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.
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.
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.
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.