said above there has been no quality degradation at all.
So…I don’t remember the last two stories in the manga. Are they fillers or have I just forgotten them?
This episode was filler, but I think the first episode’s story was in the manga.
Why are they using fillers already when there is plenty of source material for one season?
Man…this is touching…am I becoming sensitive lately? I cried for this episode…
you are not the only one.. this is a very good episode, very very touching. I am crying so much towards the end…
I am so happy this series is getting covered. Its too good a series for it to slip by without some RC love for it.
I’ve always loved this show. It’s like a laid-back xxxHolic in a way. Sasada is my favorite character cause she’s nuts, but all the rest are pretty awesome. The show just gives you a super-laid-back feeling, which is kinda weird since something tries to kill Takashi every other episode >.<
Reminds me of a japanses drama Hyakki Yakosho and partly of xxxHolic. Overall an interesting anime though i cannot help but think of Angel Beat’s Otonashi since he’s using the exact same voice when narrating. There are some quotes that come off as simple life questions like “how deeply can you probe into a friend’s life”?
TANUMAAAA~~~ Oh I missed him so much. I remember in the previous season I kept waiting for him to appear and appear but it didn’t happen as much as I wanted it to happen.
Oh and this episode was so touching! That poor Youkai. I’m just glad be was able to get back.
I also like how Reiko sort of hesitated when offered to go there. It shows even though she may dislikes humans there are still things in her world she hold dear.
Gyudon no Blues~♬
My hope is to learn more about reiko past in this season and more on the society that sees the youkai as well but takashi doesnt agree with their methods. I know you said shuuichi isnt your favorite character but I like when he is around because he forces takashi to confront his fears and be more honest with himself. Atleast with him around he can relate to a certain degree what he has been through.
“leaving Kanawa alone and ill with a sickness that causes miasma to seep from his body. No, he’s not seeking jewel fragments ”
I didn’t get this part lol, did I miss something?
Beautiful episode as always. Natsume sure had made many good Ayakashi acquaintances, cause whenever Nyanko-sensei’s not around there’s them to help him when he’s in a pinch. The end really made me happy when Tanuma realized that he should have told Natsume about the Youkai earlier but somehow I can understand him since he’s after all alike Natsume-didn’t want to cause trouble for those around them.