I don’t know why exactly but I’ve been feeling great lately. Have you ever had that? Like a reverse virus. For some reason, one day you just wake up full of energy and happy. I find that as time goes by, this happens more and more often. But you know, I’m sure part of it is because of Natsume!
And lookey here – this month’s OWLS theme is going to allow me to tell you all about it!
1th Monthly Topic Deadline: January 1, 2019
1th Monthly Topic: “Metamorphosis”
A brand new year means new beginnings and opportunities. We have a tendency to embrace the new year because it’s a time when we can start fresh. For this month’s topic, we will be exploring our favorite dynamic characters who undergo changes for better or for worse. We will analyze these characters’ transformations and how these transformations benefited or minimized these characters’ potential in becoming “great people/beings.” We will also use these characters as a way for us to reflect on our own lives and who we want to become. Lastly, we would like to say “Happy New Year, everyone!”
- Sailor Moon
- Kimi ni Todoke
Of course, Metamorphosis is a fairly large topic as it can be taken to mean “change” and that’s an integral part of pretty much all storytelling. In fact, it’s huge part of every single character in Natsume’s book of Friends, including the one off Yokai we never see again as well as the general circumstances of the world.
It’s such a prevalent theme in Natsume’s Book of Friends in fact that I almost didn’t know how to start this. So instead of trying to pick just one of the dozens of great potential Natsume subjects for this post, I’m going to pick the series as a whole (so far!) and tell you how the journey of thematic transformation sparked a little change within me.
One of the most spectacular things about Natsume’s Book of Friends, is that the entire mood and messaging of the series evolves (and recoils) along with its protagonist. And in true Natsume fashion, it does so quietly and subtly enough that you may not notice at all.
In the first season, Natsume’s Book of Friends takes a painful intimate look at the slow frozen pain of loneliness. Natsume himself is still completely isolated and seemingly incapable of reaching out or relating to others in any meaningful way. Like a child hurt one times too many, which in fact he as, he keeps everything within himself and wears a strict mask of pleasant withdrawal at all times. Similarly, the series is considerably more bitter than sweet. Stories center around loss of significant relationship, highlighting the good times no that they are gone. There are no real happy endings, just quiet resolutions. It urges you to hold on to the good times, because they are inevitably fleeting.
In the second season, Natsume gets caught off guard by the unexpected kindness that surrounds him. The icy walls that he’s put up are relentlessly assaulted by the patient warmth of people who care. But these things take time and neither our hero nor the series is quite ready to trust yet. The show presents us with a guarded boy with only the smallest glimpses of a possible breakthrough. It’s a tumultuous time. We meet new characters both aggressive and surprising. Yokai regularly turn out to be not what you expected them to be. The show is gearing up for change but isn’t ready to tell us its plans yet. But that change is like a promise and with it sneaks in just the tiniest bit of hope.
Seasons 3 and 4 are catharsis. Finally, Natsume can longer cut himself out from everyone and everything and that carefully constructed armor must fall away. This long-awaited release comes with its own type of pain and fear. Events get frantic. The series suddenly invites us into Natsume’s past then submerges us on a series of unexpectedly intense emotions and tragic events. Of course, Natsume’s Book of Friends remains gentle, with quiet introspective stories to guide us along. You can’t just completely change your nature. But growing pains are inevitable and Natsume brings us along for an explosive spurt.
Through tears, we rediscover a lost little boy finally wiling to stretch out his trembling hand. We also see a series ready to allow itself to hope. The bitter is making way for the sweet. The tales don’t all seem so cautionary anymore. Occasionally, we are urged to take a chance, after all, maybe, just maybe, it will work out.
Season 5 is the calm after the storm. The newly formed Shuka Studio has brought the Natsume franchise along with it and there’s a period of adjustment. It’s a step back. Natsume takes some time to breath. We see him spending a lot of time alone once again, must more than in the past two seasons. But this feels more like a choice than an obligation. The series as a whole seems to be taking a breather. Light but pleasant stories mix in with some development for secondary charterers.
This relaxing interlude was just what we needed to have both audience and protagonist ready for the spectacular 6th season. Natsume is still Natsume. You can tell that the polite, caring boy we met all those episodes ago is right here but, he’s hardly the same. The quiet guarded boy is almost constantly smiling. He’s even a bit of a troublemaker at times. Popular and enjoying it, he almost expects to be the center of attention and invited to all the parties. And the show around him is resplendent with enthusiasm and optimism. Stories that shouldn’t finish happily. Yokai give in to happiness and love. Spring has finally sprung, and everything is awash in bright colors and warm sunshine.
This may sound subtle but it’s a fundamental change not only in the main character but in the thematic treatment of the slice of life stories that make up the narrative of Natsume’s Book of Friends. If taken from beginning to end, it leads the audience through and introspective journey through despair to the other side.
It may lack the visual flair of magical girl transformations or the in your face aspect of a makeover montage but as a complete upheaval of how one sees and interprets the entire universe, it’s in fact a pretty impressive change. It tells you that those big shake ups are actually made up of tiny little concessions that build up. Little differences and improvements that you try to make will eventually add up and before you know it, you can be a brand new you. Just like Natsume.
If you missed it make sure you go back and read Matt’s fantastic One Piece post and coming up next we have Mel with a My Hero Academia post.