Tuesday, January 3, 2012

FIRST LOOK: Natsume Yuujin-chou Shi

I caught this one quite by accident. Oh, I know this is on my 2012 Winter Anime Short List but remember my anime malaise? Yeah that. Anyhoo, how did this accident happen? I was doing a favor for a friend who is well on the way to being obsessed with all things Shibasaki Kou and somehow I wandered over to TokyoTosho for some PVs of said actress/singer when I came upon this unexpectedly: Natsume Yuujin-chou Shi. I had no idea it was even starting. Oh well, I guess that officially kicks off the 2012 Winter season. Hello!

Natsume Yuujin-chou Shi is the fourth installment of this popular series about a boy who inherits a powerful book from his eccentric grandmother and a cat-pig bodyguard who wants nothing more than to get its paws on said book in order to gain its powers. The series started out as a monster-a-week offering with a lot of character development for our main protagonist, Natsume Takahashi, before evolving into a subtle punch-in-the-gut drama. Now, with some of the dramatic issues resolved and Takahashi comes into himself more and more, the series shifts its focus to something that resembles an actual plot.

The first episode of Natsume Yuujin-chou Shi spends the first few minutes orienting viewers into the show as we're told how Natsume has changed from the lonely, fearful boy who hated youkai into a young man with a number of close friends, a loving foster family and youkai who seem more like friends now than sources of fear and annoyance. However, this being a series that's partly about youkai, it's not long before we meet our first youkai in the form of an old man asking Natsume to rescue his friend whose leg is trapped under a rock. After rendering his assistance, Natsume is also tasked to return said youkai's name. This proves to be a big mistake on Natsume's part as masked forest youkai have been observing the encounter and see with their own eyes the powerful Book of Friends. Together, they attack Natsume but he is saved at the last minute by Nyanko-sensei. All seems well but the next day, Natsume is again attacked by the same masked youkai. In an effort to lure them away from the public eye, Natsume runs into the woods where he is overtaken by the youkai and rendered unconscious.

Meanwhile, Nyanko-sensei asks around about the masked youkai and he is told that they live in a forest where the line between youkai and humans has been blurred. They probably want the Book of Friends in order to gain an upper hand with other rival youkai. Armed with this knowledge, Nyanko-sensei goes to said forest just in time to facilitate Natsume's escape from the masked youkai. However, in trying to escape from them, they and one of the masked youkai stumble into a trap set by the leader of the Matoba Clan. Natsume ends up a prisoner of the Matoba's secret youkai hunting base, a mansion deep in the heart of the forest.

This was an OK episode. It's exciting in a generic way. Matoba is definitely a villain and I can't help but feel a bit worried for Natsume, but I know he'll come out on top. I wonder if Natori is going to show up to save the day. The OP theme was so-so. The ED theme is, as usual for the Natsume series, INCREDIBLE. I love it already. But as for the story, not too excited. Then again, I expected this initial reaction to this particular series. Here's to hoping it gets better next week.