Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou 02: Monster Rabbit

Natsume meets a guardian spirit who wants him to help seal a demon.
EPISODE 02: Melting Snow
More Screencaps from Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou 02

The episode begins with a dream of Natsume when he is still a boy and the butt of everyone's jokes. He wakes up later to find that he has actually fallen asleep in the middle of class and his professor is standing over him. On his way home later, Natsume finds Nyanko-sensei taunting a neighbor's dog. When, Nyanko-sensei takes an accidental fall and hurts in the process, Natsume finds himself dragged to the woods, looking for herbs. Instead of herbs, however, what they find is a spirit guardian who at first tries to possess Natsume but ends up with the wrong body: it enters a snowbunny.
The spirit introduces itself as Gen and he says that he used to have a companion, Sui, but that she broke. He adds that there is a demon that he wants to seal with Natsume's help. The ever helpful Natsume agrees and brings Gen to his home. That night, Natsume dreams Gen's dream about Sui.
The next day, Natsume finds out from some friends in school about the location of the Demon Tree where Gen's demon is sealed. He then comes home to the sight of Gen in his almost-true form. Gen says that he must find the demon before his body melts. At this, Nyanko-sensei expresses only delight at finally being rid of him. Natsume then gets into a little fight with him, prompting Gen to go "awww" at them, which of course prompts more fighting between the two. Then, they go to the site of the Demon Tree, only to find a really old house there. They enter the house and Natsume gets almost attacked by a demonized Sui. With Gen's help, Natsume escapes harm but Sui, as a result, escapes from the sealed area.
According to Gen, he and Sui loved humans. At one point, they even tried to use their own life force in an attempt to bring good harvest to the humans' farms. But because they are merely spirit-guardians whose duty is to protect and not to bring good harvest, their intervention did not work. The humans got angry with them and they took Sui's statue and threw it down the cliff. Sui got so consumed by rage and hatred that she turned into a demon and attacked the men of the village. Eventually, the humans sealed Sui in the Demon Tree and since then Gen has been alone.
Natsume and Nyanko-sensei spend the next few days asking around for Sui's location to no avail. That evening, Natsume wakes up to Gen, trying to choke the life out of him. A drunken Nyanko-sensei arrives just in time to warn him that Gen is starting to turn into a demon. Apparently, Gen's feelings of sadness and loneliness are making him turn bad. With his last ounce of sanity, Gen begs Natsume to write down his name on the Book of Friends and burn the page afterwards to end his life. But Natsume refuses to do this and instead reminds Gen of his promise to help him find Sui.
As if on cue, Natsume's retarded demon friends show up to tell him the news of Sui's whereabouts. The three of them -- Natsume, Gen and Nyanko-sensei -- quickly make their way to the forest. Once there, however, Sui again tries to attack Natsume. Gen, in his snowbunny form, gets blown away, forcing Natsume to stop Sui on his own. He does this by grabbing on to her and never letting go even as he gets burned in the process. Nyanko-sensei transforms into his true form and attempts to attack Sui, but Gen, also in true form, rescues her. With Sui now in Gen's arms, she slowly regains her true self and finally remembers Gen. She returns to her old form and she and Gen disappear right in front of Natsume's eyes. In the following days, Natsume returns to the clearing and plants flowers there.

Probably the only episode of Natsume Yuujin-chou where Natsume isn't tasked to return someone's name. In fact, the Book of Friends barely received a heads-up.

This episode was quite funny:

  1. Nyanko-sensei's antics with the dog
  2. "Dammit! It's the wrong body!"
  3. "Can I eat the snow cone?"
  4. "Nyanko-sensei ~" "Natsume ~"

But I don't really like it that much. It felt kind of bland. It tried so hard to be melodramatic that it just struck me as merely gratuitous. The only scene that came across well was that part where Snowbunny Gen slept with the snowbunny that Natsume's fake mom made and how in the morning, the snowbunny melted because it was too small. That pretty much summarized the loneliness that Gen was feeling as well as a direct reference to the rather tragic outcome of Gen and Sui's relationship.

I'm hoping the next episode is better.

I wonder if most episodes of Natsume Yuujin-chou are actually like this. Because I watched the entire Season One straight in one day so it might be that the momentum of one great episode carried over to the next less-than-great one and so on and so forth, so that my memory of the series as being in the Awesome Department might actually not be that accurate. Oh well, only one way to find out: continue watching.