The Heck is a Heart Coloured Ticket…?! I thought I would know after this episode but no! I still don’t know! There is a ticket.. and there is love.. but I do not agree with this title. I would have called it Bootleg Totoro and the Fish.. but then again that might be disrespectful! I don’t mean it like that though.. but it really is about a Totoro thing that is not Totoro … and a fish! I kind of loved it!
The episode begins with Natsume roaming in a box of his grandmothers stuff, each time he runs a name he gets part of her memories and he is curious about her life.. or so he claims.. from a Library book she forgot to return drops a train ticket.. leading to a now out of use station. Natsume decides to investigate the ticket the next day. That day Natsume’s classmates fight on how to eat something which I think is chicken.. I have no idea but they call it Kitsune.. I don’t think they are eating fox but well.. they don’t see eye to eye on how to eat this meal thing and decide to separate and never be friends again. Sasada then comes poking her nose into Natsume’s business! What is that ticket? What are you going to do with it? Can I come?! I wanna see one?! Stuff like that. Natsume doesn’t want to get the girl that wants to spend time with him around.. so he is super glad the priest’s son distracts her long enough so he can sneak away from her on the bus. (Kind of a dickish bus driver). I kind of want Natsume to like this girl! I like having her positive energy around!
Sasada gets left behind though and Natsume travels to an abandoned station where he finds Santo.. a big furry hippo like Yokai that walks on two legs and dances around and reminds me a lot of Totoro. Just.. more vocal and less eloquent. Santo is a friendly Yokai who waits on this station because he got in an argument with a friend once who told them to leave and never return. Reiko met Santo and he gave him her name.. which we find out caused the conflict between the two. Santo gets his name returned and Natsume finds out through her memories that she promised Santo to take him to go see his friend Mikuri the next day. She never delivered on the promises though so Natsume takes Santo to do so. However since years have passed now.. Mikuri became bitter and possessed by Earth Spirits, enlarging his negativity. As a result the forest tries to stop their approach. Mikuri corrupted a huge catfish and Madara fights him while Natsume and Santo yell at Mikuri to stop! Then the fish possessed by rage tries to steal the book.. but Santo protects it! A combination of both seemed to work and the still quite angry Mikuri is reunited with his friend. While Natsume tries to settle their fight he realizes they already settled their fight and are just arguing because they are friends. The next day in school his two classmates are all buddy buddy again and Sasada asks him what happened. The priest’s son whose name I completely am blacking out on.. gets thanked for the help the day before leaving Sasda clueless still.
I really liked Santo and Mikuri , once again the design and flavouring of these Yokai is done very nicely and satisfyingly. The whole super dumb anime character might be a trope I do not always enjoy, Santo brings so much innocence to it.. but also a form of challenge. He knows what he wants to say .. but he is just too dim witted to express himself leaving Natsume without some valuable much needed information. So he must find a way to work around that. Thus the humor of this episode is actually in service of the story and I am very fond of that type of design. Do not build in jokes because you need a funny moment, make moments you need to tell funny. It offers a lot more charm. Santo being one of the most innocent things you have ever seen is also a nice contrast with the Yokai we have seen normally here. No harm from others befalls upon him.. there is no evil spirit or priest causing him pain. Santo’s worst enemy is Santo himself.. and the promises he made. He never went to look for Mikuri because he promised Reiko to wait for her and because Mikuri said he could not come anymore. That’s just the type of guy he is and he is in his own way.
I also really like the whole premise of Natsume wanting to dig deeper into his relatives’ past and using a box of memories along with the book that apparently is also filled with memories is an interesting way to do this. It gives a few puzzle elements and I have been wondering how Reiko was a person. I for now think she was a pretty bad person but Natsume seems to refuse to believe this. She completely forgot about poor Santo though! I am curious to see where this will go and in fairness the show so far has not done much in terms of establishing an overarching narrative. This could be the first step towards that and if so I am quite on board with this.
I did not like how Natsume ignored Sasada in the last episode, and I do not like here either. It’s a nice girl that is interested in you and believes in you.. she wants that connection my guy and you have shown to want that sort of connection as well. I always have trouble with characters that go through self imposed misery and feel depressed for being alone.. but then when a person wants to be their friend they ignore them.. While Natsume isn’t nearly hypocritical enough for me to actually dislike it.. I see enough of this self imposed negativity to enjoy it less then when Sasada would have played a bigger part. I think her positive behaviour is a welcome addition to Natsume’s more down behaviour. At the same time though Natsume doing this alone lets the Yokai shine a lot as he doesn’t have a strong personality.. so the spirits always take the spotlight! That has value as well.
The second gripe I had with this episode is in its resolution. The Catfish versus Cat fight felt a bit sloppy. Tentacles were bitten and pulled.. Elongated cat demon gets snared but transforms.. then bites the fish again.. but then it looks like the fish also bites him.. but maybe its not because suddenly the fish goes poof! ?I had no real idea what was going on there. Natsume was quite badly animated while wrapped by a tentacle as well. It all just felt a bit muddy and thrown in for some action. I honestly preferred the fight with the earth spirit and the mysterious fog on the tracks. One bad fight scene however does not ruin an episode. Especially when it’s so short. I would have liked to see more Santo protecting the book though. That might have been the trigger what caused Mikuri to be healed but it at least wasn’t fully clear to me.
While not a perfect score episode I really had a lot of fun with this episode. Santo is an adorable character and even Mikuri in his original form is quite adorable. The evil forest chase was very entertaining and.. just Santo being Santo , eating poisoned berries and all it just made me smile. It had little impact all in all but I was still very entertained. It just had a few scenes for me personally that did not resolve in a way I would have preferred. It’s a silver or bronze type situation instead of gold. Still a winner though.
My biggest peeve here is how Sasada was offsided here, and I am afraid I will see a fair bit more of that in the future. I just do not like the lonely character wallowing in their loneliness by shutting off good people. It really irks me and I have little sympathy for them. As long as this show doesn’t try to invoke sympathy for him being so alone.. I will not have much of a problem , other than just being a bit bitter here and there.. but if they do and try to invoke sympathy while he shuts people out.. that will be a sure fire for me to grow and dislike him as a character. Nothing wrong yet just reporting some symptoms for now. Great episode with just a few concerns. Like.. how was that ticket heart-coloured?