Natsume’s Book of Friends 5

February 11, 2012

Yuki Midorikawa – Viz – 2011 – 13+ volumes

This is my favorite volume of this series, and I have to say, it will be hard to surpass. There are three stories in this volume, all of them the same sort of quiet, enthralling monster encounters that show you just a bit more of Nyanko-sensei and Natsume every time. I also like that yokai are both good and bad in these stories. Sometimes bad, but misunderstood, other times simply evil, and sometimes they just want to be friends. They’re always just a little quirky, be they mermaids, gigantic monsters, or little guys that seem to scare everyone with their mustache. Chobi Mustache was my favorite in this volume, simply because he hung around far longer than necessary, and everyone screamed when they saw his face and adorable mustache.

The first story is about a mermaid and a little-girl-turned-old-woman. I’m fond of Japanese mermaid legends, and I was fairly excited when the story introduced the myth of mermaid flesh here, that one who consumes blood and flesh can live forever. It turns the story around, though, since the little girl asks for it for someone else, and then the mermaid turns it around one more time in the end. The moral of the story, though, is that once again lonely humans and yokai are finding each other, becoming friends, and parting. Leaving off on Nyanko-sensei and Natsume on the last pages of these stories is always a little hard to take.

The second story introduces Taki, a girl in Natsume’s class who can draw spell circles that, if yokai step into them, make them visible to her. This is also the story with Chobi Mustache, who comes into the story when he tries to get Natsume to convince Taki to stop drawing the spell circles. Chobi Mustache serves absolutely no purpose after that, but hangs around anyway and is more or less a friend by the end of the story. I love characters like Chobi Mustache, especially that they’re given cute nicknames like that due to the nature of the binding contract a yokai’s real name can make.

Anyway, Taki’s story is a sad one. A yokai that wandered into her circle one day cursed her so that, in a year’s time, the last 11 people whose names she’s called will be killed. She inadvertently calls Natsume’s name, so he’s drawn in to helping her find this yokai. The yokai is unrepentantly evil and human-hating, and at one point he blinds Natsume from seeing yokai. There’s a rather heartbreaking scene where Nyanko-sensei transforms into his yokai form, and the two of them sit in Natsume’s room, Natsume unable to see him and Nyanko-sensei remaining silent. Anyway, both Taki and Chobi Mustache come out the other end of this story as reoccurring characters.

The third story is about the couple Natsume lives with, specifically his uncle. The house is cursed by a yokai, and his uncle reveals that the strange “hauntings” have happened before, and when he was younger, a lonely, eccentric girl (who is almost certainly Reiko Natsume, the owner of the Book of Friends) put a stop to it. Natsume still can’t tell the couple about what he sees, for fear of being ostracized once again, but he does want to protect them from the yokai that haunts their house. Again, it’s a good story, but also a little sad, a little touching, and it develops the relationship between Natsume and the couple just a little bit more. It was also really nice to see Reiko Natsume in action, after hearing so much about her. She’s also a sad, lonely person, but doesn’t show it too much in this story.

There’s a short story at the end of the book that re-introduces Tanuma, the priest/classmate that can also sense Yokai. Tanuma tries to get closer to Natsume in this story, but makes the observation that what Natsume sees means that he lives in a world that is completely separate from the one everyone else lives in, and one that Natsume isn’t willing to open up about to other humans. It somehow makes Natsume an even sadder character, but it’s nice that so many humans and yokai are now in his circle of friends, most of them exactly like Tanuma, wanting to simply be there for him.

It’s a beautiful series, and this volume is just about the best example of why. I love that more and more characters are coming in and out of the story now, and yet there aren’t too many to remember. They are simply people, and we don’t have to remember their entire backstory, or really, anything about them. They are simply friends. As are the yokai.

One Response to “Natsume’s Book of Friends 5”

  1. I found that story with Taki a lot scarier than most of the previous stuff. There was something about that flat-out evil yokai that was just a bit terrifying. Another great volume.

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