Monday, January 16, 2012
Natsume Yuujinchou - A Surprising New Favorite
I'm an excitement lover. I enjoy anime with plots that stretch for episodes, and even seasons, on end. I enjoy characters than make me laugh and suspense that has me on the edge of my seat. I enjoy fast paced anime that draws me in and keeps me there.
So when I first learned about the anime Natsume Yuujinchou, I disregarded it. Can you blame me? Sure, the synopses I read on Anime-Planet and Crunchyroll roused a little interest. But only a little. Everything else I saw suggested I shouldn't bother.
The Anime-Planet profile for Natsume Yuujinchou had the show tagged as "slow-paced" and "episodic" - two terms I've never associated with my favorite anime. The tags "drama, Shinto, and supernatural" didn't stand out to me, either. And the top recommendation for users who enjoyed Natsume? Mushishi. I haven't watched the Mushishi anime yet, but I did read two volumes of the manga. It wasn't bad, but I found it less than thrilling. After all, Mushishi is also slow-paced and episodic.
And if these weren't enough to push me away from Natsume Yuujinchou, the screenshots were. The art screamed tame. Sure, there were pictures of yokai (monsters/spirits/hard to explain in a parenthetical phrase) with designs strange and interesting to my Western eye. However, the colors were soft. The lines were soft. Nearly everything was soft!
I naturally came to the conclusion that Natsume Yuujinchou would bore me and was not worth my time.
Yet I continued noticing it pop up while I hung out on Crunchroll. And when the winter season began approaching, promising a new season of Natsume for its fans, the anime showed up in the earliest season previews.
Finally, a couple weeks ago, I clicked on the first episode of Natsume Yuujinchou. I almost quit after that first episode. But, if my two and a half years of anime watching have taught me anything, it's to watch at least two, preferably three or four episodes before giving up (unless it's offensive, of course). So I watched the second episode. And the third. Before I knew it, I'd finished the first season and started on the second.
I caught up on the old seasons of Natsume Yuujinchou just in time to follow the new season. And I love it.
Despite being episodic, Natsume Yuujinchou retains a pleasant continuity. As the anime stretches on, I see Natsume become more comfortable with his guardians, the Fujiwaras. I smile as he builds the first lasting friendships of his formerly lonely life. And I press my lips together when an unfriendly exorcist seems to suspect Natsume's secret.
I needn't have feared that this anime would bore me. In fact, every episode pulls me right on in. There are scenes that I wouldn't quite call "action" or "battles," but still constitute a type of violent conflict. Natsume Yuujinchou is peaceful, beautiful, and still entertaining. The things that repelled me - the tranquil art style and colors, the "slowpace" - are now part of what I love about the show.
I could go on, but I won't. If you come away with anything from this post, I hope it's this: don't disregard Natsume Yuujinchou until you've tried at least two episodes. It has provided me with a delightful change of pace from my usual anime, and I'd hate for anyone to miss out because of the same hesitancies I once harbored.
*Pictures are screenshots from Natsume Yuujinchou