I don’t know why this wasn’t my first review – Natsume’s Book of Friends is probably one of my all time favorite series.
If you’re interested in Japanese mythology, monster hunter stories, or spirit friendship, the Book of Friends is the show for you. Consisting of vignettes and short story arcs, this slice of life, bittersweet, feel good anime is the perfect watch for rainy days or when you’re feeling down. It does get quite sad at times, but the tone is often hopeful – adoption and found families are a main theme, as is self acceptance and moving on.
While most often whimsical and melancholy, it does sometimes turn dark, as happens when a majority of the cast are, in fact, a kind of monster. The creepy episodes are wonderfully creepy – still light on the deep horror and violence most exorcist or monster hunter shows indulge in, but are just frightening enough to give off pervasive horror vibes.
Human frailty and mortality are heavy themes that Natsume manages to communicate well without hammering down death as a constant presence. It’s mostly life and learning how to live as a human that is highlighted. Most episodes are liminal – neither entirely entrenched in the spirit realm nor stuck on the human side of the fence – and the delicate balance between is where the protagonist lies.
Natsume feels distinctly like a show that the viewer is meant to learn from, where the lessons on morality and kindness are both lighthearted and subtle.
The sixth season is currently airing, a movie was confirmed recently, and the manga is still on going, so there is plenty of content to weep over. Chronological order is like this: Natsume Yuujinchou, Zoku Natsume Yūjin-chō, Natsume Yūjin-chō San, Natsume Yūjin-chō Shi, Natsume Yūjin-Chō Go, and lastly, Natsume Yūjin-chō Roku.