More Natsume! And there will be even more next year since the fourth season has already been scheduled for the Winter 2012 season which makes me and I'm sure all the fans who buy the DVDs in Japan (it's Studio Brain Base's second biggest title, their number one title is Durarara!!) are thrilled about this as well. Actually, there was a similar gap between the first two seasons (the original was in the summer and Zoku was in the winter) so I wonder if San and the next season had been planned as a split 2-cour from the beginning and that's why there was a few year gap between 2 and 3. I think split cour shows are a pretty good idea myself, the gap gives the animators time to get ahead again and have enough time to work on everything, gives fans a chance to save up for more merchandise later on and it gives people who either didn't know about the show from the start or got behind in watching it a chance to catch up and then see the next part as it airs.
Natsume Yuujinchou San (Natsume and the Book of Friends Three)
Summary: Ever since he was young, Takeshi Natsume has been able to see yokai (spirits) and it's only when he moves in with his current guardians that he learns that his grandmother Reiko had the same power and many of the same hardships. Thus he inherited her most precious belonging, the Book of Friends which contains the names of the yokai she befriended/defeated in a fight and Natsume is trying to return them all. And as time goes by Natsume finds himself interacting with more and more people and spirits and finds that he's making friends as well.
The Good: Like the second season, the third season of Natsume has a few two-parters (and other episodes where multiple chapters were compressed into one episode) and it's nice to have some variety since this is an episodic show to the core. On the subject of individual episodes, the one showing how Natsume met his current caretakers was one of the best of the entire series, from the pacing to the characters (even if some of them were more rounded in the manga) and hit all the right emotional notes. This season also introduced a reoccurring side character, Matoba (who was mentioned in the second season) and his character is an interesting contrast to Natsume's. He's also the most villainous character so far, someone who really only thinks of yokai as tools to be used, which makes him even more interesting. All of the other reoccurring characters feel very well fleshed out by this point and it's great to see some of them (like Taki and Tamuna) get more and more involved with Natsume (especially since that helps to show Natsume's own growth).
The Bad: Even though some of the individual episodes were very strong and the whole season was rather enjoyable, I didn't feel like it was as strong as the previous seasons overall. Both of the previous seasons seemed to have an overarching theme (Natsume opening up to people and then starting to open up to yokai more) but this season seemed a bit all over the place. It did focus more on Natsume's past than the previous two seasons but the season lacked a theme that it need to tie together everything in it (which is the danger of being an episodic series, you need a strong overall theme or the story risks falling apart).
The Audio: This is the first time I've liked one of the ending songs from the start so it's my favorite out of the three so far and the opening song was good as well. I wasn't as fond of the visuals in the opening (showing clips from the past two seasons seemed a bit cheap to me) but the song sounded nice (another case where crunchyroll hasn't been able to translate the songs) so I was happy. The show has some very distinctive background themes by now and I was happy to hear a lot of old ones come back and was happy about their placement.
The Visuals: It looks like the show might have gotten a slight budget raise since since the art looks a bit crisper than before, or perhaps that was because I was watching this version in 720p on crunchyroll instead of standard definition. It's a subtle change though and the art still looks the same way it always has, like a cleaned up, slightly cuter version of the manga art and everything still looks consistently on model with appropriate color schemes.
Not my favorite season of the show but it's still one of my favorite shows and I do wish it would get licensed over in the US (or Australia or the UK so I could import it). So, Nozomi, NISA? Could one of you guys license this in a nice fancy package with extras? Heck, I wouldn't mind if Sentai licensed this as a slightly over-priced sub only deal, I just want a physical copy of it with subtitles!