Natsume's Book of Friends Graphic Novel Volume 23 cover image
Rated “T” for “Teen”
Teenager Takashi Natsume can see the spirits and demons – the yokai – that hide from the rest of humanity. This ability has been a curse, and it has set Natsume apart from others. However, the orphaned teen finds a stable home with Tôko and Shigeru Fujiwara, a kindly couple who are distant relatives. He also has a companion in Nyanko-Sensei, a guardian yokai. Takashi learns that he has inherited two things from his mysterious grandmother, Reiko Natsume: “the Sight” and her “Book of Friends,” a tome in which Reiko wrote the names of yokai.
Natsume’s Book of Friends, Vol. 23 (Chapters 90 to 94) contains to two stories. First, in “The Man Upstairs” (Chatper 90 to 91), Natsume's classmate, Nishimura, meets Himuro, a high school student from Misumi High. Himuro tells Nishimura that he is looking for a mysterious three-piece painting, known as “The Man Upstairs.” Each of three high schools had one piece of the painting: Himuro's Misumi High, the now-closed Futaba High, and Yowake High, which Nishimura, Natsume, and their friends attend.
Now, Natsume, Nishimura, Kitamoto, and Kaname Tanuma (who can sense yokai) decide to unravel the mystery of the “The Man Upstairs.” Of course, Nyanko-sensei tags along. But is this Yowake High quartet looking for something that may not exist, and, if it does, should not be found?
In “The House of Promises” (Chapters 92 to 94), Natsume and Nyanko-sensei join exorcist Shuichi Natori to pick loquats (a fruit). However, an unusual occurrence at a nearby old house draws their attention. At the house, they meet exorcist Matoba, who informs them that the now-empty house once belonged to the Miharu family. The Miharu, who have long since died-out, had been one of the eleven exorcist houses of the Matoba clan. And this house is the site of a dangerous ritual that must happen, although it may no longer be relevant to humans or even necessary.
[This volume includes an afterword from author Yuki Midorikawa.]
THE LOWDOWN: At least once a year, I get a chance to read the Natsume’s Book of Friends manga. I always call it one of my all-time favorite manga and graphic novel series because it sho'nuff is.
Natsume’s Book of Friends Graphic Novel Volume 23 is one of those entries in this graphic novel series in which creator Yuki Midorikawa depicts how dangerous yokai objects, rituals, and ways can be to humans. In a recent volume, the stories focused Natsume's desire to help yokai. This time, Natsume seems determined to keep humans out of harms way from yokai, especially in “The Man Upstairs.” These dark, but not morbid, stories make for thrilling reading.
As she has since the beginning of this series' English publication, Lillian Olsen pens evocative tales not only of the supernatural, but also of friendship and camaraderie. She deserves some kind of comics award. Also, Sabrina Heep's melodic lettering adds to Natsume's Book of Friends' lyrical and poetic sense of fantasy storytelling.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: Readers looking for exceptional fantasy comic books will want to discover the Shojo Beat series, Natsume’s Book of Friends.
10 out of 10