Anime

Animini: Natsume Book of Friends – Episode 3- The Mysterious Person at the Eight Fields

Konichi-Well the second part of my anime week is a lot  stronger than the first half. While Natsume gave me the least impressive episode I’ve seen so far I must say I am really starting to enjoy the message this show packs in it’s end of the episode! I took a fist full of feels to the face yet again.. albeit maybe a little girl first this time! I still felt the impact though and as I heard this show really picks up in a few episodes never to let me go again.. so if this is the weakest punch.. I am sure to be in for one heck of a ride.

The Summary

Natsume is tired and depressed, giving Yokai their name back has completely drained him of all his energy. Since the friendly ones tend to come visit him at night and beg for their name back he hasn’t been sleeping much either. Nyanko-Sensei is still upset that Natsume is making the book of friends thinner every night and throws a tantrum as it will lose it’s power to control these spirits little by little.  To make Natsume’s situation even more annoying for him he can’t sleep in class either because a strange person has been asking for him. A boy going by the name of Tanuma.  For some weird reason though each time Natsume gets kind of close the boy disappears. Natsume hopes this man can see Yokai too.. and remembers a woman he once met who seemed to be able to see Yokai as well.

A cow and a cyclops Yokai knock on Natsume’s door but unlike the others they do not want their name back. There is a Yokai killing humans on the prowl blessing areas with holy magic.  Since Natsume has the reputation to help Yokai they ask him if they can kill this human. After a bit of investigation Natsume begins to believe this Tanuma boy is responsible for causing serious pain to the Yokai .. killing some and banishing the weak from their home. Taking pity on them he decides to confront the man responsible for this. Meanwhile he flashes back to that woman he met before .. telling the audience in a way about how she was not actually a woman but  Yokai trying to connect with him.. he feels betrayed and chases her off.  Yokai always made his life so difficult so he is not sure who to side with. There are some good Yokai out there.. that do not deserve to be killed but he doesn’t exactly like them either.  A huge cow geisha Yokai joins him in the quest to kill this Yokai hunter.. forcing Natsume to compel it by using its name to save Tanuma.. but then he discovers it was just a weak priest. Tanuma’s father.. who tried to keep the place safe for his son.  When Natsume confronts the young man in the hope to form a genuine connection the man admits he can’t see Yokai either.. but sometimes he sees shadows. Natsume tells Tanuma his secret.. including fondly remembering that woman from before.

The Positives

The episode is a bit boring, in the sense that the conflicts all kind of just meander on.  There is no real sense of threat and in a way that is this shows and this episode’s great strength.  We get a rather vanilla story.. that doesn’t really matter in the long run that provides a very form of subtle exposition and  character development. It truly is unique. During this episode Natsume stands and a proverbial crossroads several times and takes the less interesting path of the two a few times and when it happens I feel kind of frustrated.. yet five minutes later there suddenly is a payoff to this thing that seems like a wrong choice. Ah.. so you wanted to highlight that Natsume is seeing Yokai less and less like evil spirits and more and more like humans.. and the journey he goes trough in this episode is him coming to terms with that fact.  Getting a hindsight on his past actions and seeing it through the lense of new found discoveries. That is a very static approach but it also is very interesting.

I loved the Yokai designs for this episode as well. The priestly cow.. the mid tier cow was adorable and the cyclops old man would make for a fine cookie serving minion!  The high level cow thing  felt intimidating and I love how the studio plays with its shape to make it feel intimidating. Those steel blue eyes give it a heartless quality it does seem to possess.. yet it’s cow nature also gives it something tranquil.. which it also seems to possess as it doesn’t seem to have intentions to hurt Natsume.  The classical scuff marks on the mid tier Yokai made me feel compassion with them.. normally that.. slightly singed look is played for comedy.. and while it is slightly the case here as well it also really conveyed there creatures were helpless and meant no ill will. Seeming them suffer the same stuff as Ash does in the Pokemon anime.. invoked a completely different reaction and that is creditable to the solid world building this show does.  It still is funny.. but in a N’awww .. you guys way instead of a “Hahaha Oh my Arceus Ash you never learn.. kind of way”..  I also REALLY ended up caring for the Yokai pretending to be a human just to be social and help Natsume.. her look was just weird enough to suspect something is up.. and her voice acting when she begged him for forgiveness felt sublime.. I really felt that she did not want to lose her precious friend.

The Negatives

The episode is a bit boring, in the sense that the conflicts all kind of just meander on.  There is no real sense of threat and in a way that is this show and this episode’s greatest weakness. While there is an impact to what Natsume does, it really all just pan’s out in the last five minutes.  Especially the first 9 minutes felt a bit like a slog to me. In hindsight not as much but during those first few minutes I wasn’t all that entertained.  The long Neck Yokai looked pretty amazing yet at the same time she invoked a sense off “I really wish that chased him or tried to harm him”  for a bit. It’s a very cool Yokai design.. I just loved to have it do something. In a way the same goes for the big cow.. but it gets “sit boy’d”   before it can do anything. Again that isn’t bad.. persé.. a golden gun is still worth a lot.. but it would be kinda cooler if you saw someone fire a golden bullet out of it.

The only Yokai that actually get to do something is Ushi and the Old Man.. again I have no idea how to call them.. but the mid tier priesty looking fellows I… felt bad for them in the end.. but I will be honest and tell you, there were minutes I have wished for some gruesome fates to befall them because they can REALLY be annoying in the first half. They function as Natsume’ cheerleaders and are just being loud and telling him how amazing he is.  In the end it feels earned but before that it just feels insincere and irksome. They are just being loud! That’s a trope I really dislike..  but well like I said I did feel bad when they got hurt so somehow they ended up growing on me. In a way negatives also a strength and we can see it that way. Still imagine me really wanting new shoes.. but the pair I have is still too good to  reasonably to replace and I am maxed out since my shoe cabinet is full. So my best friend Bean decides to stick a huge meat fork in my foot.  I bleed all over the shoes and finally can throw them out.. after a while I don’t feel the wound anymore and I got the new shoes and they are amazing.. but do I really say Bean.. you did a good thing? Or would I also be sour for those first few minutes of pain?!

The Score

Last episode I explained how I normally dislike “second episodes” of a show.. their exposition heavy, character establishing and world building plots often feel a bit “mandatory” ..we see the main character decide they will follow the “heroes path”  we see the elements we can expect.. in other words it’s kind of like looking at the solution of a jigsaw puzzle by looking at the front of the box. It can be pretty but it doesn’t feel all that satisfying. This third episode is THAT second episode.. just in the end we open the box as well.. pour the contents out on the table and lucky us we find a corner piece straight away! What a delightful feeling that is! I still feel kinda weird for staring at the box of the puzzle for a good 10 minutes I wish I would have taken more puzzle time.

This is one of those episodes that tells me I will love the frig out of this show.. but it does lose my love a bit because it has the one that explains to me why I will love it. Like an entertaining synopsis.. or the Star Wars title crawl.. there are amazing elements but when is all done and over no one will say that their favourite part of Star Wars was the title crawl… although with The Last Jedi… I kinda liked it most.. but you know what I mean right. This episode does a great job at establishing Natsume’s mindset.. but as a Pokémon fan.. and a creature fan I kind of wanted to see the amazing creatures do more things instead.. It’s brand Vanilla flan.. it’s the best you can do with Vanilla Flan.. but it’s still just Vanilla flan. I prefer chocolate!

2 replies »

  1. Give vanilla flan a chance. It might grow on you… as might these little cheerleader yokai 😉 And after all, they are begging someone they see as sort of all powerful to please help them with a terrible problem – but Natsume really has no reason – other than his own compassion – to help them and they have no way, really, to repay him other than to sing his praises.

    Liked by 1 person

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