The story of Natsume Takashi can be paralleled with the lyrics: “I’ve tried to fight like a bottle in a sea wave, thought I was insane but it will be alright, know that everything is gonna be alright, ’cause everything around me’s gonna be alright […]”
Natsume Yuujinchou, also known by its English title Natsume’s Book of Friends, is a slice-of-life anime based on a manga of the same name by author Midorikawa Yuki. It spans six seasons, which started in the year 2008 up until 2017. It features Natsume Takashi, a high school student with the ability to see and communicate with yokai or supernatural beings. His story begins when he accidentally unseals a yokai stuck in a maneki-neko (lucky cat) statue, who then reveals the existence of the “Book of Friends” that was filled with false names of yokai. It was said that these names were from those who were defeated by his grandmother, Reiko, in games or duels. From then on, he was entrusted with a mission to set such creatures free, as their name written in the book meant that they were bound to obey whatever Reiko wanted, not knowing that she had long passed. This will be done by “returning” the names to their owners.
Initially, Natsume appears to be gentle but reticent, making it difficult for him to communicate with others. This is mostly due to a past where he was constantly disturbed by the yokai which made him find comfort in isolation. Dealing with yokai, which cannot be perceived by anyone else, gave the impression that he was unsound. When he attempted to share his fears and worries related to them, nobody would believe him. Instead, he was accused of stirring up panic and harm. Leading him to detaching from everyone.
After learning about the Book of Friends, Natsume gets to know each and every story behind why the names of the yokai were written in the book. They all have different appearances, personalities, and woes, making each story unique. Their fates ranged from happy to tragic and bittersweet, some of which could not be changed even with his help–whether he liked it or not. This eventually taught him to believe in his own abilities and to accept himself as a person, which he accomplishes at his own pace. He discovers that hope still exists for him, and that things will soon be alright.
At the same time, there is a development observed in terms of his interactions with other people. He starts to be more dependent on those around him, especially since he has found friends who care for him. He also learned some valuable life lessons from the yokai mentioned in the book, like swallowing hard truths and not letting his own emotions take over his rationality. Over time, he is also observed to be able to confront things rather than run away from them–be it problems, people, and even yokai.
Natsume is a character who is easily relatable, as someone who has an ever-present issue with trusting people and choosing those who are friends and who are not. It is hard to not be wary of others, especially after having trust broken and cast aside. It is hard to open up and be ourselves if we consider the possibility that this can be used against us. It is also hard to not blame ourselves for inconveniences knowing that we’re used to being pointed at. It is hard to let everything go, but it is indeed possible.
Being a victim of the past is something a lot of people experienced, and Natsume’s development is just one of the many examples of a path to recovery. It may not be easy to show our true selves, but there are people out there who will accept us for who we are. It may not be easy to let out our sorrows, but it will help us determine what we can do about them one step at a time. It may not be easy to face and overcome what has once harmed us, but as long as courage, and hope is around, everything will be okay.
Last July, in line with Natsume Yuujinchou’s 15th airing anniversary, it was declared to have a seventh season in the making. It will reveal more of Natsume’s growth in relationships and trust, which will hopefully serve as another inspiration for building both mine and yours.
Donovan, C. (2020, January 23). “The Courage to Speak”: Mental illness and recovery in Natsume’s Book of Friends. Anime Feminist. https://www.animefeminist.com/feature-the-courage-to-speak-mental-illness-and-recovery-in-natsumes-book-of-friends/
Wood, P. (2023, February 4). Natsume Yuujinchou: A place for Yokai in the modern world. The Anime View. https://theanimeview.com/2023/02/04/analysis-natsume-yuujinchou-a-place-for-yokai-in-the-modern-world/