Seemingly a continuation of another name theme, this episode starts off with Natsume signing a school document. This consistent metaphor is probably setting up the premise of names as the crucial motif – the consistency can indicate that it’s not randomly put there for style alone (I hope that this isn’t foreshadowing verbatim [or would that make it prediction of future?]). OK – there’s significance, but what does it entail? There are five acts revolving around names here: (1) spirits giving their names to Reiko; (2) spirits questing for the Book of Friends for their perverted ends; (3) spirits requesting that their names be returned; (4) Natsume returning their names; (5) Natsume giving his own name here. Point five is largely metaphorical, while the demarcation between evil and benign spirits remains important because while the division between good and evil may resound as overly simplistic, the repercussive acts are entirely different – hence the categorization.
The significance of this lies in its two-fold irony. Natsume asks the guardian spirit to reveal its name unto him, yet, in essence, Natsume himself is a guardian that bestows unto spirits their names – that is the first-fold. The second-fold is Natsume’s signing of the document, a reversal of the traditional signature given to Reiko by the spirits, yet this reversal comes off more as a means of equalization – equivalent exchange, if you will – than a straightforward inversion of roles. The equalization of names can loosely be interpreted as a means of giving and receiving. This subtle, secondary theme was ironically – and I say secondary because the role names play is much more upfront – very pertinent in episode two, culminated through the worshipping of Tsuyukami, symbolized in part by the peaches, sweet buns, and, in general, the cultural idiosyncrasies of offerings.
Tsuyukami was the thematic epitomes of this give & take tradition. People worshipped Tsuyukami, thus he grew in tandem with the faith his believers entrusted in him. Inversely, the less faith and worship Tsuyukami received, the more he shrank – size reflected and was the product of the relationship he had between humans. This relationship based on faith alone may seem too intangible, too flimsy and up in the air to be concrete, yet Tsuyukami directly addresses this fact, both in his “deliciously short” (it was, really) flashback and his desire to reach out and meet Hana-san, perhaps “physically” and verbally. Tsuyukami represents the desire for human connectivity, for solidarity, and again his dialogue with Natsume attests to how the bearer of the Book of Friends performs the function of the proxy between the two – he pleads to worship Tsuyukami in order to prevent his precipitation, and gets rejected on the basis that “they’re only friends,” implicating that Natsume provided a sort of reassurance, ironically, a reverse-faith: people had faith in Tsuyukami, now Tsuyukami relies on his faith of a human that says his own faith wasn’t futile. Give and take, give and take. Susugi served to emotively reinforce this theme, since he ate leftover food and washed the dishes in return.
One element of this anime I really enjoy is the procedure, the way the names are returned. It’s nice because, well, it isn’t a mahou-shoujo incantation or moe-transformation of sorts, but that both aspects of the performance fit nicely with each other – putting the paper in the mouth then exhaling as if it were a silent recital, a silent utterance. At least half of the ritual is silent, the actual returning of the name. The first half, however, does require some verbal spell of sorts to flip to the right page. Specifically, Natsume is required to chant “my guardian, reveal thy name unto me” in order to find the correct name – at least that’s the translation ainex has provided us with. Going back to the idea of guardians, referring to the spirits as such “guardians” may be, at first, somewhat paradoxical: why would a malignant thing that wants to devour you also be a guardian? Perhaps there are exceptions (don’t quote me on religion[s], ever), but I suspect that “guardian” has some wider implications and connotations that are linked to the nature of the Book of Friends and names within this particular anime.
I was sort of taken aback by the result of the name returning this episode: Susugi just kind of imploded in on himself in a grave, dark way, while Hishigaki and Tsuyukami both dissipated in a flash of multicolored sparkles after a sentimental flashback. I was originally tempted to say that the cause of this was due to Susugi being malevolent, while Hishigaki and Tsuyukami were benign, yet this isn’t a simple, black and white issue. In the first paragraph I separated spirits into two categories, as Natsume did – one that wanted the Book, and the other that wanted their name. Hishigaki may have seemed somewhat “evil”, but I think that, after seeing her flashback, she was in a course to set things straight, not to wreak any more havoc. The ambient divide between good and bad, power-seeking and right-setting sheds light on the relative absence of the antithesis or vilified antagonist – everyone has their own motives (we have yet to learn the history of the 2nd cyclops and the weird snake guy), it just depends on the viewpoint of the narrator and the willingness of the viewer to try and understand the hidden mentalities of each character to try and decipher the roles of everyone.
For a bit of late introductions I’ll just say that I’ve passed the THAT test – this piece was the one I emailed to Impz a few days ago and now I’ve been incorporated into one of the syndicate beasts of animeblogger.net. The  indicates that this is my fiftieth contribution to the aniblogosphere, maybe it’s like a personal signature of sorts. Anyway, I look forward to working with the authors of THAT and hope everything goes smoothly.