(Japanese title: Natsume no Yuujin-cho)
Natsume is able to see things normal people can’t and this “gift” has made his life both lonely and a waking nightmare. As he is running away from one particularly nasty ghost, Natsume breaks a barrier that has been holding a particular spirit captive. Often taking the form of a “lucky cat,” this spirit offers to guard Nastume he can have the “Book of Friends” after Natsume dies. As it turns out, Natsume will need this spirit’s help as many other creatures are after this book of his and the power it contains; the power to control any ghost whose name is written on its pages.
The violence in this show is interesting in the fact that it is there and… isn’t there. Sword clashing and throat cutting won’t be found in this show, but Natsume is attacked by ghosts at times, many of whom seem to prefer chocking their victims. There are one or two episodes in which some baddies are taking the blood of various spirits and thus we get to see more blood than usual. However, these scenes are tasteful and the goal is not on the violence. Overall, the most “violent” aspect of this show is the ghosts themselves. A few are pretty grotesque to look at. Thus this show probably shouldn’t be shown around younger kids.
There aren’t any real language problems with this show. Maybe a da-n or two, but nothing worse and it’s quite uncommon.
Occasionally we see Natsume taking a bath, but steam from the hot water covers any inappropriate areas.
I used words like “ghost” and “spirit” above simply because the actual Japanese words don’t really translate over and thus can be confusing for people new to Japanese culture. But considering how they play a big role in the story, I’ll explain here. The “creatures” in this show are referred to as Youkai, which are kinda ghosts and kinda not. “Ghosts” are usually humans that have died, but this isn’t the case with Youkai. Youkai are mythical creatures, much like fairies and trolls are in British tales. Also, oni is used off and on. This term is often translated as “demon,” although that isn’t an exact translation. Again, Japan has a very specific idea of their creatures and often this idea is lost in translation. Nevertheless, the story revolves around these creatures and their interactions with humans. Occasionally humans will fight against them and try to “exorcize” them. And there are cases where Youkai try to “possess” people, occasionally succeeding. Though often it is not for any immoral purposes. Also, a few Youkai are seen by humans as “gods” and worshiped as such, even though they are often only very powerful Youkai. Regardless, the aim of this show is Nastume’s personal growth and his goal of releasing all the Youkai his grandmother controlled, not on instructing viewers on Japanese demi-gods (although a nice side affect of this show is learning a lot about Japanese folklore) .
I’ll admit to being very surprised by this show, as it’s not my usual fare. The first thing I noticed was, of course, the high level of animation. I knew that this series was a long one going in and thus the high quality of its animation caught me off guard. Unlike other long shows, the detailing is consistent throughout (there are more seasons being made as of this posting). If artwork isn’t your thing though, this show still has a lot to offer. Another amazing aspect of this show is its detail in characters. All the characters, especially our protagonist, Natsume, have motives and backgrounds. Loneliness is a major theme throughout the show, being reflected in both humans and Youkai. And it doesn’t take that long to become attached to them either. Every encounter has its own back story, many connecting with Reiko, Natsume’s grandmother. As the episodes progress, more and more characters are added to the mix, be it as an enemy or ally, and the cast continues to grow along with the characters themselves. Natsume gradually learns to trust people and Youkai as well as discover the depths of his responsibility as one who can see Youkai. Though the content of each episode is tear inducing, they often end with glimmers of hope, leaving a smile on your face despite the tears in your eyes. So if you want a heart warming show with depth, and don’t mind a few scares along the way, this show is an amazing trip. Just be sure you have some tissue close by.
Personal Rating: Young adult
Episodes: 39 (includes seasons 1-3)
Official rating: Teen
Genre(s): Fantasy, supernatural
Legal streaming: Crunchyroll