Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Nastsume Yuujinchou Shi - 13 (End)

[HorribleSubs] Natsume Yuujinchou Shi - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_06.43_[2012.03.26_15.39.39] [HorribleSubs] Natsume Yuujinchou Shi - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_18.01_[2012.03.26_15.51.48] [HorribleSubs] Natsume Yuujinchou Shi - 13 [720p].mkv_snapshot_22.25_[2012.03.26_15.57.15]

If you add it all up cumulatively, I’m sure there’s no series that’s inspired as much genuine emotion in me as Natsume Yuujinchou.

I almost don’t want to talk about this finale much, because it so effectively speaks for itself.  Why should I blather on in my clumsy way when Midorikawa-sensei and Omori-sensei have spun the tale in a way that needs no embellishment?  I guess I have to take a stab at it, but it’s not as though there’s a whole lot if interpretation required here.  If you feel in your soul what this series is about, you get exactly what Midorikawa was trying to say in this episode.  As a series capper or a season capper, it does its job admirably.

I mentioned that last week’s episode was one of the strangest of the series for me, and how difficult it was to watch – and quite intentionally so, I think.  There were parts of the conclusion that were just as painful, but felt more in the tradition of Natsume Yuujinchou – where last week’s ep was cold and foreboding, this was simply an exploration of Natsume’s pain – a warm kind of hurt and not a cold one.  I don’t think we’ve ever experienced the depth of the child Natsume’s suffering the way we do in this episode, how trapped he was, how truly alone.  He’s battling demons that are very real, who harm him sometimes without even knowing it, and he’s been left alone in the world besides.

I think what really breaks my heart in the first half of the episode is the sheer distance between Natsume and everyone around him.  He’s caught between the human and youkai worlds, and a part of neither – a kind, empathetic boy who’s capable of profound depth of feeling for others yet has no one to share that feeling with.  His guardians are not bad people, and in their own way they’re trying to help him – but his presence makes their life harder, and it shows in their faces and in the difference in the way they treat Natsume vs. the way they treat their daughter.  This isn’t the first time we’ve seen one of Natsume’s foster families (in the last instance it was the sibling that was kind and the parents cruel) but I’ve never felt the quiet brutality of the experience like this.  It’s hard to feel much sympathy for Miyoko – she’s a child and children are self-centered, but the way she treats Natsume is very hard to watch.  And there’s no attempt in Midorikawa’s writing either to vilify her or exempt her from blame – her behavior is simply shown in all it’s harsh, human and stark forms.

This business of running away from a painful past is certainly nothing new for Natsume Yuujinchou, but again, it felt more sharp and distinct here than ever before.  The whole notion of Natsume calling out to his father who never answered, and closing himself off as a result – only to be called back from the darkness by the sound of Nyanko-sensei’s voice – that’s true poetry of the soul right there.  I was on the edge during the entire sequence at Natsume’s family home.  That sad, run-down old house and all it meant to him – the flowers in the yard that were gone forever, the drawings in the closet (where his photos now reside), the turning of the key in the lock, the tears on the porch where Natsume’s father dangled him on his knee, as Nyanko-sensei sat quietly by, unable to do anything but be present – my keyboard is a bit damp now just writing about it, to be honest.  Midorikawa and Omori don’t spare us here – the pain is very real, and it isn’t all redemptive or healing – some of it just simple, brutal hurt.

The coda of the episode and the season – and who knows, maybe the series (though I doubt it) – is handled absolutely perfectly, as we’ve come to expect from this show.  With a simple, “Goodbye, my home” Natsume leaves the past to the past – though the memories remain – and goes home to the Fujiwaras.  There’s a simple reminder that in Natsume’s life now, youkai can help guide his path too – and a final reflective moment with the Fujiwaras, a new picture to match the one pressed between the pages of his mind.  And the best moment of all, the purest emotional truth, was when Natsume insisted that Shigeru take another photo – this one with an uncomplaining and contented (and perhaps even eager) Nyanko-sensei, who is as surely family to Natsume now as anyone could ever be.

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9 comments:

  1. Such a beautiful, quiet and ... reserved in the best sense of the word at times.

    Well worth it and imo a "worthy" addition to the previous three seasons! :)

    - Flower

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    1. As the anime has caght up to the manga I don't mind waiting for a new season to finish his story off.

      I just wish someone would purchase the box set for this series I would like to own it to pimp it to other. NIS America owns the license but they've don nothing with it. This is the only other anime series i really would like to own as it's just so wonderful.

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    2. I heard NIS America is having some spring press event this Thursday. Let's say I will be highly disappointed if Natsume is not one of the items brought up on the agenda.

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  2. One of the best episode this season! My heart just broke when Natsume was calling out for his dad! Hoping for a 5th season :P

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  3. Having to read your review made me cry once again! Watching too many finale back to back brought me to an emotional roller coaster. I have been trying to hold my tears the hold time, but when Natsume found the old shrine and wondering whether he would go back to the old house while killing time there, I couldn't hold it anymore. And the rest was... tearful and almost painful to watch. The ED never sounds so nostalgic and sad before, however it felt like saying goodbye to a dear dear friend.

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  4. "His guardians are not bad people, and in their own way they’re trying to help him – but his presence makes their life harder"

    Thats exactly it!! That's exactly what is wrong with those guardians. I understand that Miyoko is a spoiled kid and sometimes kids become bullies (whether the realize is or not) and that she was jealous of Natsume from stealing some of her parents attention, but seeing Natsume being bullied was too harsh and sad :(. The part where he was screaming for his dad was totally heart breaking. The part that made me want to cry the most was when he started crying at the porch, I just felt for him.

    Nyanko-sensei's presence had so much meaning in this episode, like when he called out for him and saved him. Even though he said that he's staying with him just until he gets the book of friends, but he still can't hide his affection. Natsume was able to see it clearly. Also the first thing Nyanko-sensei checked when they entered the old house was inside the closet :P that was really cute and says how much he cares for Natsume.

    I just love this anime so much, and as much as this episode is heart breaking, we can also feel his hopes and happiness at the end, when he said he can go home now, his current home, when he said "Tadaima" and the Fujiwaras greeted him, when he follows the yokai to find the spring with his friends, and specially when he took a family picture, including Nyanko-sensei :D

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  5. A great episode to end a great season. It can't end here, it just can't, season 5 plz.

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  6. Enzo I just completed 5 essays (25 pages, 13 pages etc) plus I'm graduating this year and I'm sleepy ;_; I waited to watch finale and I have to say I cried....Natsume pain was too much bare part me wants to say miyoko was just a kid but my love for natsume is too great I thought she needed a slap on the face. There was no reason for her to treat him like that at all. If she fixed her attitude perhaps natsume time there would have been pleasant considering the parents were nice people. Watching him call out to his dad....Man someone give him a hug.
    Also this begs the question how much did Natsume parents know about reiko powers? In the beginning Natsume mentioned his mother did not inherit the power. But in any case chances are she saw her mother interacting with the youkai even though she couldnt see them. So this makes me question how prepared they would have been to handle natsume power too. I guess we'll never know. But I would definitely like to see how reiko interacted with her daughter. Overall I really love this series I can't wait for season 5 in the future.

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    1. I often wonder if this youkai connection is responsible for so many people in Natsume's family dying young. I recall Ginko (Mushishi) saying that he couldn't stay in one place for too long, because he would attract too many mushi that would have ill effects on the health of the local people.

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