Natsume’s Book of Friends 3

January 31, 2012

Yuki Midorikawa – Viz – 2010 – 13+ volumes

It has been forever since the last time I red this series, which is a disservice to Natsume’s Book of Friends, because it’s awesome. I had forgotten just how good it was, but luckily the short stories in the volume reminded me.

This is still mostly one-shot stories, with not a whole lot of overarching plot to tie things together. In this volume, Natsume attends a youkai drinking party, helps a human/yokai pair of admirers, attends an exorcist meeting with Natori, and nurtures a Tatsumi chick to adulthood. All of the stories lean heavily on folkloric themes, and all are pretty involved, yet wonderfully told stories in and of themselves. It’s hard for me to believe how much story I’ve read by the time I reach the ending. The human/yokai lovers story was my favorite in the volume, and it feels detailed enough to have made up the entire volume.

The theme of the stories is usually that Natsume is involved in some sort of trouble due to his book of friends, though by the end of the volume the stories are more about his own powers and how youkai are now drawn to him for reasons outside the book. The themes of friendship are still paramount as well. Natsume’s grandmother Reiko made the book of friends because her ability to see youkai had alienated her from humans. She had to bully youkai and bind them to her in order to have any friends of her own. Natsume’s working on freeing the youkai, but along the way, he usually works hard to help struggling youkai the best he can. The first story, about the youkai drinking party, is actually a story about the forest youkai wanting to destroy local humans in revenge for capturing their leader, and Natsume helps the leader to show them the error of their ways. Later, Natsume does all he can to help the lonely youkai he finds glowing near a swamp with a lone young man who visits regularly. He makes friends of the youkai in both instances, rather than bullying them like Reiko did. He also seems to be fitting in with the outside world more and more, since we see snippets of his human friends at the story beginnings quite often.

I also like the friendship between Natsume and Nyanko. It’s an implied master/servant relationship, but neither of them seem to fit either role. Nyanko protects Natsume and doesn’t ask anything in return, and seems reluctant to explain himself to other youkai. I like that Natsume has one hard and fast ally that can be with him whenever he needs it. I’m looking forward to seeing this develop further. It’s easy to like really strong bonds like theirs, and I’m hoping an overarching plot develops where their friendship is front and center. They make good youkai helping partners.

I’m several volumes behind on this, and I’m looking forward to the catch-up I’m going to be doing starting now. It’s good stuff, and I love the folklore and fantasy themes, as well as the quiet stories that seem to be slowly developing the characters and introducing new ones. Every plot has been interesting so far, and I’m looking forward to what more it can deliver.

One Response to “Natsume’s Book of Friends 3”

  1. This is such a lovely series. It’s sort of quietly and sadly engaging, and you don’t notice the slow burn character changes until several volumes later. Real people don’t change as quickly as they often have to when being poured into the manga story mold, so it’s nice to see a story that really takes its time and enjoys itself along the way.

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