Natsume's Book of Friends: Profound Story in an Episodic Pattern
Six seasons may sound like a lot, but with Natsume's Book of Friends, it feels just right for Takashi's immense personal growth.
By: Nicole S. Castro on September 29, 2022 at 11:53 PHT
Time to bring back more underrated anime!
What's an anime series that has been around the 2000s, has a subtle but stable following, and is low-key popular enough to span a whopping six seasons? Why, it's Natsume's Book of Friends which first aired in 2008!
Natsume's Book of Friends (Japanese: 夏目友人帳, Romaji: Natsume Yūjin-chō) is a Japanese manga series by Yuki Midorikawa. It began serialization by Hakusensha in the shōjo manga magazine LaLa DX in 2005 before switching to LaLa in 2008. The manga is licensed for English-language release in North America by Viz Media.
Natsume's Book of Friends has been adapted as a TV anime from 2008 to 2017. The first four seasons were produced by Brain's Base (2008-2012), while seasons 5 and 6 were produced by Shuka in 2016-17.
Plot and Throwback (anime)
The series features protagonist Takashi Natsume (CV: Hiroshi Kamiya), who has been able to see spirits (ayakashi) for as long as he can remember, an ability he inherited from his late grandmother Reiko Natsume (CV: Sanae Kobayashi). Unfortunately, this ability resulted in a lonely childhood for Takashi because no one believed he could actually see spirits. He has also been passed around from one relative to another because his parents died when he was very young.
At the beginning of the series, Takashi discovers that the heirloom Book of Friends that he inherited from his grandmother contains the names of the spirits she had defeated and bound to her will. He also meets a spirit named Madara who takes the form of a Maneki Neko (lucky cat figure), and gives it the nickname Nyanko-sensei (CV: Kazuhiko Inoue). With Nyanko-sensei's help, Takashi decides to return all the names to their original owners. The Book of Friends is considered a highly prized item in the spirit world, and spirits - both good and malicious – haunt Takashi constantly because of it.
How did the anime end?
Each season of Natsume's Book of Friends involves multiple encounters with spirits that culminates in viewers discovering something new about Takashi's troubled childhood. From relatives who didn't love him to Takashi's struggles in overcoming his trust issues and relying on people who actually care about him, we see them all in the first five seasons.
Takashi also gets another kind of profound character growth by the end of season 6. In season 6, he goes up against Shuuichi Natori (CV: Akira Ishida), an exorcist who has the ability to see spirits and therefore understands Takashi's personal struggles. He and Takashi are initially at odds on how they treat spirits, but Takashi eventually manages to soften Natori's heart and convince him that spirits can be good too.
The beauty of Natsume's Book of Friends lies on how easy it is to watch due to its episodic nature while still being able to demonstrate Takashi's personal growth throughout his many encounters with the spirits and with humans who become his friends/allies. Six seasons may sound like a lot these days, but with Natsume's Book of Friends, the pacing feels just right and you're never pressured to binge watch. Instead, the pacing of the anime asks you to savor it and let Takashi's story occupy a humble corner in your life.
We say 5/5 and all six seasons are worth it.
#digest #anime #2000sanime #throwback
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NICOLE S. CASTRO
Nicole is based in the Philippines and works as a freelance Japanese Translator/Interpreter and copywriter (English). She is a JLPT N2 passer who watches anime to "study" for N1. She has a long career history on LinkedIn (with primary focus on media and translation), but her anime watchlist is much, much longer.