|Good character development, strong main character, good returning characters, good OP/ED
|Only 11 episodes, may not answer as many questions as one would like
There are some series that can just continue to churn out sequels, but few can maintain high quality between seasons the way Natsume Yujinchou has. Natsume Yujinchou Roku is the 6th season for this series. Being the sixth season I’m going to state a lot of similar information that you probably read in previous season reviews. The great thing with Natsume though is that it really is a bastion of consistent excellence. The first season came out back in 2008 and yet it has managed to stay solid over the course of almost a decade now. Some things like visuals have made natural improvements over time, but you could really marathon this series and not feel thrown off. Natsume has even switched studios over time and yet everything feels very much the same as when the original company was producing it.
This is a great series and this season was equally as good as those that came before it. If you found this review and haven’t gone and watched the previous seasons I fully recommend doing so. There aren’t any spoilers for those seasons, but it is just worth watching them. But for now will focus on reviewing the 6th season of what has been a really enjoyable series.
The story for Natsume is generally told in usually self-contained episodes. The characters and story do recognize that the past events have happened. But this isn’t a franchise that focuses solely on the overarching goal with large story arcs. Generally whatever happens within an episode starts and concludes a story about Natsume interacting with a small group of new or recurring characters. While Natsume technically has an overall goal (returning the names in the Book of Friends) it isn’t some kind of quest that he focuses heavily on. If youkai approach Natsume to get their names back then he’ll usually return them, but he’s not out hunting the world for youkai. In fact the sixth season has very little returning of names in it.
Natsume’s setting is pretty easy to describe. Natsume himself is an orphan who his relatives have passed him around between them over many years. The biggest problem for Natsume in terms of getting along with those relatives is simple….he can see youkai (spirits/monsters/etc). And he can do so in a world where the vast majority of people can’t and thus don’t believe they exist. The rejection from those around him created a kid who learned to lie about what he could see as second nature. This continued until finally he came to live with a couple who live in a small rural area. There he was chased after by youkai who confused him with his decease grandmother (youkai have problems with the passage of time and sometimes genders) and he eventually found an object she left behind. It is called the Book of Friends.
The overall story involves Natsume just interacting with these supernatural beings, regular people, other people who can see youkai, and returning names. The Book of Friends contains the names of various youkai and having possession of it grants power over those whom have written their name inside of it. Thus it is a very powerful object that various youkai would want for themselves. The story regularly involve Natsume slowly maturing as a character, but also the slow growth of those he involves himself with. He is very much a catalyst for the character development of human and youkai alike.
This season focuses quite a bit on Natsume and another character named Natori. Natori is an exorcist who generally seals or defeats youkai who are causing humans problems. He brings a very different point of view to Natsume’s world. But they both share a friendship where there is concern felt for the troubles both of them tend to get into on their own. The story in this series can vary from very bittersweet episodes focusing on how things don’t always work out well when humans and youkai interact. But this season was fairly optimistic. There were some negative experiences for Natsume, but often they came out of a difference of perspective and very little malice. The self-contained stories brought back various characters Natsume has befriended over the series and told some nicely emotional stories.
If I listed every character that debuted in this season…it would make for an incredibly long section. Any given Natsume season usually introduces dozens of characters. That is mostly because many of them appear for their singular story, have a very emotional journey and we never see them again. Now that isn’t the case for the secondary cast that usually at least appear for one or two episodes. But this season really did focus mostly on Natsume, Natori, and Nyanko Sensei. Sensei is Natsume’s youkai bodyguard who disguises himself as a rather fat cat that regular humans can see.
Natsume has an interesting journey in this season. In a lot of ways it tests the growth he has had and shows how far he’s come from the early going. A couple episodes really look back to the kind of mindset Natsume had as a young child and even when he first came to live in his current home. The progression and character growth in Natsume can sometimes feel slow and steady. Once you get this many seasons into the franchise though…the character development adds up. And if nothing else this season also allows Natsume to take further steps forward and take risks with his status quo. While there are risks to opening up, sometimes that is better than keeping people in the dark.
While this season doesn’t have a specific flashback arc for Natori, he is a major player in this season. His character is a great contrast to Natsume without going too far. It isn’t as if he’s an antagonist and in fact he cares a lot about Natsume. But, simply because you care about someone doesn’t mean you always see eye to eye. The different experiences Natsume and Natori have had really are clear in their current viewpoints. What I do like is that Natori is a good guy at his core. But he is also an exorcist and so his interactions with youkai are different from how Natsume views them. It makes for an interesting contrast and their friendship creates some tense drama at certain points.
This season doesn’t have a specific Nyanko Sensei focus episode. However the constant presence he has being right beside Natsume all the time allows him to stand out. I like seeing how Nyanko Sensei has evolved as a character over time. He is much more open about helping Natsume and doesn’t need to refer to excuses for cooperating as much. I think as well he’s more open to giving others reasonable advice. It feels like being around Natsume for so long has had a good influence on him.
I also liked the variety of side characters we got in this season. It is always nice to see Taki and Tanuma. They are the kind of friends that Natsume really does need. He needs people who understand to some degree the world he is living in and are in his age group. Even though Tanuma can’t see youkai nearly as easily as Natsume and without special tools Taki can’t see them at all. It was nice that his normal friends (Nishimura and Kitamoto) who don’t know about youkai also got some focus. There is just no way that Natsume who lives such a bizarre life can keep fully hidden that…unusual things happen around him. I liked the couple that appeared in this season, they were very likable characters. There was just a lot of interesting people we got to see in this season.
Visuals and Audio
I think this is a pretty good looking show. It isn’t going to blow anyone away. However it is very solid and never looks bad (at least from my point of view). The youkai have interesting designs and I love the various types that we can run into. There isn’t that much action in this series, but they handle the movements of various types of creatures well. The character designs are good and I appreciate how they have remained very stable over all these years.
The music as well is pretty consistent from season to season. They reuse a lot of the same OST tracks from the previous seasons and that is probably a good thing. The quality is that good so constantly changing it up would probably result in the show shooting itself in the foot. As usual the voice acting is really good and you get some youkai who have some interesting voices. In terms of the OP/ED , I think both were quite good. They really grew on me as the series went along. It is always tough to compare those songs to previous seasons. At the very least these were enjoyable for me to listen to week to week.
In the end this was yet another strong season for Natsume. I think if people have gotten this far in the series they know what to expect. It is yet another very good season. I think any specific cons are simply down to preference. Some probably would have liked more episodes focusing on Natsume’s grandmother Reiko. This season does actually drop an interesting bit of information about Natsume’s heritage which is something. It doesn’t focus as much on the Fujiwara couple as the last season and there are other side characters that didn’t appear this season. But, I think that’s just the inherent thing when you have an 11 episode season. The only real con I would say is just having 11 episodes with a few more likely to appear as OVAs on the BDs.
For me this series is one of the examples of a strong anime series. It knows exactly what kind of show it wants to be and doesn’t deviate from that. Some might like more action or some might want more answers, but that just isn’t where the show is going. This is a very slow burn series that gives slow development and bits of answers here and there. I honestly don’t think we’re going to get big answers about Reiko until the story itself is done. What I can say is that I really enjoyed this season of Natsume. Fingers crossed that when the source material is ready that we’ll get yet another season to enjoy.
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