• Titles: Natsume Yuujinchou: Utsusemi ni Musubu, Natsume’s Book of Friends the Movie: Ephemeral Bond
  • Genre: Everything good in the world and kitties!
  • Episodes: 1
  • Studio: Studio Shuka

Things are going well for Natsume. For the first time, he’s managed to find a place in the world. He has friends everywhere he goes, a loving and comfortable home to go back to and even a great beast bodyguard to keep him safe. OK so maybe he’s not the most diligent bodyguard out there but you know, a lot of people don’t even have great beast bodyguards! Natsume is happy. But happiness is a fragile thing. In the blink of an eye, it could all disappear. What if his bodyguard got sick and didn’t quite get back to normal? What if a friend went missing and now seems to have been erased out of existence? What if the Fujiwaras forgot about Natsume altogether? Now that would truly be a nightmare. But that’s how it is. The precious bonds we grow and keep close to our heats are delicate.

It’s been a long time since I last wrote a review for Natsume’s Book of Friends. I’m nervous. What if I don’t do it justice? Well, I have never done the show justice really. I’m not being adorably self-deprecating. It’s a show that you have to watch. No review will do it justice! I was even nervous to watch the movie, to begin with. I’m always a lite anxious when I start a new season of Natsume. I’ve come to think of the series as something of a home. What if the new stuff isn’t as good? What if I don’t like it as much. If I don’t love Natsume’s Book of Friends, who even am I?

I hope you all realize I’m exaggerating. Not to mention that I’m up to date with the manga and it’s unwaveringly great so there are no real worries. But… There is a special relationship that we form with the stories we really love. At least there is for me. And I always get a bit uneasy at the thought of messing with that. After all, this isn’t a reboot or a remake. It’s part of the official stories so not as easy to compartmentalize. This is a lot of build-up huh… Let’s get to the review.

is it just me or does Nyanko look like he put on a few pounds?

Production

I couldn’t find anywhere to stream Ephemeral Bond in Quebec so I ended up buying the Blueray from RightSuf and let me tell you, it was a brilliant decision. Actually, I always meant to buy it. Yup!

The downside is that I have no screencaps since my computer doesn’t have a disk drive. The upside is everything else. The Blu-ray comes packaged with an actual good quality case that won’t disintegrate in your hands and you can get the disk out of without breaking your fingers. It includes a handful of lovely postcards and this great big sticker of mini Nyankos. I liked the sticker so much I ended up framing it and putting it up in my bedroom. I now have 5 Natsume pieces of art in that one room.

I’ve gotten nothing but compliments on it!

And there was just something really fun about popping the disk in my ps4 and seeing 3 little Nyankos as an icon. There are a few extras on the disk, mostly trailer. Nothing too exciting. but the menu itself is really pretty and soothing.

Finally, I’m not sure if it’s the quality of the Blue-ray image vs streaming or whether production just had a boost (probably both), but Ephemeral Bond looked great. It’s the best-looking Natsume feature I have watched. The characters are just a bit more detailed. The models are consistent no matter what happens onscreen. The colours are rich and wonderful. Sure, it’s still the classic Natsume palette with very earth-naturalistic tones, but they’re so pretty that you can just smell the clean country air.

Beyond how the art looked though, the editing and directing were a bit bolder as well. We saw glimpses of interesting camera angles and trickier shots in the later seasons of Natsume’s Book of Friends. The movie continues and expands on that. There were a lot of shots that were framed in very intriguing ways. I hope the trend continues should when the next season is released.

The music is also quite good in the movie. I won’t bother discussing the voice acting, it’s the same as always which is excellent, but the soundtrack has been elevated. All in all, Ephemeral Bond is a notch above everything we’ve seen from Natsume’s Book of Friends so far. Please note that I have not watched The Waking Rock and the Strange Visitor yet. I wanted to take some time between movies because I like to let Natsume stories linger and really savour them.

see??? It looks awesome!

Story & Characters

Ok, so this is the part I’m nervous about. I shouldn’t be. Would you like to hear about what happens? I tried to give you a pretty good synopsis. Hmm, if I hadn’t seen it yet, what would I, as a fan, want to know? OK, so first there is an effort at establishing the world and Natsume’s circumstances in the first minutes of the movie. I’m not entirely sure, but I do think you could watch and enjoy Ephemeral Bond even if you have never heard of Natsume’s Book of Friends before. Like I said, I’m not entirely sure because it’s difficult to put myself in that place but I think so.

For long-time fans, you might be happy to hear that most recurring Natsume characters make an appearance (except for Matoba although he is mentioned). And not in a contrived fanservice kind of way. They have actual roles to play and the movie does reference past episodes. Natsume’s school friends are rather present, which I enjoyed a lot. Seeing Natsume in the context of a varied and supportive friend group makes my heart happy. Taki and Tanuma both have important roles and the Dog circle shows up a few times. We even get to see Natori do his thing. And a young Reiko wreek havoc!

Natori’s thing is arts and crafts

Watching Ephemeral Bond, I realized what I liked so much about Natori particularly. He’s actually a mild deconstruction of the mentor archetype. He’s there for Natsume, guides him and even plays a bit of a parental role to a young man who’s lost his father. But at the same time, the two clearly don’t trust each other and often have conflicting ideals and goals. There’s a borderline soft antagonistic streak between Natsume and Natori. That’s a type of relationship we really don’t see often in anime.

Also, for those of you who have read the manga like me, although Ephemeral Bond seems to draw inspiration from a few of the stories, it’s a completely original storyline that wasn’t in any of the manga I have read. (I’m up to volume 25 and I will pounce on 26 the second it gets released in English).

I hope this is helpful. But it doesn’t really tell you what I want to convey. Many have probably said that Ephemeral Bond is like a long Natsume episode or a mini-arc. And it is. Natsume is fundamentally a Slice of Life story and as such, I don’t think there’s any way a movie based on the series would come out as anything else than a long episode. It’s a great episode!

I mean look at these dorks!

It’s probably one of the cutest episodes, with several appearances from young Natsume in flashbacks, who is the most precious ever. And three tiny Nyankos that manage to make even sensei cute. Natsume begrudgingly agrees.

And it’s also a very sad episode but in the way, Natsume has of dealing with sadness, where it becomes precious and pretty. Natsume has a line towards the end of the movie, Yorie’s sadness landed softly. There are a lot of laughs and aww moments in Ephemeral Bond, and in the end, it conveys a soft and lovely sort of sadness.

As the title says, this movie is primarily an exploration of the bonds we form with others. How, in the grand scheme of time, those bonds only last for the blink of an eye. Of course, the memories linger. All those you touch are changed by it. However, in Honokage we get a very interesting type of Yokai. Honokage is a Yokai that appears in the form of someone the person remembers. Sometimes real or other times fictional. He has no control over it. And when he leaves, everyone instantly forgets him again.

But I won’t

So his bonds or particularly precarious. He comes into relationships that have been established without him and then leaves them without anyone having as much as one happy memory to show for it. But the movie tells us that it’s ok. Even those types of transient relationships that seem to not have any impact, matter. They are important in their own right. They are precious for the time they last and even if you think nothing been left behind, something always lingers. People are changed by others that touch their lives, whether they realize it or not.

Natsume’s Book of Friends: Ephemeral Bond told me that my existence matters. The very fact that I exist is important. And I have the power to use that existence to make the world around me better or worse. Even if I feel helpless or don’t realize I’m doing anything at all, we all influence the world around us and as such, we’re all precious in a way.

It was a great movie, guys! I’m so so glad I bought it and get to have it forever. It made my entire weekend better.

I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough to write about with only one movie. There are actually a few strong secondary themes I haven’t touched on at all. Like Natsume’s childhood friend who also said he saw things but didn’t He just wanted to see a world beyond our own. The betrayal and kinship this created for a child-like Natsume. There’s a whole lot to unpack there and although the movie didn’t dedicate too much time to it, it still carefully laid out and examined the elements. Even gave the plot thread some proper closure, when so many movies would have forgotten about it.

Ok…I need to stop. Cause if I start to talk about mini Nyankos, we’re going to be here all night!

Natsume will be back!

You might like this anime if:

You’ll like it! Trust me!

My favourite character:

How do I ever chose favourite Natsume characters? Nyanko no 2? He was the sweetest one!

Suggested drink:

a Timeless Modern

  • Every time anyone mentions the Yujin-cho – take a sip
  • Every time there’s a suspicious shadow – keep an eye on it
  • Every time we see Raiko – Yay
  • Every time Nyanko’s eating (any Nyanko) – get a snack
  • Every time anyone’s memories get…odd – take a sip
  • Every time the little Nyankos speak – take a sip
  • Every time we see the Dog circle – raise your glass
  • Every time anyone mentions encumbrance – take a sip
One last image of little Nyankos for the road!

13 thoughts

  1. Glad you also enjoyed this one! I seriously jump for joy every time there’s anything new Natsume-related to watch. I could never get enough of this franchise. <3

    1. I hear you! I still have one movie to watch and I’m sort of divided between watching it and just saving it greedily.

  2. I couldn’t remember the last season/episode I have watch with Book of Friends. I think it was that child god/being, if I remember right. But I truly can relate to his hesitancy to make friends in the beginning seasons. I love love love book of friends. I think I need to re-watch <3

  3. Yay!!! I’m glad you watched it! It’s such a good and adorable film. It actually did make me cry a bit Just like the rest of Natsume really.

  4. Awww, I’m so glad you finally got to see this one. I really enjoyed it. And, yeah, it’s a very pretty Natsume experience.

    1. I kept wondering if I was just so happy to see Natsume again that I was seeing everything prettier than it was…

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