lelangir: blue ←
First thing I noticed was that the OP got kind of a generic pop sound to it. Yeah, I wasn’t fond of it, but the lyrics were significant. It’s very similar to the OP change in Marimite – there’s a line that says something like “embrace the fact that you can laugh honestly and run,” which signifies Natsume’s development from totally scared of Youkai to his more open relationship with them. I tend to ignore lyrics in most shows for fear that the fansubs are wrong or the original meaning is lost in translation, but even when thinking of that I see your point. Yeah, although you see him walking across a bridge and looking back, reminiscing, so that metaphor is definitely relevant. Either that or the creators just wanted a shot of him in repose. He seems a bit more fabulous than I remember. I actually liked the OP, the fact it’s more energetic and bold than the original seems to reflect what you said about his relationship with the Youkai. A great technique they used in the OP was that it was half without Youkai and half with Youkai. It demonstrated how much of a silent presence they are in Natsume’s world, especially with the Youkai creating a ripple on the water’s surface.
This show is all about reciprocity, the giving and receiving of things. This theme spans generations too, which is why all the Youkai confuse Natsume with Reiko. Reiko’s obligation to reciprocate the deeds of the Youkai (giving her their names) is transfered down two generations. But it’s not Reiko’s obligation. We haven’t learned enough about her relationship with the Youkai to get an accurate grasp of why she was taking their names in the first place. Natsume feels that he needs to give back the Youkai’s names to make up for the deeds of his grandmother. I don’t know if they’ll ever really get into Reiko. Nyanko-sensei can transform into her appearance, but they haven’t said anything about that at all. And on another note, I like the metaphor of giving/taking, but a lot of it just seems like a contrived way to “bishify” Natsume and produce lots of melodrama. I’ve pretty much accepted the fact that Natsume’s going to be the sensitive upstanding mediator between the Youkai and the humans, uncompromising in his feelings of protecting each race (most of the time from each other). There are times when the drama just comes off as cheesy, mostly due to the dialogue, like that line where he says “there’s an important reason I need to get that book back”. It seems like they’re just re-stating the same thing over and over with that aspect of the show. That is one reason why (perhaps one of two) that I don’t like this show – it’s redundancy: then again, that is a reason to savor it each time.
One aspect I didn’t like was how conveniently the “high spirits” are beautiful and the lowly ones ugly and grotesque. That’s a common symbol though, it’s in Bleach, with the Espada taking human form, but the less powerful not obtaining that appearance. It’s an easy way to signify personality, virtue and conscience through appearance. That’s for sure, even the lesser spirits who aren’t on the same level as Bishie Angel look more human, and they’re shown to be emotionally deeper than, say, the likes of those rioting Youkais. Though there was that huge ugly one that Madara fought in the first season… Yeah, it’s “the masses” of spirits that are in anime form, some are just ghastly looking too. Those are the ones that, as Natsume said previously, seek the Book of Friends for their own devious ends. The more humanism a Youkai contains, the more “noble” his/her deeds appear to be. We could even look at this as pity for those masses of Youkai, though that may be going too far. Due to their weakness and horrible appearance, what do they have to hope for in their lifetime spanning hundreds of years? A life of solitude and decadence, living on the bottom rung of their society. They must aspire to something, and the Book of Friends seems to be it. Yeah, that’s seems implicit without the show. Ironically, in the first episode of season one we see a semi-ghastly looking Youkai, but her history is revealed, and the melodrama is produced by pity, as you said, for how can such a haggard looking thing be as emotionally refined as a human? – but it’s precisely the dissonance between ugly appearance and beautiful soul which makes the show powerful. It’s no coincidence that the ones that involve the most bishie-fied characters are the least engrossing.
It was interesting to see how easily Natsume fit in with the Youkai, despite his smell. It suggests that the border between human and Youkai is very thin. I think this type of scene just takes the cake. I understand that this is meant to be a disguise, but it’s just a piece of paper. That he can see through. That also seems to partially cover up his smell. Bit too ridiculous for me in this show about transforming cats and magical books. Well for all the other “high” Youkai, the artifacts marking difference to humans is small. There was the super hot Haru Youkai that was a firefly, and she just had a mask. There was some butterfly mask Youkai in this episode too. And the lord, Riou-sama, just had wings. The difference is only skin-deep for all the Youkai, really. They act as many humans would, albeit less civilised than today’s society. They fight for their lord like many people would back in previous eras (perhaps feudal Japan).
And what would you say about Natsume keeping his Youkai-seeing ability a secret? He said that he didn’t want to trouble his foster parents, and I suppose that ties in with the theme of obligations/reciprocity. It once again brings up this image of him as a selfless person. He doesn’t want to stop others from seeing him as a freak (something which comes up a lot with a protagonist having a secret ability), he just doesn’t want to bring down worry upon his foster parents, who evidently love him more than his previous ones. You could see it as a trading of affection and consideration, I guess.
So we’ve reverted back to the classic NYC ED, replete with sexy art and even sexier music. I love how he’s walking in snow, and it actually is winter (in the northern hemisphere), so that’s a little bit of fourth wall there. I’ve always liked the use of sketchy animation; the lack of definition gives everything more of a calm and collected feel, perfect this show and perfect for the music. One thing NYC does excellently – they start playing the ED music before the animation sequence starts. It really makes you keep watching and sit through the ED every time. Kimikiss also did this. I don’t think there are many shows which round off an episode in such a good way as Natsume. There’s always a sense of conclusiveness and satisfaction at the end of each episode(which is crucial for an episodic show), supported by the use of the traditional pan-up camera shot towards the always blue sky.
OMG! A hawt new rival for Sasada’s love?!