Friday, January 9, 2009

First Impression: Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou

Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou is the second season of the delightful 2008 series, Natsume Yuujin-chou (lit. "Natsume's Book of Friends"). I loved the first season, randomly picked though it was, so Zoku is one of my more anticipated series this winter. And I'll say this right now: the first episode does not disappoint.
EPISODE 01: Stolen Book of Friends
More Screencaps from Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou 01
OP: Ano hi Time Machine (LONG SHOT PARTY) [4shared | YouTube]
ED: Aishiteru (Kourin) [4shared] | [YouTube]

One thing you have to keep in mind about this series is that it capitalizes on subtlety and the slice-of-life approach. Because there is no driving plot to hurry the story along, audiences are often left to their own devices while the events unfold at their own leisurely pace. For some people, it can feel dragging, especially since nothing spectacular ever happens in any of the episodes. For others (like me), it's a break from the usual hectic stuff out there.

Natsume Yuujin-chou is about a boy, Natsume Takahashi, who can see spirits and is always alone because of it. From his deceased grandmother, Reiko, he inherits a strange book, containing the names of spirits that she defeated. However, not long after Natsume comes into possession of the book, spirits of all sizes and powers and dispositions start appearing around him.

Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou pretty much picks up where the first season left off. Not that there was anything to pick up, for that matter. The motivation is still the same: return the names in the book to their rightful owners. This is Natsume's self-appointed task and this is what he does every episode.

One might wonder how anyone could have made an entire series on that alone without being repititive. All I can say is: Watch the show.

Natsume isn't so much as what happens every episode but what you can get from it. Because the idea might be the same but it's a different experience every time and this is reflected by how a character develops (in Natsume's case) or how a character is revealed (in Nyanko-sensei and Reiko's cases).

Comedic moments exist, too (thanks to Nyanko-sensei's antics), as do action scenes though not too much, and there is virtually no drama. I've said it before, the series is close in tone and style to Mushi-shi but different in that in Natsume, the one who changes because of his encounters with the spirits is protagonist Natsume while in Mushi-shi, it is the people whom protagonist Ginko helps that changes.

As for production values, Brains' Base studio animated this series. They are the same guys who brought you shows like Baccano! and Kure-nai, both of which are big on action and plots that are practically on the run. While Natsume doesn't have a lot of those to offer, its character designs bear resemblances to those of the other two shows mentioned. They are not spectacular in any way but they work for the series.

All these can be readily observed in the first episode of the second season, of course, and I expect nothing less in the upcoming ones.

OFFICIAL (Hakusensha) (JPN)
Natsume Yuujin-chou @ Wikipedia
Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou @ ANN
WATCH Zoku Natsume Yuujin-chou Trailer @ YouTube