Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou 09: Springtime Friends

Natsume buys a painting of cherryblossom trees but ends up getting more than what he's bargained for....
EPISODE 09: The Man Amidst the Rows of Cherry Trees
More Screencaps from Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou 09

Natsume's town is holding some sort of flea market sale so off he goes to buy something for his foster parents. While there, he discovers a strange painting of cherryblossom trees, which the owner gives to him for free. The painting turns out to be hiding something.
The day after he hung the painting in his room, he wakes up to find flower petals all over the floor. The same thing happens for the next few days until Natsume figures out that it might be caused by youkai. So he decides to stay up one night in order to catch the youkai in the act. Sure enough, that night he discovers a youkai hiding in the ceiling of his room. This youkai tosses flower petals at him and has been doing it for the past few nights. Nyanko-sensei immediately comes to the rescue and attacks it, only to get creamed by Natsume.
It turns out that the youkai used to know a friend who somehow ended up trapped inside Natsume's painting. The painting had been with the youkai all this time until a human allegedly stole it from her. Eventually, the painting ended up in Natsume's hands and the youkai has since been following Natsume, waiting for a time to get back the painting. However, when she tries to take the painting off the wall, it wouldn't come off, leaving her no choice but to return every night until the day she can finally take it back. Before leaving that evening, she tells Natsume her name: Miya.
True to her promise, Miya returns to Natsume's room every day. At one point, she even brings Natsume a present of two blue butterflies in gratitude for his putting up with her. Miya also tells him about how she met Yasaka, the man in the painting. Apparently, she met him a long time ago when Yasaka used to spend his time reading underneath some cherryblossom trees. But because Miya was afraid to show him her real nature, she hid herself behind the cherryblossoms while talking with him. The two became friends who only talked during the springtime. And then, one spring day, Yasaka did not return and since then, Miya has been waiting for the day she can talk to her friend again.
Miya learns later that a youkai had made a painting of cherryblossom trees that are not however in bloom. To Miya's surprise, the painting has captured Yasaka amidst the trees. Because of this, she takes the painting for herself and travels the world with it, still waiting for the day when she can talk to him again. As days pass, Natsume gets sicker and sicker. A traveling youkai he encounters tells him that it can see a tree growing out of Natsume's corpse. Before Natsume could find out more, however, Touko-chan appears and hears Natsume talking to apparently no one. Fortunately, Natsume comes up with a quick lie, allaying her suspicions for the moment.
When Natsume returns to his room, he discovers that the branches from the painting from spread across the walls of his room. It is then that he realizes that the painting has been sucking his life energy, which is why he is getting sick. Nyanko-sensei immediately transforms into his true form in order to destroy the painting but Natsume stops him right before he collapses.
Some days later, Miya visits Natsume in his room to say that the painting has been in her possession for so long that it began to acquire spiritual energy. She resolves to destroy it herself in order to save Natsume but he only says to wait awhile. Eventually, Miya comes up with the idea of adding flowers to the painting. Natsume and Nyanko-sensei even help her with it and as soon as the painting is finished, Natsume collapses once more. He dreams that he is inside the painting and is seeing Yasaka amid the cherryblossom trees in full bloom with Miya, whose mask has finally come off. Since that day, he never sees Miya again and he wonders if Miya eventually told Yasaka that she is youkai.

OHMYGOD, so The Grudge! LOL, except that she's got a smiley face, which somehow makes it even creepier. Ahahahah, but thankgod Nyanko-sensei did that antic before I even had time enough to get really scared.

Again, a wholly standalone episode but the disconnect is not palpable because Natsume is slowly but surely developing and his relationship with the people around him, especially Touko-chan, likewise seem to be heading towards a certain direction. I wonder if eventually the show is going there -- with Natsume revealing all his secrets and getting acceptance in spite of them -- but that probably won't be the case, at least, it won't happen this season.

What is clear from this episode is how very closely Natsume identifies himself with the youkai that he meets, close enough for him to acknowledge that some of them are like him. The good thing about it is that Natsume does not cower from this realization and instead tries to understand the youkai and help them in the hopes of understanding himself more and perhaps finding a way to go past his own self-imposed limitations. It's a good attitude to have.