Natsume Yuujinchou Shi 7 concludes the help-me-I’m-stuck-in-a-jar story arc with a great episode.
The plot involves rescue and escape, but the emotional story in a Natsume episode is always closer to the heart. In this case, Tanuma. He’s tried to find the Natsume-jar and stumbled into youkai land where there’s a big banquet to celebrate the return of Omibashira, a very powerful spirit. Bring gifts! Tanuma has only a sliver of the perception that Natsume does. He can often feel a youkai’s presence, or see a vague shadow, but nothing more. He must at times want a better look at what he can’t see. Now he’s in a place where they’re all visible to him! Plus, he’s desperate to rescue Natsume. No way is he going to hold back now, in spite of what that weird youkai who spots him says. But to impersonate a youkai and try to con the assembled banqueteers is a bold move! Even cynical Nyanko is impressed. Natsume isn’t; he’s alarmed. Involving a friend in a dangerous situation is his worst-case-scenario.
The consequences of Tanuma’s action are twofold. First, he does succeed in freeing Natsume, second, he later is injured while everyone tries to find a way out of the mansion, which is actually a trap not only for humans but for Youkai. Natsume, naturally, is beside himself. But there are advantages to having friends around as well. Natori is there, which means Urihime and (hooray!) Hiiragi is there. And then there’s that odd schoolgirl who rescues them from some searchers. It took me a moment to figure it out who this Reiko-impersonator was, but then I recognized the music. Here’s another thing the series can do well, especially now that the characters are so well established: it can be flat out funny. Reiko was an intense character all by herself; having her do the Nyanko phraseology on top of that nearly put me on the floor.
And another thing that the series does well: danger. It’s often so pastoral and serene that you can forget that lives are at stake, here. It takes work by everyone to seal Omibashira away and save the remaining youkai. Meanwhile Tanuma, in spite of his bravery and desire to help, is really out of his element here, and that brings us back to the theme. Natsume doesn’t want to involve his friends in his youkai adventures, or at least he wants to involve them as little as possible. But can you keep good friends out of something that so dominates your life, and still have them as friends? Remember, in season one Natsume only told Tanuma about the youkai in order to reassure him that he wasn’t seeing things. He had no intention of drawing him closer to that dangerous world. Natori tells Natsume that he was right to choose this path, because he’s strong enough to handle it. I’m not sure I understand, but I assume Natori was talking about living with friends both youkai and human. So, a little bit of everything this week. Excellent episode.
Six episodes in and I still don’t know what’s up with Inu x Boku SS. It still has overtones of supernatural thriller and romance, with something potentially nasty threatening our little stocking’d tsundere every episode, but each time the threat turns out silly. This time it’s Ririchiyo’s getting stalky text messages which are distracting her from the much more important job of figuring out how to reciprocate Souchi’s kindness (and thus maybe deal with her heart spasms), and choosing the right stationary. This danger, which actually looks dangerous, turns out to be this weirdo (aren’t they all in this show) called Kagerou, once Souchi’s master and currently Ririchiyo’s fianceé. She might have mentioned that before. However, whatever shock his appearance might have had is quickly dissolved into silliness as he runs around the place dividing the other tenants, agents and inanimate objects into Sadist or Masochist. Then he runs off. So, again, what kind of show is this?
Amagami SS+, the conclusion of the Ai arc, is the dullest episode yet. It makes you wonder why they bothered to revive the series at all. At least the first two arcs had something going for them. The Tsukasa arc had a new, evil rival. The Rihoko arc was unfinished, so they had somewhere to go with it. The Ai arc had nothing. Junichi is stuck in cram school. Ai is lonely and wondering what will happen when Junichi goes off to university. Junichi sneaks out of cram school for their Christmas date and reassures her. That’s it. The tossed-in comedy bits worked for as long as they lasted, but in the end all you get are two people in love having a good time together. Promises to the future aside, nothing whatsoever changes from before.
Oh, I also watched Kill me Baby.