By Leroy Douresseaux
December 26, 2009 - 12:36
|Natsume's Book of Friends Volume 1 cover image is courtesy of barnesandnoble.com.|
Rated “T” for “Teen”
Takashi Natsume can see spirits and demons, called “yokai,” that most of humanity cannot see. This gift has been a curse because it has set Takashi, an orphan, apart from other people, and it has led to him being passed from one relative to another. Always having difficulty fitting in, Takashi is now a troubled high school student. However, he has finally found a stable how with a kind couple, the Fujiwaras. There, he discovers that his relationship with yokai is much deeper than he realized.
In Natsume’s Book of Friends, Vol. 1, Takashi learns that he inherited the Sight (the ability to see yokai) from his grandmother, the mysterious Reiko Natsume. He learns this from Nyanko, a spirit who has taken the form of a lucky cat statue. Nyanko also informs Takashi that Reiko had a tome called the “Book of Friends,” which Takashi finds among his grandmother’s possessions he inherited. Reiko bound the names of demons and spirits inside the Book of Friends, which gave her power over them. Now, these yokai, including Nyanko, will do anything to get their names back.
THE LOWDOWN: One might think that Natsume’s Book of Friends would be fanciful, like a Victorian era fantasy full of faerie wonderment. It is actually quite melancholy and has more to do with dejection, loneliness, and other negative emotions. Desperate spirits and demons want release from the Book of Friends, and some just want to eat people.
Natsume is a sad, lonely orphan with a good heart, so he wants to help the yokai by giving them back their names. So far, this is where the dramatic conflict in Natsume’s Book of Friends is. There is tension between Takashi’s desire to help the yokai be free and his yearning for his powers to disappear and for the yokai to just stop bothering him, which usually manifest in strongly worded thought balloons. So far, so good with this series, but it remains to be seen where this is going. Will it turn fanciful or darker?
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: Fans of Japanese folklore will like Natsume’s Book of Friends.