What is License Line? Put simply, it's a bi-weekly feature on Nagareboshi Reviews in which yours truly posts about a certain anime/manga series that truly, desperately needs to be licensed and put on my shelves ASAP - from the obscure but well-deserving manga to the stream worthy but not yet DVD licensed anime.
For the first edition of License Line, I find it only apt to feature an anime series whose third season has just debuted on the fourth - the always charming supernatural slice of life known as Natsume Yuujinchou (夏目友人帳), also known as Natsume's Book Of Friends (as Viz has translated it for the manga's English release). That's right - an anime that is both supernatural and slice of life. How does Natsume Yuujinchou manage this precarious balance of seemingly opposite genres? With the greatest of ease and knowing when to keep one element from overwhelming the other.
What is Natsume Yuujinchou? Natsume Takashi has never had an easy life. Being born with the ability to see ayakashi - otherwordly spirits - Natsume has felt disconnected from the world of the living due to his abilities and from the world of the spirits due to being a mortal boy. Keeping this ability a secret has made his life extremely difficult and the idea of friends seem like a distant memory to him. When he inherits a mysterious book from his grandmother, Reiko, who also had the sight, Natsume's life is soon turned upside-down. His 'book of friends' contains the names of all the ayakashi Reiko met in her lifetime who she tricked into giving her their name, thus binding them to Reiko for life - but now that Reiko's death is leaking out into the world of spirits, everyone is itching to free their name from the book or capture the book themselves, gaining control over hundreds of ayakashi in Japan. With the snarky sidekick Nyanko-sensei at his side (an ayakashi trapped in the shape of a lucky cat), Natsume is on a quest to return the names of the ayakashi to their rightful owners as well as manage to balance his new entrance into the spirit world with his continuing life as a mortal teenage boy in the human world.
Why should it be licensed? Because this anime is quality with a capital Q. Watching an episode is akin to drinking a calming cup of tea during a lazy summer afternoon that fills you up slowly and, as you reach the bottom, leaves you melancholy in the best way possible. It can be compared to the equally balanced supernatural slice of life Mushishi, although Natsume Yuujinchou comes with a regular cast and a permanent setting along with a main character who isn't a wanderer and therefore is slightly easier to connect to. It is a beautifully rendered series in both art and story with an involving cast of characters (especially the wisecracking morally ambiguous Nyanko-Sensei) that will endear to any fan of XXXHOLiC or Amatsuki – although without the noodle limbs and the confusing storylines, respectfully.
Viz Media, make an honest franchise out of Natsume Yuujinchou? You already have the manga – it’s only perfect that they should bring out the anime as well. The fact that neither Natsume Yuujinchou or Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou are sitting on my shelves with my other anime DVDs is a sad fact indeed. Someone should correct it. And maybe, just maybe, release some Nyanko-sensei plushies as well? ♥
You can watch Natsume Yuujinchou streaming online at Crunchyroll!