OWLS are flying again! How are you all enjoying the 2019 tours so far? They’re great but you wish they had just a bit more Natsume? I hear you, and because I love you guys so much, I got you covered!
2nd Monthly Topic: “Adore” In February, we will be exploring love and romance. The word selected is “adore” because it has two main connotations: to be loved and respected or to feel worshipped. We will analyze characters that give us a feeling of admiration and explain why we love those characters. We will also be exploring different forms of love (familial, friendship, and even self-love) and how those types of love influence our lives. Happy Valentine’s Day! Examples: Korean Dramas Ore Monogatari Kimi ni Todoke Love Songs
It’s no secret that I am rather romantically challenged. Watching young people make themselves miserable over feeeeeeeelings, has never been that interesting to me. You know what is considerably less known about me. I am not single. I have been in a relationship for a good number of years, but it’s not a part of my life I’m use to sharing with those not directly involved. Point is, although I may not be a particularly romantic person, I am not opposed or immune to it.
I thought about taking the easy way out and talking about familial bonds or the general twisted love Yokai generally have for humans in the Natsume universe but heck – it’s almost Valentine’s day, let’s get sappy! Today, let’s look back at one of my favourite episodes as well as one of the most openly romantic entries in Natsume’s Book of Friends. Let’s talk about Aoi and Kaoru.
Kaoru is a smart, spunky girl with an optimistic outlook and impressive determination. Aoi, is a serious and disciplined young yokai weighted down by family responsibility but longing to live on his own terms. They have been friends since they were both small children and through all these years, they were always there to bring exactly what the other needed.
Love stories between yokai and humans don’t end well. At the very best, one ages and dies while the other stays young forever and is left behind all alone. And the very best almost never happens. Most humans stop seeing yokai eventually, can you imagine the specific heartache of no longer existing in the same world as your beloved. Knowing them forever just out of reach. If that doesn’t get you, breakdowns in communication are pretty much inevitable, conflicts from the dawn of man plague the two species. Sure, it’s sweet to think love can conquer all but history has shown that to be unrealistic.
And Natsume’s Book of Friends never really ascribed to a particularly idealized version of love. Love demands sacrifice and compromise. It makes you weak in the sweetest way. It leads to pain, that’s just part of the deal. In Natsume’s universe, everything comes at a price, and something as great as love, comes at an appropriately great price.
We meet Kaoru and Aoi in season 6 of the show, episode 71: A Day That Will Someday Come. This is important. If we had met them before, things would surely had gone differently. In it’s first seasons, Natsume’s Book of Friends was careful not to slip into saccharine. Maybe a touch too careful.
When Aoi realized that he was starting to fall for Kaoru and that she might even return his feelings, he cut off their relationship entirely. Romances between yokai and humans do not end well. On top of that, Aoi has responsibilities, people are counting on him. A vibrant young lady like Kaoru could surely never lead a happy life by his side. She would be abandoning friends, family the possibility of children of her own (I think, I’m not entirely sure how that part works yet). It was a doomed relationship with nothing but downsides. The responsible thing was to nip it in the bud. And Aoi is responsible. He cares about people, he wants Kaoru to have a happy life. Don’t you love it when people try to save you against your will?
And in past season’s that would have been that. He would have watched her from a distance as she filled her life with friends and a family of her own. He would have looked over her children lovingly, making sure no harm came to them. Satisfied in the notion that e made the right choice. And she would have filled up her life with memories like he wanted her to. In time, the passion, the longing, the bitter sting of abandonment would transform and melt into something softer. She would think of him ever so often and smile. Maybe once in a while she would absentmindedly talk to him when no one else was in the room. It would be both happy and sad at the same time. The cautious thing to do.
But season 6 of Natsume did something unexpected. It threw caution to the wind. It dared to dream and hope like never before. That’s why this same story in season 6 became something very different. Kaoru dug her heels in and refused to let him go. Just plain wouldn’t allow it. She lied and tricked her way back into his life. She latched on to him with all her might and to heck with the consequences. She told him in no uncertain terms that she was willing to pay whatever price love had. How could anyone say no to that?
It took 70 episodes for Natsume’s Book of Friends to let down it’s guard enough to allow a crazy impossible love story to seep in. And it was beautiful. Silly, optimistic. It felt like a sunny day and a warm smile. When we last see Aoi and Kaoru, they are about to start their journey together. They have no clear plans and no clue what lies ahead. And they’re in love.
The day after I watched this episode (a Wednesday) I got up at roughly 4 a.m. so I could make fresh backed cookies for my sweetheart’s lunch. It was silly I know. They would obviously be cold by lunchtime and we could easily afford to just go buy professionally fresh baked ones whenever we want to but I still wanted to do it. It made me happy for some reason.
Once in a while, it’s worth holding onto someone, even if it makes your arms hurt.