Anime/Manga

First Impressions for #Animexchange: Natsume’s Book of Friends

Welcome, weebs, to Animated Observations

It’s not often that I watch show’s based on other people’s recommendation. Anime recently has just been this kind of bump around in the dark experience where I don’t really keep up with trends and just sort of pick what looks interesting. While I am trying to change that and get back into more recent stuff, I decided to take part in Jon’s #animexchange discord event, and let someone else take the wheel for just a little bit longer. By someone, of course, I mean the the lovely and always charming Irina, who decided to recommend me one of her favorite series: “Natsume’s Book of Friends.”

The show features the aforementioned Natsume and his struggle to fit in because of his ability to see “strange things.” These “strange things” are actually youkai, spirits found in Japanese folklore that, in this case, just happen to be real. After releasing the youkai named Madara, Natsume learns from him that his grandmother Reiko battled youkai and kept the names of those she defeated in the book of friends, which gives anyone who owns it control over those youkai. Natsume then decides that the right thing to do is to release the names of these spirits, and by extension give them back their freedom, and pursues this with the help of Madara.

There is certainly a lot to like about Natsume. However, at the same time, this post will probably end up being a lot shorter only because, well, I don’t actually have much to say about it. Natsume, for example, while being underdeveloped so far, definitely has the potential to be a really good character. The story of someone who has faced isolation for their whole life and who now has a purpose outside of normal society is one that I think a lot of people can relate to, at least in a more abstract way.

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This also makes sense as it relates to his reverence of his grandmother, who was the only person similar to him in his family. While it is clear that the two have very different ideological approaches to the existence of youkai, the ability to see them inevitably binds them together, which makes for a unique tension between past and present.

However, episodic shows have always had the problem of having a bit of inherent slow burn built into them, as the overarching is usually split across a lot of episodes. Now, if the overall premise and characters are interesting enough, this usually does not become a problem. For me, though, something about the series just is not clicking. Its entirely possible that the three episode rule is just broken and that I need to give the series just a bit more time to really crank up, but something about it just is not as appealing as I feel it should be.

It might also have to do with the show’s animation. I legitimately cannot tell if it is just Crunchyroll’s player or if this is how the show actually looks, but the series feels just a bit to bright a lot of the time. Its hard to concentrate on the story at hand when everything looks three shades whiter than what it should be. From what I can tell, the newer seasons have seemingly corrected this, but for now its a problem that is really plaguing my enjoyment of the show.

Overall, while the show is enjoyable enough, and I definitely plan on at least getting to twelve episodes, I am not sure how much more I will watch beyond that. Still, nine episodes is a lot of time for the show to grow and develop, so I will not give up on it yet.


How do you all feel about Natsume? Let me know in the comments below.

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If you can’t, or just don’t feel like it, no worries. Thank you all for reading, and goodbye, for now, friendos!

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