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We are in the home stretch folks. If you missed out of anything you can catch up on past rounds:
Here we Go!
For this round Karandi will give her final support to Natori.
Karandi: As much as I really appreciate Matoba’s role in Natsume, fully agreeing with Irina that he injects some much needed conflict into an otherwise fairly relaxed narrative, I was always of the opinion that once Reiko and Nyanko were removed from the running, Natori would win this for sure. And while I will elaborate as to why Natori is in fact the best of this vast supporting cast, we could just cut to the chase and point out that of all the supporting cast members, Natori is the one that the most time has been invested into developing.
While Matoba is the slap in the face when it comes to conflict, Natori represents the more subtle and insidious concerns that we all face growing up. The deliberate construction of his appearance, particularly his younger version, to mirror Natsume in so many ways makes this role very clear. Natori is someone Natsume might become if he makes the same choices. And yet, Natori is often painted in various shades of grey when he isn’t outright made the antagonist as his approach frequently clashes with Natsume.
These clashes are made all the more heart-breaking because it is clear from the beginning that Natsume sees a father figure, or at least an older brother, in Natori. Someone who has had shared experiences and more knowledge of some aspects of the yokai/exorcist world and someone who Natsume can speak frankly with. Yet even then, we see that Natsume is still holding back from revealing everything to Natori because despite wanting to trust him, he knows that Natori ultimately hates the yokai and doesn’t see them as friends. Even the ones he uses are servants and other yokai are seen as any enemy.
It is in this ongoing struggle between trusting and doubting that the very best of Natsume comes to the surface. While Natori’s intentions towards Natsume are mostly good and protective, his actions regularly cast doubt upon his moral character. He lies, he manipulates, he hides key details and it has become increasingly clear that he believes Natsume is heading in the wrong direction. Season six finally saw Natsume reveal the existence of the book to Natori and Natori’s response (hidden from Natsume) was anything but reassuring of what he will do in the future.
This complex mix of emotions and moral questions that Natori always brings with him into an episode are a large part of what I love about Natsume. As much as this series has a supernatural basis, this clash of opinions and views while still liking and respecting the other person is a very human conflict and one that most viewers will be able to relate to.
Natori is priceless and irreplaceable and a large part of what makes this series as amazing as it is. While his appearance are scattered across the seasons, his showing up always heralds the start of something that will be truly amazing to watch and will leave the audience in an incredibly reflective state. While he isn’t an antagonist by nature, the more nuanced conflict between his outlook and Natsume’s is intriguing and makes for incredibly compelling viewing.
Karandi: Question – Do we even try to declare a winner here? I’m clearly voting Natori.
Irina: Look I love Natori, in fact I think with a (albeith heartbreaking) betrayal storyline, he could take on a much needed antagonist role but why drum up contrived confrontation when we already have a perfectly good and fascinating villain available. All the points my very worthy opponent has made are valid but they don’t negate the fact that Matoba has more narrative potential moving forward…
Ahhh, I can’t do it. Even as I write these, and I mean every word, I can’t imagine Natsume’s Book of Friends without Natori.
Karandi: I say we both declare ourselves the winner in our own recap posts of this series and call it a day. Or, you know, we could ask the audience?
Irina: Brilliant as usual!