If you have read nearly any of my earlier blog posts, it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that Natsume Yujincho is one of my favorite anime series. There are so many facets to the series that make it enjoyable to watch over and over again. This is one of the rare anime that is both cute and scary, relaxing and thrilling, filled with sweet endings and sad good byes. In my post, Sleepy Weekends of Summer, I talk about the relaxing countryside setting of Natsume Yujincho, and in my post, Spooky Winter Anime, I go into more detail about the series’ scarier paranormal side. And both posts work because the anime is just that versatile and well rounded. Natsume Yujincho has six seasons, and even that is not nearly enough to truly complete the wonderfully rich and yet simplistic story of a high school boy that can see spirits, his talking cat, and a book.
Little Natsume and a great big scary world
Slowly bit by bit we see Natsume’s background throughout the series. Natsume was born with the ability to see spirits, like his mother and grandmother before him. His mother died not long after he was born and his father died when Natsume was a pre-schooler/kindergartner. After the death of both his parents Natsume was passed from one relative to the next. The first family members he lived with actually did try to be nice to him, but at Natsume’s young age and with his ability to see spirits, it was nearly impossible for him to not seem weird or creepy. So he was passed on to the next family member, each one getting more and more worse until he was finally moved to his distant elderly cousin’s home in the countryside.
Natsume and his book
Not long after moving in with his elderly cousins, Natsume received a box of items he inherited from a grandmother he never knew. His grandmother’s name was Reiko, and she could also see spirits. Unlike Natsume, who at the beginning of the series was extremely wary of the strange things that he could see and usually just ran away from them, Reiko hunted ghosts, spirits, and monsters. When she found a monster, she would challenge them to duels, and when she won (and she usually did win) she would write down the monster’s names and put them in a book. With the names of the monsters in that book, any one that possessed the book could control all the monsters. This is the book that Natsume finds in the box of items that he inherits from his grandmother.
Natsume and his talking cat
Not surprisingly, every forest spirit near by wanted to get its claws on that book at any cost. Unfortunately for Natsume, Reiko made a bit of a reputation with the local spirit community and so all the powerful spirits that want that book also want to kill Reiko. The spirits’ understanding of time is vague at best, so they don’t understand that Reiko has been dead for decades. And, because Natsume smells like Reiko, they tend to think Natsume is Reiko and try to eat him! One such incident happened as Natsume tripped over an old rope barrier at a shrine. When the rope broke it released a great and powerful spirit that was intent on eating Natsume and stealing the book off of his corpse. That great spirit came in the form of a very fat cat. One bonk on the head from Natsume put the great spirit kitty in his place, and the cat decided to instead stay by Natsume as his body guard and to protect the book from any other spirit from grabbing it. Natsume names the spirit kitty Nyanko Sensei and introduces the cat to his cousins as his new pet. Much to Nyanko Sensei’s horror, Natsume decides to not use the book to control the local monster population, but instead to return the names of the monsters and spirits that were bound to the book.
Natsume and his friends
The anime title Natsume Yujincho translates to Natsume’s Book of Friends, and friendship plays a big role in this anime. Through elementary school and middle school Natsume had very few friends and without a stable family life, he spent most of his time alone. After he moved to the countryside to live with his cousins, that slowly began to change. Though at the beginning of the series several characters mention how distant and quiet Natsume seemed to be, as the episodes progress, Natsume slowly begins to open up and trust the people around him. He even finds another student that is sensitive to spirits at his new school. Natsume is a nice person so it’s not that surprising that he would make friends at his new school. What is surprising is that slowly Natsume starts letting go of his mistrust of spirits and monsters and starts finding friends in the local spirit community too.