「祓い屋」 (Haraiya)

There’s no doubt that the highlight of this week’s Natsume Yuujinchou was the preview, but that’s more of a comment on how great the preview was than a knock on the episode itself. And we’ll get to the preview in a minute…

These “canon” episodes are always a bit problematic for me. Not canonical in the sense of being taken from the manga, but in the sense that they follow the spine of a story that runs throughout the manga, but – like vertebrae – only occasionally makes itself felt. I don’t begrudge the series the right to follow conventional plot structures every once in a while, but I do miss the episodic, sad and heartwarming episodes that make Natsume Yuujinchou the masterpiece that it is.

While those elements are certainly missing, this is about as exciting as this series gets, with as much sense of genuine threat. While Natsume in continually in the position of being torn between the worlds of human and youkai, it’s rare that his choice is made so stark as it is here – and that he must choose the youkai world. But that’s the influence of the Matoba gang, a pretty cutthroat exorcist family that practices methods Natsume finds abhorrent. It’s worth remembering that Natsume disapproved strongly of Natori’s methods when they first met, which begs the question – has Natori become more sympathetic to youkai because of Natsume’s influence, or does the cruel nature of the Matoba methods make him look moderate by comparison?

The irony of this two-parter is that Natsume is once again caught between two worlds, but in this instance it’s two spiritually powerful humans using youkai for their own ends. A witch (Seto Saori) formerly in the employ of the Matoba is seeking revenge for the death of her servant as “bait”- the winged youkai we saw in episode 11 of Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou. Natsume tried unsuccessfully to save that youkai, who it turns out had a relationship with the witch that was much more than servant and master. It’s she who’s been collecting the youkai blood, not Matoba – all in an effort to awaken a powerful youkai which she hopes will devour Matoba, drawn by the promise of another powerful demon that might serve him.

The most interesting element of the confrontation for me was seeing Nyanko-sensei in situations somewhat different to what we’ve seen before. Even as Madara he’s generally in control, but here he was angry at Matoba to the point where he certainly would have killed him for the pleasure of it – had he not been grievously wounded by Matoba’s arrow. This is also the first time we’ve seen Nyanko-sensei hurt this badly in defending Natsume. Ironically it’s Matoba himself who ends up saving Natsume when the youkai awakens, for his own selfish reasons, and those reasons are the lasting import of these events. Natsume and Nyanko-sensei have piqued Matoba’s interest, and that’s a bad thing. Matoba is a dark soul, and Natsume’s interests are not of great import to him.

Also of note here was the new BGM introduced in the latter parts of the episode, because we so rarely get new BGM with this show (and the old BGM is so good that I’m not complaining). It’s a very interesting, very Japanese-sounding string theme that suits the melancholy mood of the scene. And then there’s the real news, that preview – because my favorite supporting character in a series with amazing supporting characters is coming back, the little fox boy (yes, he’s a boy) from Season One! Fox-boy may in fact be the most kawaii character I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a few (not least in Natsume Yuujinchou). I was wondering if Brain’s Base would choose to bring him back – he was a mere bit player in a manga omake but proved immensely popular in the anime. After two pretty grim and joyless eps it’s perfect timing for the little kitsune’s return, because any ep he’s in figures to crank the heart-tugging up to 11. I’m not too proud to admit that I shed manly tears at the end of S1, Episode 7.




  1. Pretty intense episode. Madara looked quite scary for a moment there. He should’ve eaten Matoba back there so they wouldn’t have to deal with him again. Im so cruel XD

    “I do miss the episodic, san and heartwarming episodes that make Natsume Yuujinchou the masterpiece that it is.”

    We should get our fill of those next ep Enzo with Kugitsune as cherry on the top. Can’t wait for next ep!

  2. kinda surprise thay able to relate two different plot into one. from the manga , the youkai crow survive with the lost of one wing but in the anime it die and cause the witch to seek revenge which in manga dont have any relationship with it. guess they are making us (viewer) to grasp better in understanding the story for those who dont read the manga ver.

  3. I loved the intrigue and darkness this story arc brought to the series. The monsters, one of my favoite things about the show, were scarier than usual, it was so nice to see how much Natori cares for him, and it was great to see some nice action for a change.

    I will admit it was nice to see the fox boy in the preview for episode 8. Sigh.

  4. I so HATE HATE HATE the preview. Why? Because that episode is a filler (why do they even exist?) while still there’s lots of INTERESTING materials in the manga that would be awesome to be animated. Then again, this week’s episode actually still has its continuation which I thought we’d see it in the next episode, but no. Originally, the next episode should be about a cultural festival in Natsume’s school where we’ll get to see Taki’s crossdressing, Natsume wearing apron + new hairstyle, Tanuma’s funny sleeping face in the backstage, all that warm friendship…Why did they replace it with a filler?? Some other materials I’d prefer to be animated other than getting a filler with an ambiguous fox youkai ;
    MOON SPLITTING FESTIVAL (I’m still hoping Natsume is a girl lol what a beauty) , MATOBA 2ND ARC,
    YURIKO (I love her so much,*TSUNDEREEE* even more than Taki or Sasada!), Shadow tag, Natsume’s childhood in Miyoko’s house (Natsume’s crying out for his father, so freaking sad..start off this arc, we’ll get to learn more about Natsume’s parent. Isn’t it more exciting than a cheap filler? Then about Natsume’s struggle to end up with Fujiwara couple (that’s fucking sad. PEOPLE need to stop calling Natsume a whimp, once u see this story, I hope you’ll respect all his effort in his life more than before) I won’t stop complaining before I get them in anime and they need to stop making fillers. Those aside, I’m really disappointed with ur review this week. REALLY. You are too biased.

    1. From the view point of someone (me) who hasn’t read the manga YOU seem to be _too biased_.

      Sure.. There might be better arcs, but I like what I see and won’t discredit it JUST BECAUSE I know that there might be something better.

    2. Actually my favourite episode for san so far happens to be episode 2, the not in mange “filler”.

      I’m fine with fox boy reappearing, school festival episodes are a dime a dozen in anime but I really like fox boy’s siloquy styled delivery which is both up beat and yet somehow lonely.

      On the other hand, I really can’t get used to the increased use of the face fault this season. It just looks really unnatural.

      And who wants to bet that Matoba probably had a traumatic experience with a youkai involving his eye and a terrible upbringing leading to him turning this way?

  5. I look at it this way… Manga or anime only? Its all good to me. I love all the episodes wether its from the manga or written as filler. If you have heart tugging episodes all the time it loses its punch. Mixing it up with scary exciting and comedy episodes is better as it gives us a nice variety.

    I thought this arc was great and also I GOT to see my favorite side character Hiiragi (even tho her role was slim this time around).

  6. I’d rather have them do some light heart fillers once in a while and let the season end when they should, then wait for season 4, than having them crams everything into this season, and not having another season at all.

    At this point, the source material could nearly go for another season. Rush everything means you won’t have enough material to go on in near future, which can result in 1) Fillers, anyway, 2) We have to wait for another 1-2 years to have another season , or 3) The end of this franchise because the wait are too long and the hype has died out.

    I’d rather have them do one season, stop for a while, and then do another one.

  7. Not to mention, there have been some excellent fillers in the first two seasons. I don’t believe in reflexively denouncing filler – not all material has to be source-based to be good. Almost half of what you see in Seirei no Moribito wasn’t in the book – but there’s no doubt in my mind the series is better.

    This is a perfect use of filler. Kogitsune was a very minor character in the manga, but a huge success in the anime – he translated well. He’s already been used in a “filler” in the anime, so why not one more?

  8. I love the episodeic storylines as much as you do but I also like the canon stories but i feel it would help answer alot of questions about natsume himself. Before the end of season 2 I never questioned how reiko died but when matoba assistant asked how she died it made me ask yeah how did that happen? I get from the flashbacks that she was young and healthy so maybe something more sinister happened. Like natsume I was pretty excited for him when other people whom belong to both worlds started showing up like tanuma, the girl (forgot her name), and especially natori (and now matoba) who brings in a whole organized world of people dealing with youkai. The difference is they probably did not have similar experiences to natsume. They probably had difficulties but since they are rich they didnt have to face the social hatred towards like natsume did.
    from matoba standpoint I can why any clan would like to have natsume join because even though they are rich, organized, etc they are not as powerful when they are compared to natsume. what are natsume capabilities? if anything what is the origins to their powers? who is natsume grandpa? how did reiko die?etc. It surprised me how physically strong natsume is to not only punch a youkai in the face but to survive a huge fall from the top floor of the hotel room. He could have died but he can out without like it was nothing. This also goes back that it could have a connection to his spiritual powers.
    Anyways in regards to this episode natsume is no stranger to how bittersweet the love between a youkai and human can be what surprised him was how ruthless the matoba clan can be and that he is clearly different from everybody. I’m interested to see what else the matoba clan is capable of and I hope that is touched upon this season.

    1. Yes, that’s what I love most about Matoba’ arrival. He brings so many questions to the story. All of them related back to Natsume or Reiko. My head was filled with ‘what if?’ concerning Natsume’ situation and possibility ever since he appear, and he continues to do that and the ‘what if’ are getting more and more interesting.

  9. This episode makes me wish Natsume Yuujinchou would follow at least a slightly stronger narrative. This one set up some intriguing threads. Sure this arc had some flaws but because the series has so thoroughly developed its characters and our attachment to them, it made the action that much more compelling.

    With Natori we saw how Natsume’s an amateur but also a wild card. With the Matoba family out in full force it really got across something new. That is while Natsume’s interaction with yokai’s far more developed his understanding of humans like him is so limited.

    It felt like Natsume skirted Ao No Exorcist or Ga Rei territory and it did so with an engaging spin that only this series can pull off.

  10. Hmm, I didn’t get that ‘satisfied’ feeling that usually comes with the end of an arc like this. Also, it wouldn’t have made that much of a difference if Natori hadn’t been there, which kinda makes me sad :/ I think I also started to miss classic Natsume. Looking forward to the little fox boy in the next episode!

    Before reading the above comments, I didn’t realize the Natsume anime had fillers. They blend in really well with the rest of the episodes, I suppose.


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