Natsume’s Book of Friends 7
February 25, 2012
Yuki Midorikawa – Viz – 2011 – 13+ volumes
This volume contains a darker story arc where Natsume meets with the exorcist Matoba. Matoba is unlike a lot of what we’ve seen from this series before. There have been very few actually evil yokai in Natsume’s various one-off encounters, and even the ill-tempered ones can almost always be reasoned with or vanquished with the right amount of effort. But Matoba is human, and he uses yokai to do his bidding and fight against/kill other yokai for his own personal gain. Having never come up against a human like this before, Natsume is at a loss as to how Matoba can be so powerful and care so little for other beings.
The plot is something along the lines of Matoba capturing Natsume and trying to learn more about him, or use him to awaken a very powerful and very evil yokai. Nyanko-sensei, Natori, and even other yokai that Natsume has barely just met advise him to stay away from Matoba, but Natsume can’t help but investigate, and he winds up in a position that leaves him vulnerable to Matoba finding out about the book of friends.
There’s an awesome moment at the end of this story where Matoba begins attacking both Nyanko-sensei and Natsume, and Nyanko-sensei loses himself for a minute and begins attacking blindly while injured in order to avenge Natsume. Natsume is the only one that can calm him down. The confrontation between them is brief, and wordless, but nonetheless extremely powerful. The bond between those two is one of my favorite things about this series, and I live for moments like those. It was wonderful.
In case this storyline is too dark for you, there’s a cute story at the end where all the yokai that Natsume has befriended play shadow tag. It’s a cute story, since the size discrepancies between them make for easy prey and excellent hunters. But it’s also nice to see Natsume having fun with his yokai friends, and seeing just how many he’s accumulated over the course of the series.
Natsume’s Book of Friends appears to be going darker places lately, but I don’t mind since the quiet character moments that made it great at the beginning are still in full force here. Plus, I like the longer, more involved plots, and I like the emerging themes that humans can be just as cruel as the yokai “monsters,” and Midorikawa seems to balance the darker stories well with much cheerier side stories. I’ve become a big fan of this series lately.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.