Natsume Yuujinchou Roku – 08

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku - 08 - 01This was another very strong episode for Natsume Yuujinchou Roku, and with three episodes remaining it’s shaping up to be a better than average “Natsume” season for arguably the most consistent multi-series anime ever.  But I can’t help but be of two minds at the moment, because the preview effectively confirmed that this will be yet another season without a Kogitsune episode.  The tone of “Roku” would have been perfect for it, too – this is a season that’s tacked close to the layline for Natsume Yuujinchou, very true to the series’ true course.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku - 08 - 02Of course, this episode dealt with one of the absolute core themes of Natsume Yuujinchou, and one which cuts perhaps closest to my heart – the nature of emotional commitment.  I’ve discussed this in writing about Natsume Yuujinchou before, and it’s something I’ve definitely wrestled with in my own life as many people do – what’s trendily called “fear of commitment” is really just a reluctance to expose yourself to eventual (inevitable) emotional pain, even if that exposure imparts great rewards.  It can be a romantic relationship, it can be getting a cat, it can be many things – but this equation is one which all of us must wrestle with many times in our lightning flash of a lifetime.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku - 08 - 03Midorikawa-sensei certainly realized long ago that this premise was the perfect vehicle to explore this topic (perhaps that was even the point).  At heart, Natsume Yuujinchou is at it most emotionally powerful when it explores the intersections between the human world and the youkai – intersections which are inherently fraught with potential pain.  Humans and youkai live in different worlds, on different timelines – “Natsume” has shown us this over and over, in many ways.  Yet still, somehow, humans and youkai are drawn to each other – creatures of empathy, fundamentally lonely, who latch onto the miracle of their connection and cling to it like a lifeline in a hard and uncaring universe.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku - 08 - 04The principals here are Aoi (Ono Daisuke) and Kaoru (Komatsu Mikako).  Natsume meets Aoi when waiting for a train in the neighboring town, and for all the world he looks like a normal (if cheeky) high-school boy.  But Aoi is a youkai, as Natsume learns when Nishimura is unable to see him.  And he’s searching for Kaoru, carrying a mysterious envelope which looks like (and is) an invitation.  As Aoi and Natsume come to know each other, Aoi opens up and reveals the truth – he’s a forest guardian in training, and had a childhood friendship with Kaoru.  He broke it off for her sake, knowing the issues with them staying together were too formidable, yet she’s refused to give it up for all these years.  She’s been leaving letters in the mailbox of an abandoned house, their secret communications center, and this final one is an invitation to her wedding.

Natsume Yuujinchou Roku - 08 - 05Ultimately this is a very, very simple story.  A youkai and a human fall in love, he breaks it off to spare her (and himself) the pain of their eventual enforced (by time if nothing else) separation. But Kaoru never gives up, and her invitation is a trap – a ruse, just so she can see Aoi one more time and tell him she loves him.  If there’s any surprise here, it’s that the ending sees Aoi and Kaoru deciding to stay together despite the overwhelming obstacles – and even Nyanko-sensei seemingly approves.  This is an affirmation of the idea that yes, it is worth the pain – that the brutal separation that will eventually come is less painful than a lifetime of self-imposed isolation and loneliness.  This is absolutely philosophically consistent with Natsume Yuujinchou – for all its bittersweet melancholy, this series is indisputably optimistic about the goodness of most people (and youkai), and the idea that they’re worth the emotional cost of letting them inside our hearts.



  1. L

    SPOILERS ahead: to be honest, I was really expecting a sad ending to this episode so although i usually like happier ending I’m a little disappointed because it felt like Aoi really had strong feelings that there would be too much hurdles to their relationship. I’m disappointed that we never confronted those hurdles directly and Kaoru seemed a little selfish about just wanting to be with Aoi especially when he seemed so unwilling (at first). but in the end Ali seemed happy with the outcome so I guess it was alright. it just felt like the episode was set up for the sad ending but didn’t bother to resolve the issues before going for the happy ending. in hindsight maybe that was the point, to not overanalyze (like I’m probably doing now lol)

  2. Y

    I think the point was that the issues will inevitably come, but they still want to be together. It’s not completely happy but not completely sad either. I found it rather realistic in that way. But I did think the tone of this ep was much more upbeat than what we’ve had so far in this season.


    This was one of my favorite scenes in the episode – not often we get to see Nyanko-sensei really startled and taken aback, eve n if only for a moment or two. XD

  4. Nyanko-sensei face pulls and Inoue-san voice pulls would be a wonderful series on their own.

  5. H

    This was such a moving episode; the stand-out of the season in my opinion. This one, along with the first episode of the season, are precisely why this show continues to remain in my top five of all time. I got misty eyed when Aoi burned all the letters, and then again when Aoi and Kaoru finally reunited. I was happily surprised they decided to stay together at the end. It’s not too often that there is a resolution like this one for the many characters of this series, so it was a very welcome development. I was really excited to hear Ono Daisuke take on the role of Aoi. He is one of my favorite male seiyuu ever precisely because he is just so good at bringing his roles to life. Even here, where we only have this character for one specific episode, I felt such empathy and affection for Aoi because of Ono’s very emotional performance.

  6. Yes, that letter-burning scene was special. In Buddhism they burn sutras, believing the words will rise to Heaven and be heard by the departed.

  7. R

    I’m interesting in the mechanics of this world. Yokai are obviously physical entities to Natsume and anyone who can see them. Capable of interacting with them, picking them up, etc. But to other humans they’re invisible. But are they also nonphysical? Say if Aoi gives Kaoru a piggyback ride, it will look like shes floating to anyone who can’t see him. But will a normal person be able to occupy the same space as Aoi at the same time. So to Kaoru it would look like they’re morphing together. It’s just strange to think about. Like what percentage of the population can see youkai? It’s obviously not thaaat rare. In the small town Natsume lives in he has run into a handful of people already. You’d think government would have caught on to it and it should be common knowledge, taught in school, that a select small percentage of the population can see youkai. Everyone would be tested at a young age, it would be very regulated. Youkai civil right issues, human/youkai wars, and scientific research into youkai seeing technology would all occur.
    I mean, just going to other countries in this world would be fascinating, people in America would have very different interactions with youkai. Surely governments are aware of them.
    But really, that’s just going down a rabbit hole that isn’t meant to be thought too deeply about in regards to this series.

  8. R


  9. S

    Probably youkai are numerous in the countryside: when Tanuma borrowed a youkai’s eyes there were only tiny ones inside the school. I bet they generally avoid buildings and crowded places. It’s different from Ajin! They are more like fairies whose existence it would be childish to believe in. The government, for example, doesn’t research angels too no matter how much people talk about them.They can go through people if they want to, but to Natsume and the likes is different: think about it, how many people can fly on an invisible fox (yes, to me Madara is a fox)? Still nobody has seen him floating in the sky, is he invisible? I think the reason why Natsume has met so many people who can see them is because he has accepted his ability, otherwise he wouldn’t nochalantly talk to anybody about that topic.

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