I must say, on the whole, that episodes from this part of the Natsume Yuujinchou canon don’t resonate with me quite as much as the others. They just feel more conventional, and the uniqueness of this show’s vibe (much imitated, never duplicated) is one of my favorite thing about it. But that being said, this was a pretty solid representative of its breed – and it had the not inconsiderable virtue of ending the arc in two episodes rather than letting it stretch to three.
I’ll give this to Matoba-san – he’s a persistent son of a bitch. To me, his relentless pursuit of Natsume as a minion is a tacit admission of his own weakness. And frankly he doesn’t even try that hard to hide it – clearly his power is a fragile one, and the Matoba name inspires very little loyalty, only fear. They may be a family of long standing but it wouldn’t take much for their house of cards to come tumbling down. And the revelation of the reason for Seiji’s eyepatch is all the more reason to feel that way.
The gathering at one of the family “villas” (actually a mansion commandeered from one of their subservient families in decline) is an interesting one, and it gives both Nyanko and Madara plenty of time to show off why they’re the best character in Natsume Yuujinchou. There’s a “wicked mask” wreaking havoc against the gathered exorcists, but short of identifying it Matoba isn’t actually much use in finding and destroying it. No, it’s Natsume and Madara who do that – spotting the humans it’s possessed when Matoba never could and eventually chasing it down and capturing it. It is Matoba who finally finishes it off after the idiots gathered turn on Natsume for the umpteenth time, but he could never have done so without Natsume doing all the heavy lifting.
Of course Natsume has a little help in all this. Natori-san’s response to finding Matoba’s letter is to discreetly send a Shikigami to protect Natsume (Matoba notices it in the end, and presumably can guess from whence it originated). In addition to the juicy tidbit about Matoba’s eye we learned something quite interesting about Natori’s lizard youkai – Matoba’s guess (bear in mind, this is a compulsive liar) is that it never goes to Natori’s left leg because Natori is destined to lose that leg someday. That’s a really creepy idea, and it has the ring of truth to it. Natori is clearly central to a lot of what’s going to happen on this side of the recurring plot, and he’s the closest thing to a bridge between the world of youkai and exorcists for Natsume.
One last thought – Nyanko-sensei was twice mistaken for a “sack” (once a racoon-like sack), but Madara was immediately recognized as a cat. The world of exorcists is a strange one indeed…