Natsume Yuujinchou Roku – 06

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku - 06 - 02As much as I’m enjoying Natsume Yuujinchou Roku, with each passing episode (and even more, each passing preview) there’s an increasing sense of desperation.  As you may may know this season (like “Go”) is only 11 episodes.  That means we’re already more than halfway through, and no sign of another Kogitsune episode – and there won’t be one next week, either.  The season finale will be a “canon” episode of some sort, and more than half of those have been multi-part episodes – which means we have at most three and probably only two chances left.  Ugh.  I believe there’s at least one more manga special chapter unadapted, and I know for sure the spinoff LN has a “Kogitsune no Tabi” story – and for that, matter, the Kogitsune ep in “San” was anime-original and the best of the season.  We know the character is popular (he got his own high-class $100 figure this year) so why is Omori-sensei torturing us??

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku - 06 - 03But there’s nothing to be done about that, I suppose.  As far as what we’re getting, it’s good, solid Natsume Yuujinchou right in the series’ comfort zone. This ep was a bit of a departure, though, in that not only did it focus on Natsume’s two muggle friends Nishmura and Kitamoto, but did so with them as the POV characters.  And quite successfully, too – these two are deceptively important to the psychological underpinnings of the story, and there’s some good seiyuu work there (especially the superb Kimura Ryouhei as Nishimura).

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku - 06 - 04Nishimura as often as not plays the comic relief role in Natsume’s posse, but he’s a key figure in that he’s the totally feckless one – accepting and open to anything.  While Kitamoto clearly senses that something weird is going on with Natsume, Nishimura betrays no suspicion – whether he’s simply good at hiding it and turns a blind eye for Natsume’s sake or genuinely doesn’t have a clue, Nishimura goes out of his way to include Natsume and never make him feel like an outsider.  He was also the first to welcome Natsume when he arrived as a transfer student.  We haven’t seen much (any?) of Nishimura’s family life, so this little glimpse into his normal but tense family dynamic was a welcome one.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku - 06 - 05Kitamoto is the quieter, more thoughtful one.  We have seen a bit of his family, but never so much from his perspective.  Kitamoto has seen odd things happening around Natsume from the beginning, and while he doesn’t have any way to process what’s really happening he seems to grasp that it’s something real rather than Natsume’s imagination.  Ever the nurturer, Kitamoto is forced to grow up too fast due to his father’s illness.  In many ways Nishimura is a classic youngest child – uninhibited, hungry for attention – while Kitamoto is an oldest sibling to the core.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku - 06 - 06What this ep brings home really well is just how much having “normal” friends – friends who don’t judge him – is to Natsume.  And how precious this life is to Natsume, who lets slip that he’d like to stay forever – not just in this “hick town”, but in this idyllic school life with a loving home to return to.  But nothing is forever – Nishimura dreams of going off to college and seeing the bright lights.  Kitamoto, for his part, is already starting to let go of his dreams out of concern for what his family would do without him.  As for Natsume, he’ll eventually be facing choices of his own – perhaps a choice about whether he would give up his ability to see youkai if given the chance.  But for now Nishimura and Kitamoto are an important part of his healing process that will never truly be over, and it’s nice to see them get their moment to shine.

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9 comments

  1. No debate, the best episode of Natsume San is episode 4.

  2. In your opinion…

  3. C

    I’m not sure if it’s because I prefer the last few years’ stories or because Shuka just does a better job of adapting Midorikawa’s work, but I’ve enjoyed season 5 an 6 more than 1-4 (which always made me feel like I would rather be reading the manga, not sure why). Has the director or writer changed along with the studio switch? Anyway, it’s nice to see another story that gets us out of Natsume’s head and rounds out the characters (not to mention that it adds depth to Natsume’s already great characterization).

  4. A

    In fact, I don’t really like Natsume as an anime. Mainly due to how they handled the first seasons, as it ruined to my eyes some of the best “show, don’t tell” storytelling I had the pleasure to read by shifting around the order of the stories and putting elements that were simply not there. My anger reached a high point when a set of short-ish stories focused around Natsume trusting their friends with his worries, all of them subtly connected, was changed completely in anime form. I didn’t watch Natsume in anime form anymore after that.

    I would have to watch the last two seasons, but from my part I can say that in comparison with the manga the anime was far worse.

  5. Omori Takahiro has been directing from the beginning, but in Roku he’s “Chief Director” for the first time, with Deai Kotomi as director. Deai is quite experienced and I’m honestly not sure how much of a practical difference this has made.

    I like the manga a lot, but I’ve always preferred the anime myself. To each their own, I suppose.

  6. R

    I’m confused about the timeline. This was a flashback episode right? But with all the talk about choosing a university, it made it seem like this took place in 3rd year high school not 3rd year middle school.

  7. What made you think it was Year 3? I assumed the flashback was to HS Year 1.

  8. R

    Kitamoto was talking to a school councilor/principle about wanting to be a public servant after high school. And he said something like “You said you wanted to go to college when you first entered.” To me that implied he had been a student quite a while. There was just a lot of college/future talk this episode, so it seemed like they were closer to graduation. I know it usually becomes a bigger deal in 2nd and 3rd year. So it was just a bit strange to me

  9. s

    The senpais who find Nishimura and Natsume in the classroom after school call them “freshmen,” I think.

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