Animini: Natsume Book of Friends – Episode 4 – Shigure and the Girl

Absolutely Joyous to be re-acquainted, my dear Island guests. Once more the strength of my anime week lies in the back. The fourth episode of Natsume was an absolute delight. Cute creatures, a ghostly setting.. Megane girls, even Madara, Nyanko turns into a girl! Oh what a delight! We even get a pretty heartwarming moment and I get to see a Kappa! I love Kappa!

The Summary

The episode begins on a hot summer day.. Natsume sees a Kappa dehydrating on the road.. so he pours his water bottle on it to refresh it!  Little does he know that he is being watched!  We then move to that trial of bravery that was discussed in the second episode and I get my favourite location in anime! Haunted houses! I got a great one in Flip Flappers.. and this one.. is not as good but Haunted House! Yay! It does not take long for spooky stuff to start happening. People get locked in, there is a person when the group is being divided and it doesn’t take long for students to go missing. All these events seem to connect to a guy who is looking at Natsume from behind an Umbrella. He almost gets taken by this presence when Sasada shows up and the presence vanishes. What follows next is an interesting series of mysteries. Who was that?!  Why did it scare from Sasada, where did the others go? What is it?! All these questions are neatly unwrapped.. but we also get something very important happening. Sasada asks Natsume…Can you see them?!  

This shocks him and Madara/Nyanko knocks her out thinking she might be the Yokai in this house.. realising she is not. Nyanko goes out to investigate taking the shape of a girl.. who claims to have knocked out Sasada with a dodgeball for some weird excuse reason!  He does hint to Natsume.. for the guy to not be detected by someone as himself this spirt has to be very powerful. Sasada now left alone with Natsume again, once more asks him if he can see them.  Natsume avoids the question, clearly wanting to bond.. but not sure if she should tell her the truth. Sasada tells a story on how she once saw a Yokai in this place.. she lost her lucky charm that meant the world to her.. and this spirit helped her out. It was a spirit that saw itself as corrupted.. ever since she has been coming to this place so she could thank him for what he did for her.. but the spirit never appeared for her again.  Stuff happens.. that mostly involves Madara dragging Natsume to places and people reacting. Eventually Sasada begins to pry again into Natsume’s power which causes him to rush and confront this spirit. It does not want it name back as it just hates humanity.. but Madara does a glowing thing and Natsume sends Shigure away. Before the spirit fades away however it tells why it never showed before Sasada again.. he liked her and if she could say what she wanted to say she would not come again. She finally storms up on the roof and thanks the fading spirit.. just to be slightly patted on the head. The next day Natsume waters a Kappa again.

The Positives

I really liked this episode! While it did not hit me as hard as the little guy fading away, the arc between Sasada and Shigure was very satisfying. I am always a sucker for a person who sees themselves as something rotten while another sees something bright and good in them. I love stories that change in the eye of the beholder. I do not believe in good or evil persé, at least not in an absolute form. A guy can have claimed 18 students with his ghostly powers, but if you are not aware and only see the sweet thing he did for you he will be a good guy.  It is also a story that shows us that while something might seem small to someone, it can seem huge to someone else. The trinket Sasada loses seems like a generic lucky rabbits foot of sorts.. but it means more to her.. and to Shigure it is cursed.. he can’t touch a pure item.  So Sasada the effort to tell Shigure thanks for what he did seems small, she never stops or gets tired.. but in it Shigure found a form of fate. Even a simple question as “Natsume can you see them?” is subject to this. To Sasada it is a questions whose answer will give her hope.. but in Natsume’s eyes it is something that might bring her misery, put her in danger or maybe complicate things even further.  I really enjoy themes like that. They are very close to some big values of me and I love to see that other people sometimes see things my way as well. I really like Sasada as a character for that very same reason.

This is also an episode about things being different. Shigure is unlike every other Yokai.. his goals are different. He hates humans.. but Sasada is different. In the last episode we saw Natsume being desperate to find someone to talk to with his whole seeing spirits thing.. but when Sasada asks, things are different. It’s all down quite beautifully and the backdrop of an old school building that is about to be demolished gives it a sense of tragedy by putting it in the frame of a finite time.  Sasada has her goals.. some that really matter to her.. but she realises her time to do so is very finite. Her resources to do this are also limited. That is also why she sees hope in Natsume.. he may help her. Yet when he claims he can not see spirits.. she does not seem dejected. She still wishes to convey her gratitude regardless. I was very touched how they make this big event out of something so small. What in  the eyes of your regular beholder seems like nothing more than a courtesy is a deep plight for her and I hope people watching this are remembered about the value of little things.

The Negatives

So .. enough with the floaty, analytical stuff.. I can’t get too deep here or I will ruin my reputation, time to find some negatives .. and they are way way waaaay much more shallow than anything positive about this episode. First off all, the way the students go missing lacks a bit of impact.. it’s just like they poofed away like one of Naruto’s shadow clones.  There is no real fear from Sasada or Natsume, while not really knowing this spirit’s abilities. For all they know their friends could have been dragged into nothingness. While I do get Sasada not showing reaction.. because of her positive outlook on Shigure, I do think Natsume takes things a bit too lightly. He does talk about saving his classmates.. but at the time he did I am not sure he knew if they could be saved? I might have missed a line while taking a sip from my drink though. He also gets trapped by a door that I am pretty sure you can throw a chair through and get out.. a few funky things like that happen but it’s nothing too bad.

The second thing I question is why Madara is visible to others, I know he has more power  but if other students can hear the cat talk, would the monk from last episode not have seen a cat talk as well?  He literally shouted at Natsume at that moment for being stupid. Perhaps he did not hear it from shock but that also seems unlikely. I kind of miss an explanation here.  The way he interacts with the cat also seems like things people would react to .. but it doesn’t happen. So Madara is used a bit inconsistent here. While entertaining it feels like things don’t completely add up. Can they see him in his true form as well? If so then the priest of last episode should have definitely seen him. He just feels a bit off in this episode. I am sure it will be explained , or I will stop caring about it being inconsistent. I do hope this shapeshifting trick will be used once more.. It would be great if he tried to trick Natsume with it at one point.

The Score

This episode gets a Berry Good score from me. It misses out on the highest score because of the lack of creepy in a spooky setting. Almost as if the visual story they are trying to tell differs from the narrative one.  Shigure looks very creepy, the setting looks very ominous and it creates an expectation, an expectation that doesn’t deliver. While this really  works well with what the episode is trying to tell I can not help but to feel that I miss that little ghost hand reaching out through the wall..  That creepy shadow that doesn’t act like it’s supposed to or at least a little something of that nature. I don’t expect a lot of that.. because there was a lot of story to tell but I would have at least liked a scene. This kind feels like entering a ghosthouse to play the Pinata game in the middle of it. Sure there is candy and boy is it sweet.. yet somehow you also can not escape the thought.. it would have been really cool if we actually could have been on this ride!

That is just a side thought though,  what this episode does it does wonderfully well. I REALLY like Sasada’s build up , her design to not be super amazingly pretty and more mundane, the way she appreciates the little things and the value of a thank you. I love the themes in this episode and once again the Yokai design is sublime!  I also liked the Kappa a lot..because they look so clunky and awkward and have this duck-like estetic!  There are adorable little Kurbioh like guys as well. It’s amazing! I do know of a few Yokai but these designs seem quite unlike other interpretations I saw.. They have a really distinct style that I just adore and I loved little tweaks such as Yokai’s voice being warped because he talks through a bucket. It was super cute and adorable and I had a great time.

4 thoughts

  1. Natsume really is strong on giving side characters decent development. They feel like real people, not just stamped out tropes to fill a role. Funny you should mention about how small things can be very large. I was watching Ikebukuro West Park (the first episode) and right after an episode of Midnight Diner (which I’ve been watching for a while) and thinking about how one of the things I love about J-drama and anime is that understanding that small things can be life changing and very important to one (or more) of the people involved. We aren’t all going to be Olympic swimmers or gymnasts, but we all have that favorite little cafe or bar we visit so often that we know people there on a surface level and yet sometimes they can play a big role in our lives by simply saying the right thing at the right moment. Little things that are big things. They happen in everyone’s life and can be far more important than all the big things when it all comes down to it.

    Liked by 1 person

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