Ryohei KimuraKazuhiko InoueSanae KobayashiMiki Itou
Natsume's Book of Friends Five
Episode 1 also reviewed here: Anime 1st episodes 2016: N
Also known as: Natsume Yuujin-chou Go
Medium: TV, series
Year: 2016
Director: Takahiro Omori
Writer: Kenichi Kanemaki
Original creator: Yuki Midorikawa
Actor: Hiroshi Kamiya, Kazuhiko Inoue, Akira Ishida, Hisayoshi Suganuma, Kazuma Horie, Miki Itou, Miyuki Sawashiro, Ryohei Kimura, Sanae Kobayashi
Keywords: anime, yokai
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Format: Season Five, 11 episodes
Url: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=9419
Website category: Anime 2016
Review date: 24 November 2017
Natsume Yuujin-chou
It's gentle, civilised and reflective. It's got yokai. It's a long-running series that's been going since 2005 (manga) and 2008 (anime), so it must be doing something right. I approve of it. However I have no plans to go back and watch Seasons 1-4, or even Season 6. I've watched these eleven episodes and that's enough. They're okay, but they don't really have a story and I'm expecting the whole show to be basically lots more of what I saw here.
Natsume is an orphan who's had a fairly grey, downbeat life, except that he can see yokai. His grandmother had the same gift and she went around gathering up their names, thus binding them to her service. Natsume inherited that namebook and he goes around giving names back. Unfortunately yokai aren't always very appreciative, since they're liable to be man-eating, dying, obnoxious and/or freaky weird. Humans haven't always been much better either, since Natsume's gift doesn't make him popular and he's always had trouble getting on with ordinary people anyway.
That said, though, this is Season 5 now and he's got schoolfriends and nice foster parents. Nonetheless this is quite a sombre show. It's not high-energy and its palette tends to be drab, as if someone left it out in the rain. I'd heard it described as heartwarming, which isn't wrong, but I wouldn't call it happy. If this show were music, it would be in a minor key. If a yokai wants to meet someone they haven't seen in decades, then the best they'll manage might be just standing beside their hospital bed with no guarantee that the patient actually saw or heard anything before the end. People can be unpleasant and yokai can be violent.
The show can definitely be nice. However what it might be doing is finding uplifting moments in stories that are basically sad.
There's not really a lot to discuss here. It's just lots of one-off stories, often with Natsume helping a yokai at some point. They're well made. I have no complaints at all. It's also the kind of episodic show that you could basically dip into at any time with almost no preparation, so there's no need to worry about not having seen the other episodes or anything like that. It's quite well written, but in a static way that could be likened to painting elegant one-off portraits rather than trying to move anything forwards. Many of its episodes could easily have been ghost stories, looking back to the past rather than forwards to the future. There are stories about Natsume's misunderstood grandmother and his childless foster mother. Yokai might be lovely, surreal or obnoxiously high-handed, with the latter being especially likely when they're four inches high and/or look like little girls. I think it's a reasonably good show and these episodes I saw were fine, but I don't need to see them again. I've done the show now. That's how I feel right now, anyway.