Natsume Yuujinchou Fourth Season Announced

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I’m surprised, but Natsume Yuujinchou will be returning for a fourth season in January.  Another season was a given – this show always does great on DVD/BD – but I’m surprised it’s so soon.  If I’m right this would mean some anime-original episodes because I don’t think there will be enough unadapted manga chapters – and I actually hope that’s true, because I’ve loved almost every anime-original ep Brains Base has done.

I actually haven’t loved this season quite as much as the first two, though I can certainly understand why some fans have loved it even more.  To oversimplify, I think the first two seasons were about Natsume coming to grips with his ability and trying to understand Reiko, and this season has been about Natsume growing beyond his past and finding his place in the human world.  As a result, most of the youkai in the first two seasons were lonely, sympathetic figures whom Natsume was able to help in some way, and most of them this season have been plot devices to show Natsume’s growing connection to humanity or outright antagonists.  There’s much more of an “Us vs. Them” theme this year, and I just don’t personally find those episodes as engaging as the heartwarming ones where Natsume and the youkai have their paths cross briefly and bond.
Again, I think it boils down to personal preference.  If watching Natsume interact with his human companions and become more comfortable in that world is your favorite aspect, this has been the best season yet.  Natsume certainly deserves to be happy, and he certainly needs to grow as a character.  But in a sense, I think the POV of the show has changed – it feels to me as if it takes the view that Natori’s approach to youkai has been the right one all along, and Natsume was too naive. I certainly wouldn’t have said that before this season started.
I think the path Midorikawa-sensei has chosen is clearly that of Natsume choosing the human world over the youkai.  In a sense it’s as if Milne had written a sequel where Christopher Robin has grown up.  In my view, the only honest way this path can conclude is for Natsume and Nyanko-sensei to part ways – you can’t leave the Hundred-Acre Wood and take Winnie-the-Pooh with you.  If that doesn’t happen I think that amounts to the mangaka trying to have it both ways, and while that might please the fans I think it’s sort of cheating.  We’ll see – it’s very possible this fourth season was announced with the private knowledge that she intended to conclude the manga, and the anime and the manga may end more or less simultaneously.

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  1. M

    In my view, the only honest way this path can conclude is for Natsume and Nyanko-sensei to part ways – you can't leave the Hundred-Acre Wood and take Winnie-the-Pooh with you.

    I really wonder. I know Natsume's never truly shown any interest in taking a job that requires him to interact in youkai but I think that the arc with Matoba showed that Natsume isn't going to choose between humans and youkai any time soon.

    I do miss the episodes that delve around stories that don't directly involve Natsume though. The creator has chosen to let the story evolve beyond that a bit and this change of pace is quite refreshing. It'd be nice to know more about Reiko and Natsume's family though.

  2. M

    natsume can SEE yokai, as long as he can, he can never be free of either worlds. With all these encounters he probably gets better at spotting the yokai and learns to live as a normal human being at the same time.
    the concept of choosing is absurd!

  3. L

    Hmm I dont think this season has viewed the youkai as us vs them so much. Like humans there are bad and good youkai and we have seen plenty of that already. In my opinion I dont think natsume will ever leave that world because of his ability. Its a lifetime thing just like reiko the only difference is that he has already established a way into dealing with the youkai and is comfortable with them. The human world is foreign and is slowly establishing himself there too. He will always have one foot in both worlds and that is something he cant change. Natsume will always look weird to natori and matoba in how he deals with the youkai and unforunately even though natsume has gained a good number of friends and family there will be people who will still judge him harshly on it. The only difference is that he has both youkai and people who care about him and will support him in the future. Personally I think thats awesome

  4. I think there is a matter of choosing, even if it doesn't mean literally closing himself off from either world. After all, he can still youkai and there's no reason for him to stop seeing them as far as we know.

    But the choosing is in the way he interacts. I think the series is offering a sort of complicit endorsement of Natori's "middle path" as the right way – with Matoba being too violent and antagonistic and Natsume being too naive and trusting. Natori's way – selective alliances, but a wary caution with youkai at all times and a willingness to seal them at the first suspicion – is on the ascendancy this season.

  5. K

    I agree that this season is about Natsume's development with the human world. But I don't agree that the series is leaning towards Natori's path with youkai. If anything I always felt Natori's views were changing because of Natsume.

    And yeah Natsume is a little naive (but that is part of the reason we love him). But I think he is consistent that if anyone hurts his friends (youkai or human) he acts. He has a deep compassion for others and wants to protect everyone around him.
    I also don't think the youkai have become more antagonistic this season. But yes I guess there was a change of focus on the stories. I admit my favorite aspect of Natsume Yuujinhou is Natsume himself, so on one hand this season didn't have as many memorable episodes for me; I still enjoyed it because it was so much focused on Natsume.

  6. A

    I too see the difference between this season and the first 2, but i see it as inevitable change. I see that, as Natsume is growing, he's starting to see a darker side of the world, not that his world was all light b4.. In the beginning of the season, we met humans that were dark and only can be described as evil. At this point in the season, we also got to see that yokai can also be evil for one reason or another.
    What i would like to see though, is more about reiko!! I'm sure at one point she did open up to a human, since she wouldn't have become a grandma!!

  7. A

    The manga isn't given any vibe of near finish. It still have a lot left to tell actually. Book of friend and Reiko included.

    The way you feels might have to do a lot with what chapters they choose, and rearrange, to weave together as a theme for this season. In the manga these chapters are scattered by a span of 5 volumns. Natsume still run around helping youkai senseless. And he appreciates his youkai companian. They just don't pick those chapters to animate yet.

    Natsume don't have to adapt Natori world view. Having friends in both 'side' is what make his situation unique. He can learn from meeting them and choose his own path. And you would be surprise how Natori was effected by Natsume. He, too has change slowly over the course of seasons.

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