When I read the synopsis to Natsume’s Book of Friends the first time, I admit I rolled my eyes and muttered “I can see dead people” before moving on to wondering just how close to shows like Bleach this would end up being. And if not that, how big of a Gary Stu would our main character end up becoming. It Only took one episode to shatter those thoughts and the second episode to grip my attention.
In a way, the synopsis of the show has stated everything the show has to offer. It is about the life of a average boy called Natsume, who also uncomfortably see Youkai and follows how he interact with them on a day to day bases. Yet despite this, Natsume is a mostly normal boy when it comes to mannerism and general behaviour. He just simple wants to live a normal life with his friends and family. Natsume is more that capable of this, if not for Youkai hunting for the Book of Friends. At the beginning, the show does make him out to be a victim of sort with flashback to his isolation, loneliness and bullying as a child The show starts with Natsume being chased by a Youka through the local woods, who thought he was his grandmother: Reiko. This set the scence for following episodes with Youkai interacting with Natsume — either so that he can return their name or so that they can take the Book of Friends from him. We also got a glimpses of Reiko’s past through the Youkai sharing memories with the Youkai to show how different or alike they are to each other. There is a question one my mind through, if Reiko was always along, how did she met someone to give birth to Nataume’s parent. The show doesn’t address this at all. All we is that she died young, and that Natsume wants to keep his ability a secret from those he care about. The fact that causes Natsume troubles apart from the Book of Friends is that he looks like Reiko, and we come to understand that Youkai cannot or don’t defined between sexes.
The Youkai definitely make the main cast of the series coming in all shapes, sizes and forms. They all have reasons to come in contact with Natsume- good or bad, and he tries mediate and solve their problems as he can see them. From the little male kitsume who wants to be strong so he can get by, to the guardian deity known as the “Dew God” who tied himself to a shrine so that human worship would give him powers. A lot of the yokai also have animalistic traits on humanoid bodies, while others took on human forms after dying as an animal
And then, there’s Madara. I’m not entirely sure whether he’s meant to be something specific. Most of the time, he takes on the form of a tubby cat, slightly reminiscent of the cat statues you sometimes see in anime. His real form is a good deal larger, stronger and more omniscient, though; that of a huge dog-like being with a very long tail and some red markings on his head. Natsume meets him while on the run from the two yokai in the opening episode, and the two strike a deal that eventually lands them in the same kind of relationship shared between the characters: Ushio and Tora in the show by the same name
And so, Natsume’s Book of Friends more or less trundles along at a fairly languid pace, like so many other shows I like do. The series main selling point is the way it dishes out emotion and feels like an all you can eat buffet.