Natsume’s Book of Friends 11

September 24, 2012

Yuki Midorikawa – Viz – 2012 – 14+ volumes

This series is just so charming and touching, I don’t think I could ever get tired of it. And that’s putting aside the fact I generally like folklore-y stories like this.

My favorite part of this volume was a story about Natsume’s past, where he goes back to visit the house he lived in with his mother before she passed away. He struggles with whether or not he should even go back to see it, and there’s a story involving the family he lived with nearby immediately after his mother died. Of course he left after behaving eccentrically due to a yokai, and the same one gives him trouble when he returns for a visit. This time, though, it threatens the family, and of course he needs to find a way to exorcise it without acting too crazy in public.

The story really does a good job balancing his struggle with this. It’s utterly tragic that he always tries to do the right thing and is ostracized as a kid who simply misbehaves or is of unsound mind. It’s terribly bittersweet in this way, and I find this to be much more touching than the occasional reminder that Natsume and Nyanko-sensei will have to part ways some day, as many of the yokai they meet part with their human companions.

The first story in this volume is about that, actually. Natsume and Tanuma happen to stumble across the large, rambling residence of Taki. Taki and Tanuma are Natsume’s two classmates that know he can see spirits, and sympathize with him. Taki’s house is currently being ransaked by a particularly vengeful and dangerous spirit, which Natsume has to clear out. This is pretty par for the course, but of course his friends who can’t see are here to support him this time. And there’s a sub-story about Taki’s grandfather, who couldn’t see spirits but loved them anyway. He attracted many to his house, and it’s the love of these yokai for Taki’s grandfather that really save the day in this one. So this was a double whammy of bittersweetness, in that it was about both Natsume’s ability to see yokai and how it does (or in this case, didn’t) make him an outsider, and about the impermanence of life. It’s beautiful.

And Midorikawa does such a good job with the yokai designs. I don’t really talk about that enough, but they are always very distinctive-looking, even the one shot characters. In this one, the vengeful spirit was a large kimono that had to collect skeletal body parts in order to gain its full powers. The friendly yokai were small, mask-wearing folk of various appearances. It’s a wonderful touch, and one of my favorite things about this series.

All of it’s wonderful, though. I really care about all the characters, and I love the one-shot stories in every volume. It’s probably one of the best shoujo manga running right now, and I hope it’s making its way into the hands of those who will appreciate it.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

One Response to “Natsume’s Book of Friends 11”

  1. I love this series, too. It’s truly fantastic. The bit about deciding whether to go “home” and what he can remember of his parents had me crying. And I agree that the story where he has to interact with the family he stayed with before is heart-breaking. As the readers following the story, we know his side and what he sees and has to deal with, but it’s true that, to people who can’t see, his behavior is abnormal, and that would be hard to deal with. (It makes me love his current family even more.) I like that this series allows for that piece of reality to stand in its fantasy world.

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