- Genre : Supernatural, Drama, Comedy
- Episodes: 13
- Studio: Brain’s Base
As Natsume and Nyanko-sensei continue their adventures trying to help both yokai and humans alike, while protecting both sides from each other. Natsume slowly starts to discover the world beyond his backyard and for the first time, begins to see that he may not be so different from everyone everyone else. But as new friendships are forged and old bonds are strengthened, will Natsume have to learn the hard way that trust cannot be freely given away?
I was quite pleasantly surprised by the first season of Natsume’s Book of Friends and was looking forward to catch up on season 2 as soon as my poor little heart managed to recover a bit. This show gave me a whole bunch of feels… I went into season 2 with all sorts of hopes, expectations and predictions. Are expectations and predictions the same thing?
Right off the bat I was very happy to see that season 2 was given a very noticeable animation boost. The colors are much richer and more saturated. Although the palette remains fairly neutral and muted, it no longer looks like old film stock left out in the sun. A lot more shadowing has been added to the final renders, giving images depth and texture which was previously missing and making the past season look oddly flat by comparison. Since characters remain the same, the designs have not been altered and humans still look very similar but detailing has been added to make them subtlety more individual. I was a little sadden to see that the yokai featured a lot more humanoid designs – especially at the beginning of the season, but the later half brought back some of the interesting, more classical demony looking one. Personally, I found the non-humanoid yokai design a lot more menacing this time. The animation itself is good but stills are once again used in several action scenes. However, the “name ceremony” animation has been overhauled and looks fantastic.
This said, Natsume has always been more about substance than flash. If anything, this show is proof that still waters run deep and once again the series tackles what would not be considered a very pleasant or easy subject for its central thesis. Season 1 was unambiguously about loneliness and although season 2 still picks up on that theme, it moderates it slightly as it concentrates more on loss. Instead of seeing characters that have always been alone or isolated, we meet people that have loved and lost, people that have been separated from those that mattered to them, people that have been forgotten. Again, the show takes a gentle approach, not imposing on us the explosive grief and anger of the initial shock but showing us those sorrowful moments when one has to either stubbornly fight against the failing of the light or gracefully accept the inevitable. In this regard, Natsume is much more of an observer, having never had anyone close enough to truly feel the sting of estrangement, so the stories feel a little less personal. I personally found that this dampened the emotional impact and managed to stay pretty dry-eyed the entire time. Small victories!
In fact, as far as Natsume himself is concerned, things seem to be looking up. His relationship with Nyanko has gotten even closer, they are now like old friends, playfully chiding each other. They even share a bed now instead of Nyanko having his own little pillow bed in the same room. Natsume has also deepened his friendships with his schoolmates, he seems much more at ease around them and spends more of his free time with his buddies. He even asks for their help finding a yokai’s name (although he doesn’t quite share all the details). This would have been unthinkable for season 1 Natsume. We also see the arrival of Taki, a character which seem as to be set up as a close ally, basically taking on the role that I thought Tanuma was going to have, but she is given much more air time than he ever was. This change in mood is even reflected in the closing credits which are very sweet and uplifting and spell out clearly that Natsume is no longer alone.
The show is also slowly shifting in tone. The entire season was much funnier. Nyanko sensei is now clearly cast as the funny man with his serious moments becoming more fleeting and further apart. Natsume is also much more solution oriented and less introspective with a few episodes concentrating squarely on action and adopting a much brisker pace. On the whole, a bit less weight is given to the emotional baggage entailed by individual characters and more time has been dedicated to setting up motivations and backgrounds.
I was a little disappointed to see that the show stuck to its entirely episodic format, the slight exception being a two-part arc in the last two episodes. As I said in season 1, I truly think that the universe of Natsume’s Book of Friends has the potential for a truly profound narrative if it is given enough time to establish itself. I do believe though, that we are seeing the set up for a potential large-scale confrontation between humans and yokai, in which case Natsume will be stuck clearly in the middle. The introduction of the Exorcist Guild has opened up Natsume’s world and created a human side that can actually interact with yokai and have an impact on the storyline. Also, the first season was very grey in morality, with no truly good or evil characters and most conflicts stemming from a lack of understanding. Season 2, intensifies the moral contrasts with actually malicious characters on both sides and truly vindictive or predatory individuals that even Natsume cannot defend. All of this seems to be leading us to clearly defined “sides” and I’m very intrigued to see where it goes.
Reiko’s character has been slightly softened. Up until now, She was a happy go lucky little troublemaker, with good intentions but a rather inconsiderate attitude and selfish tendencies. Of course, up until now we had only seen her from the point of view of the yokai she had fought. We now get a chance to hear from bot humans and yokai she had befriended and they paint a picture of a warmhearted, caring if independent girl, going out of her way to help without even being asked. Side thought you guys: why does Natsume have the same last name as his grandmother’s maiden name? I figure she is his father’s mother and since everyone says she was always alone, I’m guessing grampa wasn’t in the picture but still… Rural Japan is usually more traditional about these things, a child out of wedlock would have been an issue… My headcanon is that Natsume is part yokai! I haven’t quite figured out the “mechanics” of it yet but still – it would explain a few things! No Nyanko is NOT his gramps, that’s just creepy you guys… And where are Natsume’s parents? I know they’re not around but since he knows who his gradma is and even has her stuff, he must know who his parents are (at least one of them). Did they get the spiritual powers too???
Sorry, I wandered away from my point again… Overall, I would say I slightly preferred season 1. It simply made a bigger and more visceral impact on me. But I found it absolutely delightful to watch Natsume’s personal evolution. I’m also enjoying how pretty the show is becoming, everyone is getting very attractive. If this trend keeps up, I will be way too busy drooling to cry, by season 6. I live under constant threat of dehydration!
Random thoughts: Why is Natsume still surprised to see yokai out in public? Honestly, I’m better at spotting them than him by now… Also, this is not unique to this show by any means, but do people in Japan really pat each other on the head for comfort all the time. A bit like we hug each other? Cause if that’s a real thing – I’m moving! I LOVE getting pat on the head. I don’t know why. I am also super uncomfortable getting hugged, especially by strangers and yes people here just hug you. Yes, it’s awkward.
Favorite character: Kai – My notes for this guys are “he may be a bit too kawaii”, proving this show’s ability to subvert my expectations.
What this anime taught me: Snow bunnies are frekkin adorable – I shall make an army of them this winter. We will take on the dog. (He has good reasons to be constantly annoyed at me)
Alcohol – Because no great story every started with someone eating a salad
Suggested drink: Lucky Cat Martini
- Every time Natsume hits a yokai – take a sip
- if it’s Nyanko – take a gulp
- Every time Natsume hits a yokai – take a sip
- Every time sensei is drinking/drunk – join him
- Every time sensei insists he’s not a cat – take a sip
- Every time Natsume blushes – blush too
- Every time Nyanko calls himself “noble” – take a sip
- Every time Natsume sees/dreams a yokai’s memories – take a sip
- Every time other yokai make fun of Nyanko’s cat form – laugh
- Every time Natsume’s friends ask him what he’s looking at – take a sip
- Every time someone calls sensei a tanuki – take a sip
- Every time someone says Natsume is too soft/nice – worry