Natsume Yūjin-chō Shi 03-04: SPCA and the Youkai with a million voices
After the first two episodes of fast-paced narrative (in relative terms), Natsume returns back to the poignant and lulling shorts in the third and forth installments. Both of them are predictable from a mile away in terms of plot development (nothing new), but they are pretty interesting. The fourth episode in particular excelled with the conveying of the mono no aware theme.
To start off, let’s welcome the little cutesy youkai which is a strange hybrid of animals, insects and things.
Puffer-fish. (Or Porcupine)
Dragon. This one don’t really count.
I think this is the first time I encountered a Youkai with many different attributes and this helps to liven an otherwise run-of-the-mill story. Natsume rescues the Youkai, and coincidentally there’s another Book-Seeking/Natsume-Eating/Item-missing Youkai no. 123 asking for her ring, and coincidentally the ring is stuck on that little Youkai and you get the drift. But where the plot was found lacking, the interaction is once more top-notch. I can’t help but notice that there is increased amount of cute humor sprinkled into scenes. Be it Nyanko pawing the air with venom while it is hugging Natsume, or that bumbling duo doing a send-off to Men-In-Black, such moments do elevate the anime from an otherwise languid affair (Zoku I am looking at you).
I watched the fourth episode before heading for bed, and I hit the covers with a rather heavy heart.
It actually started off on a light-hearted note. A Youkai manages to intrude into Natsume via his voice manipulation prowess (
At this point I can’t help but think about Mel Blanc, the man who practically voiced the entire cast in Looney Tunes cartoons back in the 1950s, ranging from Bugs Bunny to Yosemite Sam. If he was still alive, I would love him to play that Youkai, no matter how incongruous that was. ‘What’s up Natsume?’ ‘I tot I saw a Bookie Of Frens!’) and when he tries to overpower Natsume, he epic failed and promptly transformed into your friendly neighborhood sake delivery man.
This Youkai’s previous exploits are adorable and heartwarming, just watch the interchange between the woman and her lover that he chose to become, while concealed in the sanctuary of the shrine. It’s sad to watch at times, because obviously the woman would have already suspected something from the out-of-character behaviour in her lover (who is presumably well-mannered and serious, in contrast to the stammering impersonator) and his refusal to show his face, but she played along. Probably didn’t want that bubble of delusion to end. And as much as the Youkai regretted his actions, he did the noble thing.
The ending was very very apt.
P.S. I take back what I said in the previous post. The music is recycled throughout the four seasons, but it always works. Magical moments like these make the repetitiveness of subject matter worthwhile. That said, it seems that the fourth season is carrying off where the first season left off.