Natsume’s Book of Friends 10

May 24, 2012

Yuki Midorikawa – Viz – 2012 – 13+ volumes

I had to follow up Kamisama Kiss with a volume of this. Both of them are quite good, though admittedly this one is the better series. I like Kamisama Kiss because I’m a romance junkie, but Natsume’s Book of Friends is an engaging story about lonely outsider Natsume connecting with those around him, both yokai and people, and making his world a bigger and better place. Sometimes there’s commentary about which of the two is actually more monstrous, but most of the time, it’s about Natsume slowly learning to rely on others and not be such an outsider. Seeing yokai caused him to be ostracized all his life, but he’s slowly embracing his gift, and making friends with both yokai and humans. It’s a sweet story, and I love the episodic nature.

This volume has two stories in it. The first is about an old classmate of Natsume’s who comes back and threatens to tell his new friends he’s an oddball unless he helps him with a problem. He wants to know if the girl he’s fallen in love with at the park is a yokai. Natsume thinks she’s human at first, but soon realizes she’s a hungry yokai that plans on eating his former classmate. The problem is, since he’s already pronounced judgement, his classmate calls him a liar, as he did in elementary school when Natsume could see yokai. Plus, the former classmate is in love. Natsume now has to think of a way to stop him from getting eaten by the yokai.

The second story is about a festival held between the god of the harvest and the god of pestilence every ten years in a particular region. But the god of the harvest hasn’t shown up, and the local yokai recruit Natsume to stand in and fool the god of pestilence and try to win the festival. If the god of pestilence wins, the region’s crops will fail for the next 10 years. The exorcist Natori is also hired to supervise the festival by interested parties, but his job is to exorcise the god of pestilence if the god of the harvest doesn’t win. He doesn’t want to exorcise a god, and tries his best to help Natsume win the festival so that the harvest god can prevail.

The art in this volume was quite good. I loved the costume designs on the gods of pestilence and harvest, and the front cover shows off Natsume in the harvest god costume. There were also some choice moments between Nyanko-sensei and Natsume, including one where Nyanko-sensei protects Natsume in the face of the god of pestilence, knowing that he won’t be able to win. Their friendship really is the best thing about this series, and Nyanko-sensei is my favorite character. And I love that the stories in this volume have soft edges. The first one starts out with the former classmate, who appears to be vicious and out to ruin Natsume’s new life, but by the end of the story the two have bonded, in a way. Same with the festival storyline. It turns dark for a second towards the end, but like many of the large-scale yokai stories, has a happy and very fanciful ending. In addition to capturing the spirit of friendship, Midorikawa is also great at capturing the spirit of the moment.

Basically, it’s still great. I’m not tired of the formula, and watching Natsume grow and change little by little is still a fun ride. I’m along for however many more volumes of these short stories Midorikawa sees fit to draw, but part of me is also curious about how this will end, too. Maybe it will just stop, and that would be fine. But in the meantime, I’m going to savor every single page.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

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