Natsume Yuujinchou Go – 10

Ah, Natsume Yuujinchou – what a strange and beautiful little story you are.

natsume-yuujinchou-go-10-1I suppose as much as any compliment I could give, this one packs some real weight with me – Natsume Yuujinchou can do things no other series can do, plain and simple.  It means something to say a story is unique, and that its author has a unique vision, and that certainly applies to Midorikawa-sensei and this series.  She has a gift for portraying simple and pure emotion the way few authors do, through the use of situations and characters that are quite, well- unique.  I can’t think of another series that would even try to do what Natsume Yuujinchou did this week, and certainly not one that could have done so successfully.

natsume-yuujinchou-go-10-2Writing about this series, however, can be the proverbial dissecting gossamer, because the kind of elemental themes Midorikawa explores sometimes resist conveyance through the written word.  This was certainly such an episode, as much as any, and I can safely say it’s one of my favorites in the entire series that focused mostly on humans rather than youkai (I can’t say entirely, based on the last few seconds of the episode).

natsume-yuujinchou-go-10-3I like the fact that Midorikawa chose to devote a chapter to the Fujiwaras, and that Omori-sensei chose to adapt it as part of the anime.  Shigeru and Touko are the mostly-silent colossus of Natsume Yuujinchou – the twin pillars that Natsume was finally able to anchor himself to and begin the process of healing after a childhood of sadness and cruelty.  But while they’re rarely a major presence it’s never been less than clear that the Fujiwaras are hugely important in Natsume’s life, and in fact there are strong suggestions that their connection to him is going to be a key component of this season’s denouement.

natsume-yuujinchou-go-10-4If there’s one central theme that repeats itself over and over in Natsume Yuujinchou, it’s the nobility of kindness for its own sake.  We see it over and over – youkai towards humans and vice-versa, humans towards each other, youkai towards each other.  When kindness is given freely, with no expectation of reward, miraculous things are possible.  And this is the cornerstone of Touko and Shigeru’s life – they’re innately kind people.  They could never be anything else, because it would never occur to them to be anything else.  It can manifest itself through Touko’s befriending a crow (a much-maligned and reviled animal by many Japanese), or through Shigeru spotting a strange boy’s lonely unhappiness at a funeral and deciding that he simply couldn’t stand by and do nothing about it.

natsume-yuujinchou-go-10-5This is the essence of who the Fujiwaras are – kind and tolerant and quietly devoted to each other.  These are certainly not conventional hero figures – Touko is a decidedly old-fashioned housewife, and Shigeru a soft-spoken man of few words.  But they exemplify the quality of empathy in their every thought and deed, whether it be towards a nuisance bird or an orphan child.  No one suggested to Shigeru that he should take Natsume (a very distant relative he’d never met) into his home.  But while the other family members were scheming to pass the boy on to someone else, Shigeru quietly (not even telling his wife for weeks) explored the possibility of righting what he knew was a terrible wrong.  Why?  Because to see someone in pain and do nothing even though you had the means to help was as if he was causing the pain himself.

natsume-yuujinchou-go-10-6I don’t know what Natsume’s vision of the white crow at the end signifies, either symbolically or in terms of foreshadowing – it’s interesting that for once we couldn’t see something Natsume claimed he could, though that might simply have been a function of the episode being told from Touko’s perspective.  But it seems clear that the notion of otherness has been very much on Natsume’s mind this season, as he questions whether he truly belongs with the Fujiwaras.  If the third season explored Natsume’s connections to his grandmother and the fourth to his father, “Go” has been very much concerned with the fragile life he shares with Shigeru and Touko.  Perhaps it will end with the moment so many of us have anticipated for so long – when he finally tells them the truth about who and what he is, and trusts them to accept him anyway (as they surely will).  There’s no question of the Fujiwaras loyalty, but that moment will be more about Natsume finally having enough faith in someone to lower his defenses.

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18 comments

  1. H

    This was my absolute favorite episode of the season thus far. The way it was interconnected with events we have seen before was so wonderfully done, I simply can’t praise it enough. Truly this episode upped the emotional factor for me concerning Natsume’s relationship with the Fujiwaras because it was once again made so clear how much it means to them having him in their lives. I found myself tearing up several times listening to Touko’s inner monologue and watching her delight in Natsume as he slowly opens up to them. I feel that this season must end with him telling them his secret. I have been waiting for him to do so from the very beginning and believe this would be the perfect time for that to happen.

  2. Y

    Beautiful episode. Now I’m curious about Touko and Shigeru’s backstory. By the way, I noticed on animalist.com that there’s only 11 episodes slated for this season? I’m really hoping this is a mistake.

  3. J

    It’s not quite a mistake. Due to the fact that they had to re-air an old OAD earlier, the final two episodes will be BD-exclusive. That means that only 11 episodes air on TV, but the total count will be 13 once more – it’s just that the last two come in… April, I think.

  4. That makes sense.

  5. Y

    I see. Thanks for answering. I guess it’s not all bad as I could count on those two episodes during the anime dry spell of 2017.

  6. I assumed 12, but if it’s 11 it’s because of that recap re-aired OAV in the middle. Syoboi lists 11 too so that’s probably correct, sadly.

  7. Z

    My real life heroes include Jim Henson and Jimmy Carter, so Touko and Shigeru fit perfectly in what “a hero” means to me. I had never given it much thought, I was always “Oh, I *like* the Fujiwaras.”. So thank you for expressing what I felt before I even realized it.

  8. A

    Did you mean Midorikawa-sensei?

  9. I have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about…

  10. Z

    I think the confusion lay in the inaccurate spacing of this sentence “I like the fact that Midorikawachose to devote a chapter to the Fujiwaras, and that Omori-sensei chose to adapt it as part of the anime.” Although Midorikawachose sounds like an awesome name 😉 “Meedoreekawachosay”

  11. A

    It could be my mistake thought but I think when I first read the article instead of Midorikawa Sensei I read Suetsugu Sensei. I could be wrong though.

  12. You did, I was j/k.

  13. I’m starting to wonder if the Fujiwaras might know more about Natsume’s “Gifts” then they let on? She did not really object or question that Natsume could see a white crow.

  14. I think they suspect – they’ve heard all the stories about how “strange” he was, and strange things sometimes happen when he’s around. But it’s still quite different from him coming right out and being open with them.

  15. To me that was what made the episode especially bittersweet, Touko longs to be able to get closer to Natsume but there is that difference in there that’s impossible to traverse.

  16. R

    Wasn’t there an episode in an earlier season where a younger Shigeru encountered Natsume Reiko? And there was something like an exorcism she performed in a room, which Natsume also performed in their house in the present.

    So I think at least Shigeru already has an inkling about Natsume’s abilities.

  17. I noticed when Takashi mentioned of the white crow (i.e. the spirits of his companion), Touko felt relieved, knowing that he is not alone. In the beginning of the episode, Shigeru mentioned that crows were not usually alone unless their companion had died or he had not found his mate. Touko had been wondering about that. That was why she felt relieved knowing that the spirits of his companion was still with him (as Takashi mentioned it)

  18. A

    The crows are definitely symbolic. The word for “marital vows” in Japanese is “hiyoku renri”; “hiyoku” referring to a bird in Chinese myths (which were imported to Japan and referenced in works like the Tale of Genji) that shared one of its wings with its mate and therefore could not live without it. “hiyoku renri” is a vow to never be apart, not even in death, like the white crow that stayed with its partner in death. I was pleasantly surprised to see this reference in Natsume, and I really enjoyed this episode overall. It’s a bit different from the norm.

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