Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Anime Review: Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou (rewatch)

As I said yesterday, despite how much I love my plot-heavy stories there are a few shows I watch specifically because they are more episodic and character-focused and Natsume Yuujincho is one of those stories. 

Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou (Natsume and the Book of Friends Continued)

Summary: As in the first season, Natsume is the owner of the Book of Friends, a book containing the names of dozens of spirits that he has power over, and is constantly being haressed by spirits who either want the book all for themselves or who want their names back (and most of them think that he's his long dead grandmother, Reiko, the creator of the book). But this doesn't bother him as much as it used to since, even though he's distrustful of many people (human and spirit alike) he's begun to grow closer and trust some of them. 

The Good: This season season gives us our first two parter (two of them actually) and a couple of the characters either pop up a few episodes early or simply make more appearances which add some nice continuity to the story. Even if the story is episodic, each episode should build on the previous ones and having little reminders of previous episodes (such as reoccurring characters) is a nice way to do it, also adds more rewatch value to a show. The one anime-original episode this season (the one concerning a spirit whose name was tied to a tree 50 years ago instead of being put into the book) was much better than the previous season's episode and it's interesting to see that both of them focused on Reiko a good deal. There's another episode focusing on Reiko which gives her some much needed character development (and some backstory) and also provides a bit of background for Natsume's caretakers as well. 

The Bad: The episode focusing on Reiko, as good and useful as it was, does bring up an important question however, will the story ever say more about who she was (or about the rest of Natsume's family) or will the story only talk about her every now and then? While at first glance it doesn't seem like her story has much to do with Natsume's, the title of the story is Natsume and the Book of Friends, not Takashi (his first name) and the Book of Friends so the story is about him and his family. Partially I bring this up since, as the story goes on, more and more characters recognize Reiko's name and have even met her so shouldn't someone know what happened to her? One character is even surprised that Natsume doesn't know what happened to his grandmother so, while it's not completely needed, more backstory concerning some of the other characters in this series would be an amazing thing.  

The Audio: Once again the opening and closing themes are left unsubtitled, although it's easier to find translations for these than it was for the first season's songs. However, the lyrics to the ending song don't seem to match the images (singing about leaving someone as more and more people appear in the ending) and the lyrics to the opening song are just rather strange. A lot of the background music is re-used from the first season but, considering how well it worked there, this isn't a bad thing at all (also, more continuity!). And once again, the music in this series does an amazing job at setting the mood and tone of a scene and it's the music that makes you just as likely to tear up at the end of a happy episode or a sad episode, it's perfectly placed and knows exactly how to mess with the watcher's emotions.

The Visuals: As with the first season, the anime art style is cleaner and smoother than the manga art style  but this time around the ending theme is drawn in the manga art style and it looks rather good in that context. Since this season is set in winter the colors are a bit more muted than the first season (not that the colors were especially vibrant then either) but, like the music, the color scheme help contributes to the overall mood of the show and in a story involving spirits and the otherworldly it's the art that helps keep the story grounded while it's the music that really draws the watcher in.

Apologizes that this is up so late, just had trouble writing this review since I do love the show so much and really want to do it justice. That said, I'm a bit sad that the third season probably won't address the backstory problem I have since I believe I've read all the manga that the next season will cover (in fact, if anything, based on what one character says this new season will raise a whole new set of questions about one of Natsume's other relatives and not the one I was expecting). Regardless, I'm still eagerly awaiting the new season and who knows, maybe I missed something the first time I read it (for some of the chapters it would have been a while) and I'll be surprised!

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