Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou 11: Youkai Groupies

Natsume gets invited by Natori to an exorcists' meeting....
EPISODE 11: Assembly of Conjurers
More Screencaps from Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou 11

Natsume is walking home with Touko-san when he notices a bird-man flying haphazardly in the sky. Realizing that the bird-man is hurt, Natsume excuses himself from Touko-san to go after it. He later finds the bird-man in the middle of the woods. But before Natsume could even do anything to help, a large demon head suddenly leaps out of nowhere and devours the bird-man, killing it instantly. Hiiragi arrives just then, and it soon becomes apparent that she has been chasing after the demon head.
Of course, since Hiiragi is present, Natori is there as well. Seeing Natsume, Natori hands him an invite to a Conjurer's Meeting. Natsume is interested in the event because he wants to know what it would be like to be among people who has the same ability as his. So the next day, he says goodbye to Touko-san and sets out for the woods. Natori has given him a map with an illustration of the youkai guide that would lead them to the place. Soon, the guide appears and Natsume, with Nyanko-sensei, follow him. Before they reach the place, they encounter two demons who act all friendly -- too friendly, in fact. But Natori, with Hiiragi, appear just then to warn them (the demons) about Natsume's powerful cat friend. The demons quickly realize that they are out of their league and leave.
After they are gone, Natsume turns to his friends to greet them. Hiiragi, however, has other ideas as she tells Natsume to strip. Naturally, the boy can't quite believe his ears, prompting Hiiragi to take matters into her own hands and start stripping Natsume's clothes for him. Of course, this gets her a nice a punch in the face from Natsume, who nevertheless apologizes for his action. It turns out that Hiiragi only wanted Natsume to take off his clothes so she can paint a seal on his chest to protect him. But considering Natsume's reaction, she settles for painting the seal on his arm instead, telling him matter-of-factly that if a youkai tries to eat him, at least his left arm would be safe.
The three of them soon find themselves inside a mansion in the middle of the woods that serves as the conjurer's meeting place. There, Natsume makes an uncomfortable discovery that he couldn't even tell youkai from humans. Then Natori gives him a mask in order to hide his identity. Just as he is putting this on for him though, a woman, with two retainers by her side, suddenly approach. Natori recognizes her as a secretary to the powerful Matsuda Clan.
It doesn't look like they get along very well but once Natsume is introduced, the Matsuda secretary recognizes his name almost immediately. Of course, she thinks Natsume is Reiko but after Natsume corrects the error, she tells him that although Reiko was very powerful, she seldom attended such a meeting. After their talk, the Matsuda secretary hands Natori a sealing jar to help him capture the demon head. Much later, Natsume finds out that the demon head has eaten a lot of youkai in the area, including even the exorcists' spirit servants. This is why the exorcists have all put out a bounty for its capture. Natsume suggests that they use Natori's paper trick to try to find the demon head.
At first, Natori does not think this is a good idea as his powers are not strong enough to accurately use the trick. But he quickly realizes that with Natsume's help, it might work. Sure enough, Natsume manages to trace the demon's location but in the ensuing fight, Hiiragi gets hurt. When the demon head turns to devour her, Natsume tries to protect her with his own body and ends up with his left arm inside the demon head's mouth. Fortunately, it is the arm with the youkai-protecting seal on it. He then punches the demon head hard, sending it flying out of the room. While Natsume recovers, Nyanko-sensei immediately transforms and chases after the demon head.
Natsume and Natori quickly follow, leaving Hiiragi behind. They end up in the woods where Natori immediately goes to work drawing a circle and placing the youkai-sealing jar in the middle of it. After saying a prayer, he and Natsume use their powers to seal the demon head inside the jar once and for all. However, as they are making their way back to the mansion, all of a sudden the youkai-sealing jar grows wings and starts flapping towards the roof where the Matsuda secretary and her retainers are waiting. She grabs the jar and thanks Natori for doing the hard work for her since the Matsuda Clan has been on the lookout for a powerful youkai to turn into a servant. She then reveals that the bird-man that Natsume met earlier once belonged to the Matsuda but was later sacrificed to be used as bait in order to capture a more powerful youkai.
Hearing this, Natsume shows his displeasure but the Matsuda secretary only warns him never to let youkai into his heart. After they are gone, Natori lays a hand on Natsume's hand in sympathy and even Nyanko-sensei tries to make feel better by saying that the Matsuda would have a hard time breaking Natsume's seal over that jar. In spite of this, Natsume realizes that even though he came to that place to find people like him, the people he met are actually the ones he should be afraid of, and more and more he feels that there is no one else he could trust with the Book of Friends. The next day, Natsume and Natori part ways once more. While Natori is walking away, Hiiragi asks him whether they have another mission from the Matsuda, thus revealing that Natori has been working for Matsuda all along.

A few days later, Natsume still hasn't gotten over his funk. On his way to school, he passes a group of neighborhood kids and unknown to him, a youkai carrying a large knife lurks in the shadows of the woods.

Yay, Natori and Hiiragi make another appearance and all I can say is, ohmygod, I was wrong about Natori becoming less shady. He still is. More so, he has utterly no conscience and does not think twice in using Natsume's misplaced trust on him in order to take advantage of the latter's stronger powers. This is the third time he has unwittingly used the boy to his own devices. I wonder when Natsume will figure him out.

Also, ohmygod, the sinister Matsuda Clan! I knew that woman was up to no good. Her eyes were too calculating. Fox-eyes, I call them, and I wasn't wrong. But Natsume should have figured it out since practically the first thing that the woman said when meeting them was whether the cat (Nyanko-sensei) was Natori's newest youkai servant. And the way she looked at Nyanko-sensei, you could practically hear the gears running inside her head. I mean, is that a normal thing to say when meeting someone for the first time after a long time? Even if you don't get along well with that someone, courtesy demands at least some semblace of civility, especially in Japanese society where directness is considered rude. Ah, but that woman was awesome. She had Natsume wrapped around her little finger after only two minutes, seeming to home in quickly on how much Natsume hungers for more stories about his erstwhile grandmother.

That aside, who here thought that scene with Hiiragi was hilarious? I swear, this characters cracks me up every time. First, there was that bath scene in Episode 3. And now this. What makes it even funnier is that Hiiragi just stoically takes it all in stride despite that silly mask.

All in all, this was a good episode. But I think the next one is going to be better. Taki's coming back! I say, it's always good to bring back the characters from previous episodes, especially the more likeable ones.

Speaking of which, whatever happened to Natori's other youkai servant? He had another one before Hiiragi started following him around. Hmm.
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