Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou 06: Signs

Someone's been making strange magic circles near the banks of a river and it's causing a ruckus among the youkai in the area. In school, one of Natsume's friends has a crush on a new girl from another class....
EPISODE 06: The Maiden's Circle
More Screencaps from Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou 06

Nishimura is crushing on a certain girl in another class so he drags Natsume and Kitamoto to her classroom so they can introduce themselves. However, upon hearing Natsume's name, the girl suddenly runs away. Later that day, Natsume, while looking for Nyanko-sensei, discovers a strange magic circle on the ground. Not far away is the same girl whom he met in school. Upon seeing him, the girl mentions Natsume's name, causing her to run away once more, much to Natsume and Nyanko-sensei's puzzlement.
That evening, Natsume could not sleep so he goes to check the window, only to find a youkai looking back at him from the outside. It says that it will give Natsume three hundred sixty days to win a "game" and if he doesn't win and three hundred and sixty days have passed, it will eat him. Natsume wakes up the next morning to find that it is just a dream. However, while he is brushing his teeth in front of the mirror, he sees curse marks on his chest for a brief instant before they disappear. Touko passes by just then and sees him studying his reflection in the mirror. She teases him about it to Natsume's great embarrassment.
When Natsume comes back to his room, he is surprised by the presence of a youkai there. Apparently, the youkai has made it past the barrier that Nyanko-sensei created and it has come to ask for Natsume's help concerning the magic circles near the riverbanks. It seems that youkai who come to stand inside the magic circle become visible to humans while they are in the circle, a phenomenon which is causing some problems for the resident youkai in the area. Natsume deduces that the girl from his school is the culprit but why she is doing it is the real question.
Natsume, Nyanko-sensei and the big-faced, moustached youkai go to the riverbank area and sure enough they find the girl there, busy making another magic circle. Natsume calls out to her and again, by accident, the girl mentions Natsume's name. At this slip, she covers her mouth and starts running away once more. But with Nyanko-sensei's help, Natsume manages to catch up to her this time. The girl sees Nyanko-sensei upclose and falls head over heels for him as it turns out she has a weakness for cute things.
Later, the girl introduces herself as Taki and admits that she has been making the magic circles. She reveals that she comes from an onmyouji family and that it was her grandfather who taught her how to make the magic circles. She does not have the natural ability to see youkai but with the help of the magic circles, she is able to see them. One day, she finds a particularly nasty youkai inside her circle and this youkai threatened to eat her if she can't find him again within three hundred and sixty days. In addition, the youkai has also threatened to eat the first 13 people whose names she mentions. Because of this, Taki has tried not to talk at all but has accidentally called out many people's names, Natsume included. She asks for Natsume's help, having heard from a youkai that he can see these creatures.
Back at home, Natsume has dinner with Touko, whose talkativeness helps him realize just how troubled Taki must have been, forcing herself not to talk all this time. Later, he checks his body in the mirror again and find that the curse marks are still there. In school and after school, Natsume and Taki are spending more time together. Taki continues to make magic circles in the hopes of capturing the youkai in it. Meanwhile, Natsume contacts his youkai acquaintances for some clue about the nasty youkai's whereabouts. However, none of them have a clue.
Natsume later meets up with Nishimura and Kitamoto. Nishimura, who is under the illusion that Taki is his girlfriend, is particularly devastated to find out that Natsume has been hanging out with her. Natsume tries to settle the misunderstanding but before he could even get a word out, Nishimura runs off, with Kitamoto fast after him. With the two gone, Natsume and Nyanko-sensei continue to the lake to try to look for the youkai there. While watching Nyanko-sensei play in the water, Natsume feels a strange presence coming from behind him. Moments later, Nyanko-sensei finally returns, only to find Natsume gone.

I must admit, the youkai outside the window scared me for the whole of five seconds. Seriously, that was some scary shit. Apart from that, though, I have nothing much to say about this episode. That's pretty much how I feel about every episode of Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou so far. I don't know if it's because I am watching an unprecedented number of titles this season (a total of ten, not counting the ones I sporadically watch). A lot of the shows have a lot more going on than this supernatural fantasy that, unfortunately, still hasn't gotten past its monster-of-the-week storytelling approach.

Or maybe it could be that the material is becoming stale. It was alright with a single 13-episode season, especially when you watch the entire thing in one go. But to have to go through pretty much the same thing for another 13 episodes seems kind of pointless to me.

Then again, on the bright side, this episode promises something at least a little bigger than what we've been shown so far: it's an actual plot arc and not just a nod at continuity. This could be good. What it irks me a little is how it had to take another new character to create this faux conflict. I mean, couldn't they have utilized one of the existing side characters already? Especially when they didn't even bother to explain how this girl came to be in the same school as Natsume without his being even aware of it. I mean, has she always been there? Or did the storyteller pull her out of hammerspace?

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