With Pinkie’s Saturday Anime Adventure I was doing 5 anime reviews in a single day.. so now that I split them across the days I had two days left.. should I take it easy on those days?! Of course not! More Anime for me to watch! So I already had a “nostalgia” show, a show that got recommended by community friends, a magical girl show, an Isekai and a tournament/ analogue gaming show… so else could I watch. Why not something Senpai loves?! You gotta respect your blogging elders according to Japanese culture! So here we go.. starting from today each week I am watching an episode of Natsume Book of Friends… and I never even knew what it was.. I did not expect it to be this!
We meet our main protagonist Natsume in this episode. He was born with a special gift! The ability to see Yokai! While this might seem like a blessing to some, most Yokai don’t seem to take kindly to him. Either they chase him, he reacts to them or something of the sorts happen that alienates him from all the other humans. Seemingly having no more friends nor any living blood relatives, the boy seems lonely as a cyclops witch and a ghost with a yukata chase him… pardon me for not knowing the proper Yokai names of these.. but I feel like if I had to look all those up this post would take so much longer… if you recognise what Yokai they are tell me in the comments and teach me something! Natusme flees towards a shrine but in doing so trips over a rope containing seals and this breaks it. Now that the seals have become undone a Mani Neko is released! He is called Nyanko-Sensei and he recognises Natsume.. saying his grandma used to be like him and she has something called “The Book of Friends”
This is a book containing the names of Yokai she bonked on the head with a bat and forced them to give up their name.. under the guise of a duel. Nyanko-Sensei wants the book.. but Natsume refuses and gives him watermelon instead and a friendship of sorts begins to bloom. When the one eyed witch and ghostly man invade Natsume’s house the two have to work together to stop the spirits. Natsume decides to return the names to the Yokai his grandmother bonked and Nyanko teaches him how to do that.. on the terms of that if Natsume dies while doing this.. Nyanko gets the book of a friend and can do “weird stuff” with it. We see Natsume’s grandmother bonk the Cyclops Witch.. as soon as Natsume starts the name return ritual. Talking with the spirit about yeast buns.. after she is sent away.. Natsume and Nyanko stop at the place his grandma claimed had the best Yeast buns.
For as many times Irina has told me on her blog that Natsume Book of Friends is great, she never really told me what it was about! I assumed it was this slice of life like show with a boy making friends in high school with a comical relief cat that can drink booze. I was pleasantly surprised that there was a lot more to it. Had I known this was what the show was about I might have taken on the last tour of the OWLS in the Folklore topic and watched it earlier! Now however I can enjoy it at a snail’s pace with an episode a week! I do like this concept of “reverse”capturing a lot.. I mean in a way this is kind of like a reverse pokémon so far where a boy gets a pet..that actually can EVOLVE ..sort of.. he seems quite capable himself.. and his goal is to release ALL the creatures in his book. It still hits close enough to home for me to be my jam while being different enough for me to see it as its own thing.
I do like the creature design a lot so far. Nyanko-Sensei in particular is adorable in his cat for and his dragonoid form or whatever that seems quit impressive. It reminds me a bit of that dog dragon from the NEver Ending Story..Falcor I think his name was.. just more Japanese. But I also like the witch and the smiling dude. I also like the sound design a lot, the cicada’s give the atmosphere a sense of serenity which helps sell the whole idea of Natsume living in a different world than us .. sort of speak as we see a tranquil world and his one is quite a bit more hectic. The voices are fun and I find them very fitting and I do look how things are framed. The way Nyanko-Sensei tumbles around.. but also the way how a punch to Nyanko from Natsume cuts away to a sound effect. From the position he was in.. there was no way to sell the effect visually I think.. yet this way I can suspend my disbelief easier. So it is nice to see that. The episode has a pretty good story to set things up but for now I can’t delve to deep in it.. I felt it had the perfect length and a satisfying conclusion showing us the fact that spirits can be appeased with their name.. or properly manhandled to be sent away. I like that.
Now I am treading on quicksand here! What can I say about Natsume that will not get my head severed from my torso in terms of negatives. In terms of this first episode I will admit the opening wasn’t my thing. I really like a bit more peppy intro’s and I did not think the song was too catchy. A bit unfair to call the first episode out on that.. but it will be the only time it bothers me so I still have to mention it. Other than that I do find the human characters a bit generic. Natsume is okay design wise.. but unlike for example Soul Eater, Watamote or No Game No Life I think it will take a bit for me to recognise the main character. I’d recognise Nyanko but Natsume.. I am not too sure yet! It isn’t a bad design..but I would have given him an odd eye colour or a spot in his eye or something that makes him see this Yokai.. or something.. maybe he wears a special necklace over his uniform… it’s nothing I will not get used to but he’ll never get a second chance to make a first impression again.
I have no strong negatives other than that, and even those are very excusable, I watched the show on Crunchyroll yet for some reason the quality was a bit low for me, it felt as if it was too “bright”. I am not sure yet if that is the anime’s age, it’s style.. or just a bad version uploaded on Crunchyroll.. but it felt a bit too “pastel” colour to me at times. Another nitpick I have is that we see a scene where two friends are strolling. They encounter Natsume and then continue to talk about how weird he is.. however the story is told from Natsume’s perspective.. while he is being chased.. yet for a brief moment we cut to their dialogue about him. That to me doesn’t fit…if we are being told things from Natusme’s perspective I would have preferred to let him thing “They must think I am super strange”.. and for the most part.. that’s how it is handled. That felt a bit too “in you face exposition” for my tastes. Not horrible.. but a bit inconsistent nonetheless.
I did have a great time watching this first episode, and I do think it will be a show that I could grow to like a lot. It has a lot of hype to live up too.. but that is also exactly why I read nothing about it except for Senpai doing the wobbly lag fan girl thing for it on a regular basis. That really helped me enjoy it a lot more as it can still surprise me! Unlike the anime I am going to watch tomorrow I know nothing about it and I intend to keep it that way. I do not have a clear idea where this show is headed yet but it does intrigue me! I want to see more! So that is a great thing for a first episode to achieve.
I wasn’t as mesmerised by it as something like Flip Flappers or Samurai Flamenco which both had REALLY good starts. I do feel Natsume is a bit more of a slow burning type of a show though, there is more to set up, it requires a bit more insight so I expect to fall in love with it a few more episodes in. Which is fine.. Hikaru no Go was a similar type of show for me where I wasn’t head over heels from episode 1 but by episode 20 I am hooked. A lot of my favourite shows of all time were slower starters. Also that seems like I hated this episode which is completely not true because I think it is REALLY Good.. it just is not the most captivating first episode I’ve ever seen. The show can still grow for me and grow on me.. and I feel like it will.. so for some reason I am happier that I can give this a Berry Good.. as I would be giving this my higest score.. we have a long journey ahead of us with this one but I feel it will be an amazing journey..Where Flip Flapper takes me on a journey on an item that should not even be a vehicle leaving the driveway is slightly more interesting as in the packed car Natsume provides.. but I do feel that with this one I am going to be more comfy and I will see plenty of amazing things!