Natsume: Book of Friends Review | Is it a Cat? Is it a Pig? It’s Nyanko-Sensei!
Hi everyone and welcome to my place! 😀
Yes, this is a filler post! I still was not able to finish Re:Creators and to be honest I think I’m not going to be able to finish it this week, but we’ll see! This way, today I bring you the last Anime I’ve been watching with my boyfriend, Natsume: Book Of Friends. It’s true that I still didn’t finish, I only watched 3 seasons of it, but I think I have enough intel to talk about this Anime, simply because I’m loving it! Let’s start it then, shall we?
For the ones who watched Mushishi it’s easy for you to understand, since the formula used is the same, although in a completely different environment, vibe and application.
Natsume: Book of Friends follows a highschool boy called Natsume (well, duh) who can see Youkai (spirits, or mushi for the ones who watched Mushishi). Because of this he had a really difficult childhood since he would be scared of things that no one could see besides him, making all his peers calling him a liar. Moreover, being an orphan he ended up going from one familiar to another and never having a place which he could say he could belong. This way, the Anime starts when he is arriving to a new place in a small village, the hometown of his grandmother who also was able to see Youkai. He inherits from her the book of friends, a book full of names of Youkai who lost again Reiku and as a “batsu” they were obligated to give their real names. Someone who pocesses this names can call the Youkai every time he wants and basically give them orders. This book attracts all sort of Youkai and Natsume finds himself in dangerous situations almost every day.
In the first episode he meets Nyanko-sensei, a strong spirit that decides to protect him with the catch that when he dies of old age the book passes to Nyanko-sensei so he can get the power of all the Youkai who’s name is written in the book. In the Natsume’s side you have that Nyanko will have to help him to return the most names he can to the rightful owners.
From here you get small stories that last one to two episodes. Normally the plot will follow a random Youkai appearing, it may or may not be in the book of friends with some sort of difficulty, Natsume ends up helping the Youkai even when it’s not that eager in the beginning and in the end he returns the name to the Youkai (if it applies).
Now, having the past Natsume has, it’s no wonder that he tries to distance himself from others the maximum he cans with the fear of getting hurt in the end. But, during the seasons you will find Natsume starting to let people enter his personal space and start to have true friends and a family. This evolution is done in a very well and fluid pace, which it’s not that easy to do… showing scenes that seem to be small, but we all know that in the end is what make people together!
One thing that Natsume differs from Mushishi is that in the end of season 2 (I think) you get a new solid plot. The Anime won’t focus on that plot all the time, but it’s something that is happening in parallel making the Anime even more interesting.
The small episodic stories are really good, they are always different from each other and are full of deep sentiment and thoughts, those type of stories that in the end really make you think about life in general. The pace of the stories is also good. Even only with 20 minutes they are able to insert everything that makes a good story. Happiness, sorrow, action and sometimes mystery. I don’t really like Anime with episodic stories, but to be honest, Natsume does this really well and there wasn’t one episode that I felt it was not that good.
This is where the show shines the most. Every character that appears in the show are solid. There is no character that I would look and see them as shallow, even the Youkais that only appear for one episode. This happens because there is always the carefulness of writing a back story for each character and never make their personality cliché. But, let’s go to the 2 main characters:
I love Natsume. Although he had a great deal of sorrow when he was a child he is the kindest you could think of and he doesn’t mind to put himself in dangerous situations if it means helping someone in the end. As I said, in the beginning he tries to distance himself from others, but with time he starts opening more to others and well… Make real friends! Moreover, he ends up meeting some people who even though they don’t see Youkai, they can at least sense them or know they exist (well, there are so many right now that I ended up thinking which kind of people does that village attracts).
My favourite character from all time. Although he is a huge fox, the form he decides to go in a daily basis is of a cat (this way even humans can see them). First of all he is so freaking funny! Really he always make me laugh in each episode. To be honest, even the animation of him only drinking and being lazy puts a smile in my face. But, being funny and cute is not enough to make a tremendous good character. Nyanko-sensei is a complex character. Yes, he starts helping Natsume for the sake of the book of friends, but it doesn’t take too long for the viewer to understand that he really cares about Natsume and that he wants to protect him because he likes him. Although Nyanko’s background has not been yet revealed at the point I am now, I’m thinking that he had some kind of story with Reiko and that’s why he is so eager to protect Natsume. Nevertheless, you find yourself seeing Nyanko and Natsume relationship develop and it’s just heart melting. In my book it is one of the best friendships I ever seen in an Anime.
I also love the Animation. Of course as any Anime that is in the air for years you will find an improvement from season to season as also Nyanko-sensei getting more and more fat (to the point the Anime characters’ just start to mistake him for a pig). But, from its first release (in 2006) the animation is pretty good!
The colors are bright, backgrounds are really well drawn and everything really gives you that sense of relaxation and enjoyment. (And nostalgia if you are from the countryside). The characters are also well designed and I love the Youkai designs. Of course you will have many types of Youkais, some of them seem like humans, others not that much and well, everything works well.
However, there were some episodes that Natsume appearance changed a lot, I would say that the main creator got ill or something like that, because it became normal again after those episodes. But, it was different enough for someone like me, who doesn’t really understand much of drawing to notice. (I mean he was taller, he appeared to be older and there was not that string of hair drawn that I see as this Anime character design signature).
About voice acting, well there is nothing bad that I can say. Nyanko-sensei voice is completely top-notch and it matches with his characters in 100%. Also, Nyanko-sensei is always goofing around and most of his phrases will be ironic, well the voice actor was able to perform that tone perfectly.
Natsume has the best music OST that I heard ever! (Sorry Mushishi). And I’m not talking about the openings, (well, the endings I’m biased because my boyfriend always start to sing in the worst way manner possible to goof around, so what I can remember his my boyfriend’s pretty (not!) voice) but also the music during the episodes. I don’t know… It has a different vibe to it and just adjust so well to the environment, story, characters… It’s completely amazing. My favorite has to be this one, you know that something funny is going to happen when it starts xD (Mobile users you can hear it here):
This one is a must watch Anime. If you still didn’t have the opportunity, I strongly suggest you to watch it. Even though having a lighter plot and being a small story kind of thing, the Anime is just amazing, period. It’s one of those that really relax you and that makes you feel happy while watching it 🙂
I give Natsume: Book of Friends 5 Fat Cats out of 5 Youkai!
Tell me in the comments what do you think about Natsume, or, if you still didn’t watch it comment down below if you are thinking on watching it!