Well, that was an interesting turn of events. Was this the first episode of Natsume Yuujinchou in 5 seasons that didn’t feature Natsume or Nyanko-sensei even briefly? I wouldn’t swear to it, but it’s certainly the only one I remember off the top of my head. A Natori backstory episode is an intriguing notion, though it’s sort of odd that Midorikawa-sensei (or at least Omori Takahiro) jumped right into it without any introduction or preamble.
In practice this ep was only modestly successful for me, for the usual set of reasons – namely, I don’t find the exorcist-themed stories to be as interesting as most of what Natsume Yuujinchou does. Natori Shuuichi’s story isn’t far off from what you’d probably expect – he was a good-hearted kid who mainly wanted to protect people, and his dabbling in exorcism wasn’t especially well-received by his family (especially his father) who were happy to lay low and steer clear of their familial past. But Shuuichi has his own reasons for his actions of course – when you can see the other world it’s mighty hard to just ignore it. And then there’s the matter of his permanent hitchhiking companion.
In addition to Natori we get our first look (that I remember) at the young (a year younger than Shuuichi) Matoba Seiji. His family is only too happy to see the young heir-apparent show a gift for exorcism, and Seiji is certainly strong. As with Shuuichi there are no surprises here – young Matoba is pretty much an adolescent version of his arrogant older self. In fact, since the adult Matobo-san acts so juvenile most of the time anyway, there’s very little behavioral difference – certainly less so than with Natori.
The other character we meet here is an exorcist named Takuma who takes the young and inexperienced Natori-kun under his wing. I don’t recall his name being mentioned earlier (I initially mistook him for Tanuma’s father) but he very much provides the role model for the kind of exorcist (and adult) Nitori-kun would like to become. The drama in the episode surrounds a three-horned youkai that’s been attacking exorcists – one which Shuuichi sets out to capture to make a name for himself, but which is ultimately killed by Matoba (who despite already having the name takes all the credit anyway). It’s a nice story but all in all the grander scheme of Natsume Yuujinchou, nothing too memorable. And we’re running out of episodes for Kogitsune to make an appearance…