Posted on 26 March 2012 with categories: Anime Reviews, Natsume Yuujin-Chou



Let’s get this out of the way first: out of the series that debuted in the past Winter Season, Natsume Yuujin-Chou’s fourth season was by far my favorite. Can you watch it without having seen the other three seasons? No. It very clearly builds further upon what these three seasons did. It doesn’t matter though, because every series of Natsume Yuujin-Chou is truly excellent. Few series can boast to be as genuine and heart-warming as this one.

The people who have already watched the first three seasons know what to expect: episodic stories and small arcs about a boy who can see spirits, and all of the problems and miracles that come with it. The episodic nature again makes it a very varied series that changes every week, and again this series has a very good balance between really heart-warming stories, and stories that are almost like a thriller. The stories still are very cleveryl constructed, and yet they play out very naturally and believably. This season also likes its character studies, and quite a few side-characters also manage to get their place in the spotlight to actually develop themselves a bit.

Every season of Natsume also has a slightly different tone from the other. The first was about quiet and relaxing stories about all sorts of youkai Natsume meets. Season 2 instead put the focus more on the main plot and various recurring characters. The third season was dedicated to Natsume’s development, and the fourth season is about Natsume’s relationship with the people around him. Imagine what a wonderful total picture this all creates! And indeed, the cast still is amazing, in particular Natsume has gotten so much development at this point.

What makes the fourth season stand out in particular is that out of all the four seasons, it’s got the best beginning and the best ending. It really saved its best stories for those points, and especially the ending is a treat. The stories in the middle are also very good, but not as good as the middle episodes of the first and the third season. I’d really consider the First, Third and Fourth season to be just as good, all with their own highlight and standout stories that rock in their own ways, either by being incredibly heart-warming, really well told, consistently tense and intriguing, amazingly built up, wonderfully acted, or just all of those together. This series still is a huge believer of subtlety over bombast, and this leads to some of the best acting of the season.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Great variety, masterful at retaining a subtle atmosphere, and manages to consistently tell heart-warming stories.
Characters: 9/10 – Natsume has 52 episodes of development right now, and this season just continues to add things to his character. The side characters also get a lot of time to flesh themselves out and develop.
Production-Values: 8/10 – Great and very consistent animation. Perhaps not the best of the season, but there are a few very talented animators flexing their muscles here.
Setting: 9/10 – Everyone around Natsume is the main focus of this series. Yes, the setting got even better.

Suggestions:
xxxHolic
Porfy no Nagai Tabi
Tenpou Ibun Ayakashi Ayashi

Posted on with categories: Natsume Yuujin-Chou

Yeah, this was pretty much the best ending of the season. In fact, out of all of the four natsume seasons, this season had the best final episode. This was definitely in my top 5 of favrotie Natsume episodes. If this turned out to be the last we’ll see of Natsume Yuujinchou, then I don’t mind this at all with such a wonderful closing episode.

This episode had a lot of parallels to that one episode of the third season, where Natsume met Touko (that one overall turned out to be my favorite Natsume Yuujinchou, out of all the 52 that were aired), but there were some huge differences here. Both were meant to show how hard Natsume’s childhood was, but that episode was about Natsume and his fears of not being able to do anything. This episode (and arc, really, it was about Natsume’s fears of responsibility. In this case, he wasinvited by a really nice family, and yet he didn’t want to cause any sort of trouble for them. You can see Natsume get a lot colder after the events of this episode when you look at the other flashbacks. Only when he met Touko he started to open up again.

The house part was kept wonderfully subtle. The creators said so much here with so little dialogue. It was incredibly heart-warming.

Overall, the fourth season: it has the best beginning and ending of all four seasons, while in the middle part it was a bit outclassed by seasons 1 and 3. Still, it had a point and purpose, and it still was really worth the watch. When I first started watching this, I really didn’t expect this to go on for 52 whopping episodes, but I’m definitely glad that it did. This was by far the best Winter 2012 series.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 19 March 2012 with categories: Natsume Yuujin-Chou

This will be the first three-episode arc of Natsume, if I’m not mistaken, right? And what a topic they picked out to do it. Next episode will be amazing. This episode meanwhile dealt with another episode in Natsume’s past.

With this, I understand why the earlier episode focused on that girl Natsume met, because this episode showed another girl he left an impression on, only in a completely different way. Where the first girl really started to sympathize with him, this time it’s about a girl who felt jealous of him, as he took away the attention of her parents, on top of being strange. Again, this is why these episodes belong in the fourth season, and not in the third. The third was all about Natsume’s development, while the fourth is about everyone around Natsume, and it develops these characters instead, with as climax Natsume’s parents.

I especially loved the part where Nyanko-sensei shrugged off that it’d still take a few years for the youkai to start getting hungry for more than just insects. Natsume really didn’t want to go back into that house again, but hearing that, you knew exactly what he was going to do.

Overall, Brains Base has really dominated the past year. I mean, out of all their releases, Kamisama Dolls was the least impressive. They delivered an awesome remake of a classic show, they came back with Kunihiko Ikuhara, and Natsume has really delivered some amazing episodes. Unfortunately it looks like this awesome streak will end next season. I’m sorry, but people need to stop re-imagining classic historical people into moe stereotypes.
Rating: **+ (Excellent+)

Posted on 12 March 2012 with categories: Natsume Yuujin-Chou

Okay. Best episode of the fourth season yet. I was wrong.

This episode started out like your average episode: trolling about Reiko, only to go into a completely different direction. That direction was Natsume’s parents. Nowadays I rarely cry in front of an anime anymore. But this one did it. Halleluja, this show just got even better.

It’s also amazing with how little this episode ended up as a heart-wrenching story. The emotions in it were incredibly subtle, and Natsume was hiding his feelings the entire time, but this was so well portrayed that it worked wonderfully. Parts where he says that as a child, he tried to not look at the picture of his parents may seem light-hearted, but it says so much of the cold environment he grew up with. Dead parents are a cliche, but when it’s developed so well I just can’t get annoyed about it at all.

The scene that really hit home was when Natsume lost the picture of his parents. Being shy myself, I could really relate to him there and how he tried to hide all of his problems out of fear of getting too much in their way. Heck, I’ll just say it: this was the best episode of the entire season. This is exactly what I’ve been waiting for.
Rating: **** (Fantastic)

Posted on 8 March 2012 with categories: Natsume Yuujin-Chou

This show is such a troll. First it promises a Reiko episode, only to be about something completely different. And now it turns out that the hints for Matoba being involved again also are false and instead some random exorcist was the one who sealed off Houdzuki. I can understand why this is done though: the fourth season is really dedicated to expanding the world of Natsume Yuujin-chou. It’s episodes like this that show that this series isn’t just about the main characters and that they live in a very expansive world.

In this episode, Natsume really pushed himself to his limits. Physically, at least, to the point of exhaustion. Where the third season focused more on his growth as a character, in the fourth season he seems much more scared of something bad happening and puts in much more effort to prevent that from happening. I also loved Nyanko-sensei in this episode Where I previously complained that he was a bit repetitively getting removed from the plot, here he was an active part of it. I especially loved how a the end of the episode, he got back at Natsume for abusing him so much in his rush to solve things.

Now, I also am going to have to be a bit negative, though. The fourth season had the best opening episodes of all four Natsume seasons, but after that things changed a bit. In particular, there has not been a stand-out episode like the Hotaru episode or the episode where Natsume meets Touko. ?The past episodes were still really good and among the best of the season, but for Natsume Yuujin-chou’s standards, they were missing something. That little edge in storytelling that makes you leave episodes with a heart-warming feeling.

The third season would have been a great point to actually end the series. The manga was incomplete, but that incredibly heart-warming ending was awesome and well built up. The fourth season though, is building up for something that still needs to arrive. It’s fleshing out the world of Natsume Yuujin-chou for awesome stuff, but with these kinds of things it’s always a matter of hoping that the producers will green-light a fifth season, a treatment that only the most popular series or shounen fighting shows manage to acquire. The thing is also: the more episodes that this show takes, the harder it becomes to recommend it.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 27 February 2012 with categories: Natsume Yuujin-Chou

And we’re into another two-part arc for this series. This one is focused on Hiiragi and Natori, with a few hints that Matoba is involved as well.

The focus on this episode was about Natori actually having to seal away a god, rather than a youkai as he gets a very strange request to do all this within one day. I think this was the first time in which we’ve seen him uncomfortable.

Natsume in the meantime is of pretending to be the opposite of said god, and with this he seems to ignore one thing that I find rather strange: his smell. In the past he has been very often sniffed out as a human when he tried to dress up. I find it weird that he still doesn’t seem to have learned after all that.

Also, someone mentioned it in the comments last week, but with this episode it again caught my attention: the creators are having trouble to separate Natsume and Nyanko. In this episode Nyanko wanders off and something happens to Natsume. After that Nyanko accidentally gets touched by one of Natori’s exorcist-thingies, and afterwards something again happens to Natsume. As much as I like this series, it is starting to get a little repetitive this way.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 20 February 2012 with categories: Natsume Yuujin-Chou

I think that this was one of the least charming episode of the fourth season so far, but that’s like going to a four-star restaurant and ordering the cheapest dish: it’s still delicious!

Right from out of nowhere did we get a background episode on that old lady who kept accompanying Matoba. With this, we finally get to know her and who she is, by telling a story about her past. And screw this episode for teasing so much with Reiko! The start of this episode really made it seem like the two actually met each other, but instead Reiko stole the name of a youkai who happened to have left a large impression on the woman.

And again, this show used the past and present wonderfully to fold out, and the start of the episode was once again hilarious. I’m not sure why it didn’t hit me as much as the other episodes, but that probably is due to the calculating nature of the woman: It’s hard to explain, but at the very least she turned into a much more interesting character in this episode.

Also, the animators. They were very clearly inspired by Ghibli this episode. That one youkai’s animation: that was really good, even for this series’ standards.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

Posted on 15 February 2012 with categories: Natsume Yuujin-Chou

This arc was just wonderful. Here once again, Natsume’s character gets pushed forward. Before, he kept worrying and worrying about involving his friends in the youkai world, which is why he kept trying to distance himself. This time though, Tanuma actually gets hurt because of this, and actually would have gotten killed if it wasn’t for Natori. With this, I now also get why this season needed to put in episode 44, about the younger classmate that Natsume met: she was supposed to be the lead-in to this story, showing how the people around Natsume have gotten closer to him. That’s slightly different from the third season, which really was all about Natsume.

I loved how this episode placed parallels between Takashi, Reiko and Natori: Natsume is actually walking a path that the other two couldn’t. Natori actually gave up on it, while Reiko actually failed to do it? Is that why she was so involved with Youkai and kept stealing their names? Indeed, in the flashbacks we’ve seen her in, she always was with youkai. We’ve never seen her before with other people.

This episode also had some very expressive animation. There really were a lot of different youkai in this episode, and there were some scenes in which the characters looked really dynamic. It’s interesting how Brains Base have gotten better and better at animating this series here.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 7 February 2012 with categories: Natsume Yuujin-Chou

And so, this was the comedic episode of Natsume Yuujinchou. Nyanko-sensei was completely hilarious here, but it’s yet again a wonderful story about Natsume himself as well. This one really takes the themes of him not wanting to involve others, and builds further upon it, putting him in a situation where he’s just completely powerless and in the mercy of them.

It’s another two-episode arc here, and I am particularly curious to see how the aftermath will end up. Nyanko-sensei didn’t bother to stay in character at all, which was especially bad with Sasada this was particularly bad. You can really see that Natsume usually does his best to stay polite, and this was about the complete opposite of that.

The best part of this episode though, was how it combined the comedy so well with the drama. I mean, usually with these kinds of episodes characters start overacting a bit too much. Everyone here stayed in character, yet showed something new here. Especially the final parts of this episode, as Natsume watched Tanuma get involved into something that might seriously harm him.
Rating: *** (Awesome)

Posted on 30 January 2012 with categories: Natsume Yuujin-Chou

It’s getting a bit repetitive here, but this yet again was a really heartwarming episode. And as if the third season hadn’t already spent enough time developing Natsume, this episode took a look at yet another different part of his childhood, to the time when he was still passed around from household to household, but when the harsh times from when he was really young were already past.

It’s the point where he doesn’t get bullied anymore, but instead ignored. Because of that he also wasn’t really trying to not involve the people around him as much as he is now,so he caught the attention of one particular girl who started noticing that he wasn’t just randomly actin weird. It’s all told in one wonderful flashback and I really loved how the two didn’t really meet in the end, but rather were reminded of each other due to a random incident. The whole set-up of showing two different perspectives in the two halves of this episode was a very nice touch. The point of this episode I think was to let the people that Natsume met know that he ended up in a kind place.

It’s also interesting how this shows a time in which Natsume was really trying to restrain himself. That one like of his, when the girl asked him if he cut his hair himself. That’s something that the current Natsume would have never said, so it struck me when I heard it.
Rating: ** (Excellent)

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