This week we got a classic Natsume episode. The third season and the first one focused a lot on the humans and really serious conflicts. This week we got one of the older kinds of stories where Natsume encounters a new youkai, has an adventure, and at the end has to say farewell. These are the kinds of episodes that really drew me in for this series when it first started to come out. Natsume’s kindness creates these bonds and encounters that you can’t easily forget.
I have to say Fluffball was a pretty likable character. A silent character in terms of not verbally speaking, but you could still read its emotions. Rather impressive how much you can do with body language and simple eyes. Fluffball was a simple ball of fur, but still got its point across when happy, regretful, or frightened. It was a lot like a wild animal in how it got very defensive when startled. A somewhat disturbing scene seeing it bounce around the room while injured and scattering blood all over the place. But true to Natsume, he managed to calm down fluffball and start their bonding. The kindness shown in tending to Fluffball’s injuries was returned wonderfully by Fluffball leaving those berries that could help with youkai poisons. As much as Natsume is kind you can say the Karu can be very similar. Not everyone would have cared that they injured Natsume like that.
Of course it’s another case where being kind gets him allies as much as it gets him into trouble. If he hadn’t returned that name he wouldn’t have been in so much trouble with Amada. But on the other hand, if he hadn’t been kind with Fluffball then he would have still been attacked by Amada later. What a selfish youkai to blame Natsume when the ring goes missing and still blame him when he finds it for her. No matter what he did in the situation she would still have attacked. It shows that kindness doesn’t always get respected. But even still Natsume wants to return the kindness he was shown by the Fujiwara family and other youkai who were kind to him. Season 1 was full of those touching moments and really made Natsume the person he is today. That kind of slow, but visible character development is why I really like this series.
The Karu as a group really were interesting though. They aren’t the first youkai we’ve seen act as a group (the monkeys from the first couple episodes), but they were still interesting. Instead of being ruled by someone they joined together, probably because of their individual weakness. Their poison is painful, but it’s probably not something that alone would repel a predator. As a group they aren’t worth attacking since one would take a lot of poison. That kind of group support is exactly how Natsume has survived in dealing with youkai. He doesn’t have to be strong by himself, since he has so many around him that care and want to help him. How the middle class youkai and Hinoe just volunteered to help shows how much he is cared for. Also have to say that unique dragon the Karu created as a group was quite the sight. The power of a group at its finest.
The series also kind of took care of a minor complaint I had. The ED song does flow from the end of the episode. I suspect it didn’t happen in the first episode because of the cliffhanger and how the story wasn’t over yet.
I’m glad after those serious Matoba episodes that Natsume came back with this kind of episode. It reminds you of those early episodes, but its not a step back. Unlike the old days Natsume sought out help when he needed it. If the series can continue to deliver quality episodes like this I could keep watching Natsume episodes for a long time.