Vitals Natsume Yuujinchou
T.V. Series; 13 Episodes
July 7th, 2008 to August 29th 2008
Genre: comedy, drama, supernatural
Original Creator: Yuki Midorikawa
Production Studio : Brains Base, NAS
Natsume Takashi has just moved in to his new home. Ever since his parents died he was thrown around, from relative to relative. His ability made him abnormal and unwanted, his ability to see spirits or “youkai”. He finds out that he is just like his deceased grandmother, Reiko, who left him a book filled with names, a Book of Friends. Each of those names is a binding contract formed with a different spirit. Natsume sets out to free the very spirits his grandmother had put chains.
Natsume Takashi voiced by Hiroshi Kamiya
A simple, if somewhat naïve school boy, Natsume tries to balance the two worlds he’s part of. He constantly struggles to find meaning in his relationships with youkai and humans, trying to find intimacy in both. Hiroshi Kamiya delivers a decent performance. His voice is in tune with the spring-time peacefulness that permeates throughout the piece.
Madara voiced by Kazuhiko Inoue
A cat spirit that was bound by Reiko over fifty years before serves as a bodyguard to Natsume, vowing to take his Book of Friends when he dies. He is often sarcastic, pretending to be ambivalent to Natsume and his actions. Madara serves as bastion of knowledge for the spirit world though often he is reluctant to share. Kazuhiko Inoue delivers an outstanding performance, capturing the rustic wisdom of Madara. He is at the subtle voice inflections that can change a statement from comedic to somber.
Natsume Yuujinchou doesn’t offer anything new when it comes to both the supernatural and slice-of-life genres. It’s slow pacing and inspirational commentary is reminiscent of Aria. Some aspects may not be relatable to average viewer’s life. Not many of us have the ability to see spirits, and even fewer have them enslaved by a family heirloom. But strangely the miracles can be tied to our everyday lives, which any good slice of life should be able to accomplish.
No heartbeats alone in the world. There are thin threads that connect all of us, moments that our collective conscious can return to. Natsume Yuujinchou aims to teach the value of relationships, not only as essential to happiness, but essential to stability of the human soul, whether it is with humans, or something inextricable and unexplainable.
The entire world of Natsume is seems to be filled in with watercolors. All the colors are a bit muted and works well with the innocent atmosphere the anime wants to create. The music is appropriate as well. The character design is nothing amazing for the humans, but youkai are very interesting to look at, inspired by animals. The animation is nothing amazing but its passable, characters moves smoothly and the few action scenes that do occur are move quickly and seem otherworldly.
Natsume Yuujinchou, is summer’s road trip in a Chevy pickup through a valley of cherry blossoms. The characters and story are like molasses through your system, seeping through your body slowly, the sugar eventually slightly titillating you. It never delivers a strong climax, but every episode is satisfying. Like Natsume, you start cherishing the small miracles, from the strum of a lute, to the thin paint of blue to covering the sky. I got pulled into the serene mysticism that resided like a fog, found around every street corner, every wood paneled hallway, or empty grassy field in Natsume Yuujinchou. It doesn’t try to leave the viewer with idealistic concepts or aim for any lofty goals. It’s simple, and teaches something that touches bases with anyone: the value of friendship and in that way it succeeds.