Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Six seasons of Takashi Natsume receiving Reiko Natsume’s comeuppance

I was fairly surprised when we got a fifth season of Natsume Yuujinchou (Natsume and the Book of Friends) last year. I wasn’t surprised that a sixth season came around shortly later, Natsume has been doing split-cours before it was cool, but it certainly was wild to have a return to the series after more than a couple of years.

I enjoyed the return and by and large I don’t believe that I had any stunning insights into the show that were borne of my intervening years of life experience, phew because that would be really condescending. There was one thing that I noticed however and that is that Reiko Natsume, the deceased grandmother of Takashi Natsume, follows the classic trickster archetype but with one difference: her comeuppance always falls to Takashi.

Trickster characters are ones who, in the end, are always acting for themselves. For the isolated Reiko this is a given, she both helped and harrassed youkai as the whim took her and it doesn’t seem like there was often a deeper meaning to her actions (even if many of the youkai took it that way). Both her tricks and long absence did not endear her to some of the local youkai (and I think we can all agree that it’s not Reiko’s fault that she has been dead for at least a decade and therefore hasn’t been back to visit) and whenever a youkai wants to complain, get mad, or it’s Takashi who has to deal with the fallout. Contrary to what folks may think, part of the trickster character archetype is that they /do/ have to deal with the consequences of their actions sometimes, just not always. That’s part of the reason why people have always loved those characters, they might be more god than human in some cases but just like humans, they don’t always get away scot-free (plus it keeps the tales more exciting).

Poor Takashi, given how grouchy and suspicious he was when the story began it’s a miracle that being chased around by youkai and being thrown into wild plots has actually made him appreciate people and youkai even more. Now that’s a trick, but certainly not one that anyone planned.