After five seasons, I feel like I’ve gotten to know Natsume Yuujinchou pretty well – about as well as I know any anime, in fact. And the truth is, this is a series that relies on established patterns more than just about any show out there, which makes it that much easier to get to know. One thing that can be said for sure is that there are two very different and distinct narrative modes for Natsume Yuujinchou, and it’s never difficult to tell which one the series is using in any given week. The first two episodes of the season were solidly in the one camp; this ep is just as solidly in the other.
The fact is that I’ve never liked these plot-driven episodes as much as the more free-standing youkai chapters. Yes, they do tend to be kind of repetitive, but I don’t think that’s really the issue. Let’s be honest, the other kind of eps are repetitive too – it’s just that I don’t care because I enjoy them so much. I’ve never felt that Natsume Yuujinchou seemed as at home with conventional conflict-resolution stories, and they don’t seem to advance the character arcs that much.
Episodes with Natori usually constitute this second kind of Natsume episode, and ones with Matoba almost always do. It’s well-established at this point that there’s a shady underbelly to the world of human mystics, the exorcists-for-profit that have been sealing youkai for centuries. So when Matoba sends Natsume a letter, it’s pretty much a given that it’s going to represent bad news – even if Natsume loses it before getting a chance to read it and reveal its contents.
That letter ends up in the hands of Natori, who Natsume has turned to for help after he and Nyanko-sensei find a poorly-sealed evil spirit in the woods near the Fujiawara house. Apparently amateurs trying their hand at exorcism is becoming a problem in the spiritualist world – so much so that Natori is getting curses left on his answering machine by envious competitors and Matboba is summoning every able hand to a meeting to try and reveal who’s behind a series of attacks on talented shamans.
One of the traits of these conflict/plot stories is that they tend to be multi-parters, and so it is here. I suspect Natori, having read the letter, will show up at Matoba’s gathering as an uninvited guest, probably helping out Natsume in the process. These chapters are an important component of world-building in Natsume Yuujinchou, but they kind of feel like a medicine that has to be taken rather than a meal – they’re necessary, but not necessarily enjoyable. I do find myself hoping that this one is resolved next week rather than spilling over into a third episode.