Quick and dirty with Natsume Yuujinchou – how do I do such a thing? But I have no choice – it’s the first full week of the season and a travel week for me to boot, and the task of trying to keep up is feeling ever-more Sisyphean with each passing hour.
OP:”Floria” by Tomohisa Sakou
If anything, perhaps it’s not such a grave offense, given how much ink (and a few tears) I’ve spilled on this series over the past several years. My relationship with Natsume Yuujinchou predates my blogging career by a considerable margin, and it was among the very first series that I embraced after I became a “serious” anime fan – discovering the world that lay beyond the discs for rent at the local library and the dubbed titles broadcast late Saturday night on Cartoon Network. If you scratch the me that’s an anime fan, I’ll bleed Natsume Yuujinchou.
So do I really need to say much about this show now in order to feel I’ve done it justice? Perhaps not – but the desire to do so is there, just the same. Natsume Yuujinchou always comes back for another season, always sells pretty well, always delivers – but it does change a bit, around the margins. Its focus does shift from season to season, from the youkai world to the human, from the past to the present. Where will “Roku” take us on this journey of the heart? It’s too early to say after one episode, of course, but it could hardly have started with a story more cut from the cloth of classic Natsume Yuujinchou.
One of the skills the anime staff (first at Brain’s Base, now Shuka) has always brought to the table is the ability to judiciously reorder chapters, to chose the right story to start and finish a season. This time, they bring us the Days Eater, a youkai who we first meet pounding his head against a bridge abutment, trying to dislodge a pot. Never one to abide by the lessons of the past, Natsume comes to his aid, and as a result the grateful youkai does the boy a favor – he “gives him his youth back”. From his perspective (quite a logical one) this is an act of kindness – with their lightning-flash existence, what human wouldn’t be thrilled to accept the gift of a few extra years?
It’s clear from Nyanko-sensei’s debate with the Days Eater after he finally tracks him down that refuting this idea with logic isn’t so easy. Meanwhile Natsume has turned into a grade-schooler, and it’s only by good fortune that Tanuma and Taki turn up at the right time to take him off Nyanko-sensei’s hands while he searches. Any reminder of just how broken the child Natsume was is a heartbreaking one – if any human should have a reason not to want to have their time rewound it would be him. I’m curious, in fact, to see if any memories of this event will stay with Natsume once he returns to his true age – it’s not as though he’s ungrateful, but it’s awfully powerful to be reminded that the life you’re leading would have seemed like a dream to the person you were as a child.
Just as this story reminds Natsume of how lucky he is to have found the Fujiwaras and his current life, this episode reminds us of how lucky we are as anime viewers to have so much Natsume Yuujinchou – the series that always comes back. As I’ve said before, this show takes me to emotional places no other does – it gives the feeling of returning to the person I was when I started watching it all those years ago. That’s the reason why “The Days Eater” is the perfect episode to start a season – still more evidence that Natsume Yuujinchou is graced with an anime treatment any fan of the manga should be grateful for.
ED:”Kimi no Uta” (きみのうた; Your Song) by Rei Yasuda