「蔵にひそむもの」 (Kura ni Hisomu Mono)
“That Which Hides in the Storehouse”
As wonderful as they’ve been, things have been slanted very much towards the heartwarming side of the scale for Natsume Yuujinchou in this “San” season. Though they’re adapting out of order, I figured Omori-sensei was overdue to jump into a chapter with a little more darkness and threat, and a lot more Madara. And so he did – adapting one of the newer chapters for this story. It’s the first time this season the series has been scary, and the first time we’ve run across a youkai who’s both out and out evil and a real threat.
An old friend returns in the form of Taki (the legendary Satou Rina), who first appeared with her magic circle last season. Whenever Taki is around Natsume seems to be in danger of great bodily harm, but that hasn’t stopped many fans from trying to ship the two of them if this were that sort of series (it isn’t). This time around Natsume and Tanuma stumble across her old house seeking shelter from the rain. Much to their surprise, Nyanko-sensei is already inside – having wandered too close to moe-taku Taki’s lair. This is an interesting dynamic, because we get something we rarely see – Natsume paired off with humans from whom he doesn’t have to keep secrets. Tanuma and Taki can’t see youkai as Natsume can, but among his peers they’re the closest he has to true occupants of both worlds.
This being Natsume Yuujinchou there has to be some melancholy and heart, and it comes in the form of Taki’s late Grandfather Shin’ichiro. He was a sort of anti-Natsume – a boy who couldn’t see youkai but longed to all his life. He was close to Taki, who was desolate when he passed, and his old house is full of youkai memorabilia and nick-knacks – and spirit energy too, as Shin’ichiro was quite a draw with the bored local ayakashi. More of an enthusiast than a true expert, the old man has left scores of half-correct seals and spells behind – though he did manage to seal a nasty kimono demon with an upside-down kappa drawing. Roped into helping clean the old house along with Tanuma, Natsume inadvertently breaks the seal by righting the picture, and the youkai is off in search of his miscellaneous body parts.
Always a story that straddles the past and present, the best elements of this episode were the small youkai that were drawn to the old man, and the memories of his life at the house. As is so often the case a bond of attachment formed, though Shin’ichiro could never see the youkai who were all around him. The brevity of human lives being such a mystery to them, they at first mistake Taki for her Grandfather just as Natsume is so often taken for Reiko. But in the end, it’s these seemingly powerless youkai who make the difference in saving Natsume from the kimono demon, as a sort of gesture of thanks for the man whose house this was. Whether they’ll stick around to play with Taki is anyone’s guess given the fickle nature of youkai, but the most playful of them (Fuchizaki Yuriko) does appear in her magic circle long enough to offer her good wishes.
Next week brings the return of one of the most talked-about and divisive characters in the Natsume universe, Natori Shuichi. Whenever he appears, things get a little serious, so look for the episode to tackle some weightier human-youkai issues. Looks like we can probably look forward to the first anime appearance of a much-loved manga character, too…