Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Natsume’s Book of Friends vol. 1 Impression

Natsume's Book of Friends volume 1
Once in a blue moon a manga comes along that just delights and surprises me. Natsume’s Book of Friends, volume 1 from Viz’s Shojo Beat line is just such a title. The cover with its soft art and tranquil colors reflects the tale to unfold within. What is it about this manga from Yuki Midorikawa that brings such high praise? I shall share.

His parents having passed at a young age, Takashi Natsume has been shuffled from relative to relative, usually passed along due to his ‘odd’ behavior. See Takashi has a gift, his ability to see and interact with Yokai, spirits. As a high school student he keeps to himself but since moving in with a new group of relatives these Yokai have become much more aggressive. The reason is his grandmother, gifted in the same manner, she made bets with spirits, games, and the loser was bound to serve the winner. Reiko was very successful in these games and compiled a book of names to seal the bargain and it’s this book which Takashi has inherited. With a spirit cat ally, one who’s just out for the book, Takashi takes it upon himself to return each name. The process is exhausting and not every spirit is kind and gentle so with his sensei kitty bodyguard Takashi must not only return names but help spirits with issues. Can his kindness make a difference to spirits who don’t trust humans? Time will tell and with so many names to return time is not an issue.

The story outlined is basic for a reason. The pleasure I took, the serenity was from the story, and how Takashi interacts with each spirit, how each tale unfolds. I found myself reminded of InuYasha in the spirit/human interaction but there is not real combat or agenda to speak of. This is a book of relationships, new, brief and old. It’s the story of a human, isolated by his gift, finding comfort in helping spirits his grandmother bound, in showing that people are people even if they are sprits. The art style is also simple and subtle. It’s as soothing as the feelings the green colored cover invoke. While some of the spirits can be quite fierce and scary looking they maintain a soothing style. Odd, maybe, but I can’t deny how much I enjoyed this manga and how relaxed and good it made me feel from the style to just how Takashi acts and treats others. There are lessons to be learned from Takashi, so pick up a volume and start learning, it’s a good read.

1 comment:

  1. Though I have never read the manga, I can say with confidence that the anime is great. It's a breath of fresh air compared to the fast-paced, action packed series and high school romances. The man character is easy to like and sympathize with and the character design is lovely and easy on the eyes.

    This series I personally think is a love or hate with no in between. One will either enjoy the slow pace of it and the character coming to terms with their ability or not. I wish the anime was licensed for American release along with the manga.