Monday, February 9, 2009

Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou 05: The Sea According to Reiko

Natsume meets a youkai boy to whom Reiko promised to return his name after fifty years. But with the contract tied to a certain tree in the forest and the huge time-gap, can Natsume even find it? And why did Reiko tie it up on the tree instead of placing it among all the other contracts in the Book of Friends?
EPISODE 05: Tree of Promises
More Screencaps from Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou 05

Natsume is hanging out with Kitamoto and Nishimura when he suddenly notices a boy staring at him. The boy turns out to be yet another youkai who has mistaken Natsume for Reiko. After clearing up this one little tangle, Natsume sets about returning the boy's name but is surprised to find that it's not in the Book of Friends. The boy, Kirinoha, then reveals that his name is not in the Book since Reiko tied it up on the branch of a tree in the forest.
Not long after, Natsume and Nyanko-sensei set out for the forest. On their way there, Kirinoha relates his meeting with Reiko. Apparently, she told him that he should not go to the sea because it might swell up and destroy everything in its path. Kirinoha, of course, believed every word but Natsume and Nyanko-sensei know better: Reiko was just teasing him. Just then, Tanuma spots them (Natsume and Nyanko-sensei) heading to the forest.
Once in the forest, Natsume asks Kirinoha if he knows which tree Reiko tied the contract to. But Kirinoha can't quite remember because it has been fifty years since then and he hasn't come back to check on the tree. At the mention of the period, Natsume realizes that what they are looking for is a big tree indeed. Nyanko-sensei suggests that they go home, considering that the contract must still be safe if Kirinoha is still alive. But Natsume insists to search some more. At that moment, Tanuma appears, bringing Sasada, Kitamoto and Nishimura to help with the search. Hinoe, who is summoned by Nyanko-sensei, also joins in. However, before they could find the contract, Natsume suddenly faints.
The next moment, Touko is informing Natsume's friends that he (Natsume) has a fever and is currently resting. That evening, Kirinoha, Hinoe and Nyanko-sensei all stay in Natsume's room, keeping vigil. Kirinoha feels bad about what happened and apologizes for it. Hinoe is not having any of it, however, saying that Natsume has done all this for him. She also adds that even though Natsume isn't very good at relating to others, he would do anything to help them. This trait of his actually reminds her of Reiko. Saying this, Hinoe remembers her first meeting with Reiko.
That day, Hinoe was hanging out by herself in the forest when Reiko came to ask her for directions. But upon realizing that Reiko is human, Hinoe decided to play a trick on her. Reiko, however, has long realized that Hinoe is youkai, much to the latter's chagrin. To save face, she tried to scare Reiko by threatening to eat her but, far from being scared, Reiko merely warned her about the crows flocking above her head. The crows succeeded in stealing Hinoe's hairpin but after hearing that the object was precious to her (Hinoe), Reiko took it back. However, instead of just giving the hairpin back to her, Reiko held on to it until Hinoe showed her the real way out of the forest. It is at this moment, Hinoe claims, that she fell in love.
After Hinoe's story, Kirinoha reveals another important piece to the puzzle that is Reiko: he says that he once mentioned that he wants to see the sea, but since he can't leave the forest, it seems an impossible dream. Reiko thus described the sea for him but unfortunately added several embellishments, which Kirinoha did not know at the time. Realizing that Reiko has tricked him again, Kirinoha wonders if she is just mean. But Natsume, who is listening, asks him if he really thinks that. Kirinoha can't answer. The next day, everyone is relieved to find that Natsume has gotten well and that the tree has finally been found. Natsume gets Kirinoha to climb the tree and get the contract himself. The contract is found at the topmost branch and once Kirinoha reaches it and looks around him he sees the sea in the distance.

I find it interesting how Reiko's character is revealed by how other characters in the story remember her. It's just bits and pieces but every single one reveals how awesome and kick-ass she is (and how golden-hearted and just a little bit mean-spirited). Natsume so has nothing against her.

Some recurring characters: Tanuma, Sasada and of course Kitamoto and Nishimura, though their roles are neglible in this episode, and probably just added there to lend it some continuity. Hinoe is also a recurring character, I think. Anyway, her antics with Nyanko-sensei made this episode that much more enjoyable.

This episode isn't special in any way and I'd probably forget it in the long run. What made this enjoyable, apart from the usual restrained melodrama that seems to be the staple of this anime show, is the return of several first season characters. I do want to see more of the spirits from earlier episodes, if only to drop by and visit the person who helped free them.

Oh, and Nyanko-sensei is really warming up to Natsume. Also, what is up with Tanuma? I'm sensing gay vibes from him.
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