In this lead up to Halloween, I figured I would talk about two of the most terrifying things I could think of: Responsibilities and a World without another season of Natsume…. Don’t worry friends, it’s just a post. None of this is real..

Because Natsume is a show that keeps on giving, it can be analyzed from many different angles. Still at the core it’s called fairly straightforward coming of age story. And with maturity, comes responsibility. In the west, we’ve been conditioned to a certain degree to see responsibility as a burden. A weight that holds us back and prevents us from truly enjoying ourselves.

nyanko and food
Nyanko has it tough

But responsibility is really a gift. A byproduct of being needed and trusted. A badge of honour given to those that have something precious to contribute. It gives our lives direction and purpose. Not having anyone expect anything of you may sound relaxing but it’s also lonely. The Fujiwaras were the first foster home to ask something of Natsume. To give him chores and impose rules. In response, the boy grew to feel like he actually belonged. In some small way, he had earned his place and now it truly was his….

This however, isn’t a post about Natsume’s coming of age. It’s about Nyanko. The great and irresponsible guardian spirit that’s always more than he lets on. Nyanko sensei and by extension Madara, is a funhouse mirror reflection of Natsume himself. The two are way more similar than either one would care to admit. As such, their journeys lead to the same place.

Even after all these episodes (and manga volumes) we still know very little about Nyanko. The character has a rich personality and great interaction with Natsume so he can get away with having no background, but it does leave us with a constant little seed of doubt as to his motivations. However, we can piece a few things together.

Generally, Yokai have far fewer attachments than humans. Their social structures consist of loosely constructed small groups or families, and individual Yokai, who each act according to their own whims,  with no real higher governing system. The Yokai realm seems to be more civilized but the ones stuck on earth are all pretty much out for themselves.

nyanko hugged
oh the horror…

We have occasionally seen Yokai with some type of higher role. God’s with followings or specially skilled Yokai with natural roles like the rock painter. Those are the few Yokai that have clear responsibilities dictated by their station and they all seem much more satisfied and happy with life than the average. They don’t long so much to be a part of the human world because they have their own lives to worry about.

This is where we catch up with Nyanko-sensei. Madara is a relatively powerful beast yokai, which in itself gives him a certain standing. However, we know very little of his life before he met Natsume. To this day, we don’t know who trapped him in that lucky cat statue or why. He is one of the Yokai that seems to most unimpressed by and indifferent to humans around him. Yet, we have seen the subtle changes in him.

It’s always tough to gauge the character evolution of a comic relief. They are meant to be a whirlwind, one minute here, the next gone. Rarely giving you the chance to get a full view of who they are. This goes doubly so for an inherently mysterious character such as Nyanko-sensei. However, he has undeniably grown by Natsume’s side and a great part of that comes from having responsibility.

No matter what the reason behind it is, Nyanko has to protect Natsume. Rather than go about it the boring straight forward way, you know…actually keeping him safe… Nyanko’s been guiding and teaching the boy to take care of himself in a sometimes dangerous world. Living up to his self styled sensei honorific.

laser sharp focus!

This clear task, which sensei moans about endlessly, has shaped the yokai into something even greater. The sense of duty has given him strength and dedication beyond his normal reach. As much as he’s been teaching Natsume, he’s also been learning. Madara was a powerful yokai, he is now a force to be reckoned with. The burden of responsibility has made Madara’s back even more robust. All things considered, Natsume gave him something considerably more important than the book of friends. He trusted him and needed him. He gave him something he had to do for another.

Responsibility may not always be fun. Heck, it rarely is. But it’s valuable beyond my capacity to properly explain. It’s something that’s earned. You can only have it if someone’s relying on you.

So next time you feel that slightly suffocating weight on your shoulders, don’t be frightened. Remember that it’s the universe trying to tell you that you have something useful to contribute. If all else fails, watch or read some Natsume. It will cure everything!

Can we talk honestly for a second? Of course it’s still going to be about Natsume. When Scott (Scott’s just good people, you should get to know him on Mechanical Anime) told me about the idea of doing a Natsume week collab with all sorts of bloggers, I realized yet again what this show means to me.  I discovered the series quite soon after starting my blog so the two are forever linked in my mind. Not only has the series brought me a lot of joy and comfort on a personal basis, but it’s also the show that’s allowed me to form the most connections with readers and bloggers. Fans of Natsume have this tendency to just find each other. It’s like a secret club except everyone’s welcome. As you can imagine, I definitely couldn’t resist this collab, so many of my favorite things together. Such great people were giving me a task!

You should join the fun by catching up on all the natsume posts:

-Monday Scott kicked things off with a huge bang looking at Natsume’s pacifism here.
-Tuesday was Keiko’s  turn, which you can read here.
-Wednesday Karandi gave us a auting post on isolation and loneliness here.
– Friday is for friendship and Arthifis will tell us all about it!
-And, Neha will wrap things up with a bow on Saturday.

Before I leave let me reiterate, friends of Natsume, you are always welcome here.

I cannot resist a good Natsume fan art (here)

26 thoughts

  1. That was an amazing post Irina! Responsibility is a scary thing but it’s also that comes with trust and this show does a wonderful job if showing that in both Natsume and Nyanko sensei. I’m glad to see a post on Nyanko sensei and how what responsibility is to him. He may be a fun character to watch who always jokes around but he does care and look after Natsume, as you say, just like his name suggests. I love this show so much and this week has so far done an amazing job at putting me in the mood for a rewatch!

    1. It has been amazing to read everyone thoughts! All the posts have been so great – can’t wait to read the others

  2. You know, your comments about Nyanko Sensei are really true. We know that the other yokai knew he was in the statue, so just how old is Nyanko in comparison to them? If he was in that statue during Reiko’s lifetime that already makes quite a statement… certainly he bring more questions then answers.

    But I do like the idea of responsiblity being binding in that sense. I’m sure Natsume faced many struggles of not having any/minimal ones and he certainly could have ended up completely different! It feels like having Sensei with him assisted in making a smoother adjustment to life with the Fujiwara’s.

    Loved hearing your thoughts on any and all things Natsume!

      1. Make more posts about your thoughts!! I like your thoughts!!! I don’t always comment but I always read!! And you’re most welcome!

  3. That Nyanko form gives him a perspective he probably didn’t have before, and his relationship with Natsume keeps him around people. I suspect they’re learning about humans together, but from different perspectives. I suppose earlier people either prostrated themselves before him, ran away, or tried to exorcise him. The pet-perspective is definitely new. His pride would never have allowed this, weren’t it for his responsibilites as Natsume’s guardian.

    Also: a picture with both Madara and Nyanko? How?

      1. In any case, it looks like something to hang up in your bed room to look at if you can’t sleep. It’s very inspiring.

  4. This was such a perfect post about Nyanko. I just loved reading it because you are absolutely right. Nyanko may not actually want the responsibility of taking care of Natsume but he did agree to it and while he treats it like a burden (particularly early on) that responsibility has changed and shaped his character. I would love to know more about Nyanko but the mystery surrounding his past is actually kind of great as well because it fits with the idea of transience in this show where Natsume is just a point in time for Nyanko.
    Wow, such a great post Irina. Thanks for sharing.

    1. You flatter me. Thank you Karandi. I find that the moments when Nyanko is weak are the most powerful for me…

  5. I’m not finished yet with this show and it really is such a great story of growth for both the “teacher” and the “student” Honestly teachers should always keep learning :D.

  6. This may sound really weird, but I have been feeling slightly bad after saying yesterday that I now had this sense of urgency to finally start watching this after having read Karandi’s post. As you might have seen on my comment for that yesterday it really struck a chord in me. At the same time, ever since I said that here, I have been feeling guilty for not having started this yet despite having read so many great posts about it from both you and her earlier. So….my apologies 😢
    All I can say is that I will make amends as soon as I can: I promise you that, and I always keep my promises.
    This was a beautiful post once again: your writing skills never fail to amaze me. If anything I think I have to big a sense of responsibility at times: both at work and in private life. But I don’t think I could ever change that in any way: it’s good to have it I think. Without it, I would lose a sense of purpose and it’s the thing that really keeps me strong at the same time as well, if that makes any sense. 😊

    1. Oh no no no – I hope you know I was joking around. I’m a bit of a jerk – I’m sorry. Natsume isn’t ever for making anyone feel bad!

  7. I’m new to your blog (and blogging in general) and can’t believe how well written that was. Thank you that was great pick me to start my morning! 😌

  8. Such an amazing piece as always, Irina. It’s nice to see how Nyanko Sensei has changed and that we know him and yet we don’t. I kind of like it that way, because Nyanko Sensei being mysterious makes him fun.

    Thanks for joining, Irina. I’m glad you found yourself yet again in this colab!

    1. Thank you so much Scott, As you know I stand for Natsume. I do like my post but I honestly think it was the weak link this week. I have written better Natsume ones and it pales in comparaison to everything you guys put out so far. Still I’m glad you enjoyed it and am super happy I wrote it!

  9. I know Spider-Man has probably drilled the fear of responsibility into my head at this point, but it IS a legitimately great narrative tool. Having something put up to you is nerve-wracking, and both outcomes kinda suck. If you succeed, you get to experience the same anxiety again because you proved yourself and that means we can give you MORE responsibility, and if you fail, people will call you out on it.

    It’s a hard fear to overcome.

      1. As much as I fear failure, I am way more scared of being stagnant and not being trusted to do anything. Plus, there’s just no better feeling than keeping your responsibilities,wether people notice or not. Like you say, distracts from the nihilism.

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