As we all know, awesome food should be accompanied by an awesome anime show. I sat down this week in recovery with my meal and steaming cup of coffee (softly mumbling "itadakimasu" so as not to worsen my already adamant headache) and I was brought out of my gloom by this wonderful show named "Natsume Yuujinchou".
The title roughly translates to "Natsume's Book of Friends". The story encompasses a high school boy by the name of Natsume Takashi who is an outcast in his community because of his ability to see ghosts and demons which are referred to collectively as "Youkai". As a teenager he has secured his social life in such a way that his foster parents and school colleagues are not aware of this ability. It is a difficult secret to keep though as the youkai are constantly appearing when others are around and often pursue him.
On one of these occasions Natsume flees to a shrine but accidently breaks a seal in his haste. The seal held a seemingly dangerous youkai in a small clay enclosure, however, as Natsume takes a closer look he realises that the youkai is in the form of an unnaturally round, orange and white cat. The cat seems to recognise him but realises that he was mistaking Natsume for his grandmother, Natsume Reiko (apparently the youkai don't take particular notice of a human's gender). I won't give too much away but after Natsume discovers that his grandmother had fought off the youkai and kept their names in an heirloom called "The Book of Friends" he began uncovering the mysteries of Natsume Reiko's past and how it intertwined with the memories of many youkai in and out of the Book of Friends.
This anime is tender, deep and has a steady, constant flow that I enjoy. It is difficult to tell whether the strange cat stays with Natsume to protect him or eventually eat him but Natsume tolerates his company anyway and names him Nyanko-sensai. The cat's arrogance is only partially negated by the fact that Natsume really knows nothing about his grandmother's past and the bad blood she left behind. Keeping Nyanko-sensei turns out to be a smart move on his part because not only does the Book of Friends come with many advantages, it also comes with many youkai scraping at his window at night requesting the release of their names and of course, the evil yokai who seek to claim the book's power. He soon learns from Nyanko-sensei that many of the yokai are simply lost or lonely spirits but Natsume's kindness leads him into many challenging situations. Although, just like his grandmother, he has an immense amount of spiritual power and is able to deal with the new onslaught of attacks.
It does become difficult for this character to continue to keep his secret whilst exhausting himself when releasing names of the friendly youkai. Natsume also learns more everyday as he is able to share the memory of the bond the youkai and his grandmother had when releasing a name. Even though he hopes to understand her through these memories, she does not seem to be as innocent as he had originally thought.
Natsume Yuujinchou has a lovely warm animated style, calming music and an intriguing narrative. Don't underestimate this anime though: it is creepy, moving, ironic, funny and addictive. As some of my friends may want to know, the show contains more action than romance but it does circle around a theme of friendship, mostly between humans and youkai. I'm not in love with theme songs however; the end song is very soothing and compliments the feel of the episodes with great timing.
A well-deserved 8 out of 10.