Of course it’s Natsume…
- Genre: Slice of Life, supernatural, hug in anime form
- Episodes: 74
- Studio: Brain’s Base (seasons 1-4), Shuka (seasons 5-6)
If you’ve been here before you know this story by now. I’ve told it to you 6 times already but how about we let the newcomers in on it as well. Natsume is a story about the difference between being alone and being lonely. It’s about the dangers and terrors of loving and being loved in return. It’s about learning how to see the dreams behind the nightmares. It’s about a mighty spirit that looks like a lucky cat, talks like a cranky old man and drinks like a fish. Mostly, it’s about reminding us that the world is dangerous and flawed and unfair, and indescribably beautiful. A good lesson to learn and relearn.
If my earlier 12 Days Review of Rose of Versailles was all about my Ghost of Anime Past, Natsume is very much my Ghost of Anime present. It reawakened in me a deep admiration for the medium and its unique appeal. In many ways, my discovery of this series also serves as a backdrop to my blogging experience.
Although my Natsume reviews tend to be some of my least popular posts (and you know what, that’s your loss really because they are some of my most honest writing, not that I’m stung about it or anything) I seem to have made it a personal goal to make everyone around me completely sick of hearing me talk about this show. Here we go again!
Natsume Yuujinchou is understated. You have to have a certain appreciation for stillness and quiet to really get everything you can from the show and this is reflected in the animation. It’s not a showy series and although the visuals and direction improve noticeably with the seasons, most people wouldn’t qualify it as eye candy.
The general production values start off similarly modest but never bad. The actual impression is that the show was made by a group of people that are all very talented and truly care for the source material but did not necessarily have all the resources they could have used. The end result is a wonderful show that’s just not necessarily fancy. Think of it like going to a tiny mom and pop restaurant hidden away in a back alley where all the furniture is mismatched, and the china is beautiful but a little worn. A little secret place where you have the best meal of your life and every fault you could possibly find turns out to be a plus in the overall experience.
I’m not even trying to hide my bias here. There’s very little point in pretending now, after all those rambling love letters I’ve written to this show and tried to pass off as reviews. If you want to know what I enjoyed about the series so much, please go read them. Or just go read all the wonderful Natsume reviews from my fellow bloggers. There aren’t enough. I’m not going to write yet another one. Instead, let me tell you today, how Natsume reminded me of why I still love anime.
The world of Natsume is simultaneously fantastical and incredibly quaint. The quiet rural setting with its generally kind if sometimes oblivious inhabitants, is a place that is on some level instantly recognizable and its lazy, hazy atmosphere makes it seem almost frozen in time, giving it that certain ageless quality which will be just as relatable to one generation as the next. The Yokai are used as magnificent metaphors for the inner turmoil we all go through at some point in our lives, without having the narrative resort to preachy exposition and endless melodrama.
All the subtlety and nuance of the narrative is one of the most seductive aspects of anime for me. This light touch is only possible because the show trusts its audience to sympathize, analyze and understand on their own. It believes its audience to have complex and detailed personalities, just as the characters have, and to be capable of introspection and correlation, thereby truly taking in all the little things left unsaid.
But such an approach would be unthinkable if the goal is to capture the largest possible share of the viewership, or cash in on the latest trend. Assuming the audience will invest in your story, requiring patience and empathy from your viewers, are both risks that can’t be measured by market research. Because anime is relatively cheap to make and exists in a highly saturated market, the rules are a little different. A huge number of shows are simply not expected to do that well. They are more or less time fillers or extended commercials. There’s a certain freedom that comes with this condescension. Studios can take risks or indulge in passion projects at largely reduced stakes. Strict demographics no longer matter and with that, formulas can be played with. People try things out much more in anime form than other, more conventional media, simply because they can.
Of course, you’ll get a lot of misses for every hit, but when it works….
Like I said, Natsume isn’t very good at living up (or down) to expectations. Against all appearances, it’s a little rebel. Despite being a show full of attractive teenagers of varying genders, and having portrayed some of the most endearing love stories I’ve ever seen, there isn’t even a hint of romance as one might have thought. The conflicts and confrontations I’ve been waiting for since the second season have yet to materialize as well. But it has never felt unsatisfying.
The reason for this, in my opinion, is that it’s natural. Natsume has Yokai, sure, but for the most port both the adventures portrayed, and the actions/reactions of the characters tend to be pretty mundane (all things considered). Natsume finds lost trinkets for those Yokai or tries to reason with them through conversation. There’s rarely any moments you would qualify as epic but this normalcy is haunting. You can translate it so easily to your own experience that you can’t help but understand exactly what everyone is going through. You instantly share their joys, cheer for their successes and understand their grief.
Most of us look for some form of escapism in our entertainment. That’s why even so-called reality tv is grossly exaggerated and rather unbelievable. Anime, (animation of all sorts really), layers beautiful illustration over its dynamic storytelling. That means that even watching a character quietly read a book for instance, is going to be more interesting because it’s a pretty moving picture. Since you already have that one extra hook, you can afford to be calmer, more down to earth with the other elements. I’m not saying you HAVE to – a lot of anime is just as or considerably more over the top than live action offerings. I’m just saying production teams will feel more at ease telling a “smaller” story. And small people like me, we like the smaller stories.
But you know what guys. As much as I just waxed rhetorical about anime as a whole, as if I had any clue what I was talking about (or knew what the word rhetorical meant…), it’s really very simple. Once in awhile, you feel all alone. You feel a little scared and a lot misunderstood. You wonder if that will ever change. You ask yourself what’s wrong with you? Am I projecting? I’m assuming way too many things about you.
Let me take that back, I’ll say it better. Once in awhile, I think I may be a weirdo and that in time I will become so weird that no one will be able to understand me. It’s a silly thought and it makes me feel very lonely. I think Natsume may be able to understand me, I’m pretty sure he would try. I think that an entire team of people out there who loved this show so much that they dedicated themselves to creating it, may be able to relate to me. I think that little souls all around the world, who got just as captivated by these little stories as I did, may feel a little weird and a little alone, just like me at times.
In 2017, I discovered Natsume Yuujinchou and I wrote about it, and shared it with people I’ve never met on a little blog I started on a whim. Both of these things have made me feel much less lonely.
Favorite character: Nyanko as Natsume with everyone else as a close second.
Dear friend: I have been thinking and drinking until finally I realized something REALLY important and that’s I like drinking
Suggested drink: Your favorite!
- Every time Nyanko drinks – join him
- Every time Natsume withdraws – take a sip
- Every time we see Natsume’s adoptive parents – cheer
- Every time Nyanko’s hungry have a snack
- Every time Natori is suspicious – take a sip
- Every time we see Matoba – drink
- Every time Natsume accepts help – cheer!
- Every time Natsume hits a Yokai – take a sip
- Every time you feel that squeeze in your heart – be strong!
Day 8 of 12
51 thoughts on “The Boy Who Ran Away With My Heart”
Natsume stole my heart too since 2014. The very moment that I watched NatYuu episode 1, it really changed my life and my view towards slice of life genre. Who wouldn’t fall in love with Natsume and his innocence. This post really caught my heart. Great read.
No one wouldn’t fall in love!! Honestly, I haven’t met anyone who actually dislikes this show and I find that people who love it, tend to be wonderful people 😉
The moment I saw Natsume’s face… I just knew there was someone here who understands me ^=^ thank you so much for this. It’s sad to see that the whole anime community has not witnessed this brilliance. This is the only SOL on par with Mushishi. At times it is even greater.
Dear Someone – you are very welcomed here!!!
This is AWESOME!!! I need to come back to this later!
Great, well-put, & thoughtful read. (And I haven’t even seen the show, although I am also certainly considering it now). I also like how you make it easy to find the artists for the artwork.
I do hope you give Natsume a chance. I do love it so
Wonderful. I can really relate to those feelings of loneliness and over thinking things.
I think a lot of us do. It’s great that we can feel less lonely
If we take a sip each time Natori is suspicious we’d die of alcohol poisoning! lol. Natsume is such a great anime and it was so nice to read your thoughts and feelings on the show. It’s so special in so many ways that you would only understand if you were a fellow watcher. Thanks for the great review! (=
Natsume is indeed quite special to me and I find that fans of this show just tend to come together. It’s always a particular pleasure to meet another friend of Natsume’s !
It is! The community and fandom for this show is so chill, it’s great!
There is no such thing as too much Natsume. Especially love letter-ahem-reviews written with such tender loving poetry and insight. Natsume was the first anime I ever bought on DVD, because it is my fuzzy blanket.
You have no idea how happy it makes me to know people realize how wonderful Natsume is
I came because of the title. I stayed because of the review. I got enlightenment because of all the wallpaper sources.
This is a great hype up for the series in more ways than just being literal, and I should put Natsume in my objectives list for 2018~~
Pixiv have lots of awesome works don’t they ^^ (though PG rating ain’t guaranteed… …)
oh oh if you watch Natsume please let us know!!! And thank you for mentioning the art. I put a lot of effort in choosing it, I thought the fact the show has inspired so many artist might give people an idea of how moving it is. Love this comment – thank you!
Natsume, as a protagonist, is a rare breed: he’s equally adept at hanging back and being a relatable point of view, and at coming into focus and touching your heart. I think that works because Natsume is a patient show for patient people. In fact, that’s one thing the Youkai add to the show – the long perspective. What does it matter if you’re a little sad now, it’s over in the blink of an eye (a rather slow eye, says my prosaic self, but well…).
The first time I tried watching Natsume I started (without realising) with season 2. The first episode of season 2 is not one you should start the show with. It feels like a recap, if you see it after season 1. It feels like a rather inept introduction, if it’s the first thing you see and don’t realise you’ve started with season 2. I still liked it somewhat, but wasn’t really in the mood to watch more. Then, when season 3 started to air, I thought it was time to give the show another chance, so I did… and loved it.
I was also rather confused, because the first episode was nothing like I remembered it. I’m rather fuzzy-brained and my memory isn’t the best, so I put it down to that. Then I saw episode 1 of season 2, and only then did I realise what happened. I felt a little stupid, but, well, Natsume is a patient show for patient people. Eventually I figured it out.
It’s important, too, that the show knows that not all things end well. There’s just this quiet sense that, whatever happens, if you give yourself the time you need you can live with it. A false optimism would turn me way. Instead, what I get out of the show is a positive attitude: a little like “it’s going to be all right, eventually, and if not, at least you didn’t waste the time in between feeling sorry for yourself”. It’s hard to express in words: encouragement without empty promises – just a sense of passing time, an emphasis on now, and the feeling that it’s better to have a positive attitude than a negative one (but no pressure: if you’re down, be down – it won’t last forever).
True – Natsume is the embodiment of cautious optimism. As always thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I really love that people are inspired to comment on this series
Please keep writing your love letters to this show. I love reading them and it reminds me how great this show really is (not that I don’t know given the number of love letters I’ve written about this show that masquerade as reviews). Still, the number of anime fans who claim to have never heard of Natsume still is something I would like to see changed. While not everyone will fall in love with it, this is one show worth spreading around.
I can’t wait for your s7 episode reviews!
I am watching season 1 right now lol I like it so far 🙂
Ohhh it gets so much better!
Reblogged this on An End to Sorrow.
I was going to start this comment with “I’m sick of hearing you talk about this series” just to scare you, but naw, I’m a nice guy i would not do that to you 😊
Seriously great post. Confession: I feel alone/ lonelyness quite often. I’m not saying this to cause sympathy or anything, because really I’m not depressed, feeling down or sad in any way. The best thing that really has happened to me is blogging. In a way it really makes me feel apart of something and definitely manages to drive away quite a lot of lonely feelings. That said, I really need to check out this show. It has made me very curious, and your posts for it are very convincing. So as most people said here: keep them coming 😀
Oh I understand completely. I’m not saying loneliness is necessarily a bad thing really, there’s a certain solace in solitude, but there’s also a magic to realizing how small the world can be. It makes you feel a little less lost. And there I go again. Raist – if I have to influence you in some way – forget the otomes and visual novels, give Natsume a try instead!
Well, you don’t have to influence me, as you have already convinced me to watch this one ASAP 😊 And your words in this comment by the way are very beautiful, thank you very much 😀
My pleasure and if you do watch it – please please tell us about it?
I will definitely do that 😀
How about this:
Instead we say, “we are sick of you not talking about Natsume enough!”
? ?? ???
Lol, that is a great idea: I second that 😂😂
Well I don’t not appreciate that a whole lot!
The question is, what’s your ghost of anime future?
Another series I’ve only just begun, but that I already love. No more seasonal anime for me right now, I need to watch natsume.
I think you just gave one of the answers for why slice of life works so well in anime format. It’s a lot easier to appreciate the little things knowing they were all handdrawn. It’s peaceful and simple stories with wonderful characters like Natsume that I will never get tired of.
Natsume is getting so much more love than usual today! I’m going to consider that and early Christams present! Thank you!
I will NEVER get tired of hearing about Natsume! It’s legit one of my favourite anime serials of all-time, and the reason that I fell in love with the slice-of-life type of genre. I completely agree when you say that Natsume’s is underrated. When I bring it up in conversation, most people haven’t seen it, and 100% of the time those who have, have a difficult time telling me anything they didn’t like about the series. It’s such a masterpiece and everyone should watch it because they’re hella missing out. I’ll read all of your Nastume-related posts any day. ♥
I always love to hear that other people appreciate this show. Even though these reviews get less views and like – the comments are always so lovely that it makes me just (if not more) as happy to post them.
As far as I’m concerned, there can never be enough Natsume (or Natsume-related blog posts) in my life. Popular or not, I say keep ’em coming!
well since you ask. Thank you!
Count me in as well!
You guys are going to regret all this encouragement when season 7 comes out and I publish 3 post about every single episode…
No, I’d love it!
Yeah me too😁
Nice – viewing party at my place!
I love this anime and I am waiting for another season😊
Oh me too! I check to see if there’s more details about the movie on a regular basis. Holding my breath and all.