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Natsume Yujincho, or, Natsume's Book of Friends, is reminiscent of a time when the common monotony of animation endeavors wasn’t simply to create another Naruto, another Evangelion or another Haruhi Suzumiya. It’s simplicity manages to keep the viewer engaged with it’s very own breed of charming story-telling.
The story follows our “hero” Natsume Takashi, a kind-hearted boy who has the uncanny ability, to see spirits, or “youkai,” a trait passed onto him by his grandmother, Natsume Reiko. He soon becomes the owner of his grandmother’s “Book of Friends”, which contains the names of the demons she sealed after defeating them. Having your name in this book means is if so ever the person in possesion of the book calls your name, you must do their bidding and cannot disobey them.
Nyanko-Sensei, a prestigious youkai which takes the form of an adorable calico cat, is freed by Takashi and warns him that the demons in his Grandmother’s Book of Friends will seek him out for revenge against Reiko, and to regain ownership of their names. Nyanko-Sensei then agrees to become Takashi’s bodyguard, not only to protect him, but to try and convince him to hand over the Book of Friends, because a Human shouldn’t expect to rule over the Kingdom of Youkai. Takashi then takes it upon himself to release each and every one of the spirits bound to the Book, and show the youkai humanity in its best light.
Like most stories that revolved around monsters, zombies or other non-humans, Natsume Yujincho uses the supernatural to ultimately tell a tale of Humanity. Each episode tells a different story with a lesson, focusing on a particular mannerism of benevolence. In other words, in Natusme Yujin-cho, the main characters act like more of a vessel for the actual storyline, than becoming the main focus themselves.
Shi begins with Takashi no longer alone, speaking among his group of friends about a meteor shower they are planning to watch together. He remembers when stars were a thing he used to only view alone when a youkai stops him and begs him to help a friend who’s leg is trapped under a large rock. Takashi reluctantly agrees to help the youkai, complaining a bit before realizing it’s his curse that’s made his life what it is today. After Takashi helps free the youkai’s leg, the two thank Takashi and one of them begs for his name returned to him. Takashi quickly realeases the youkai’s name from the Book of Friends, only to be grabbed by a group of five tall demons with long white hair and masks, who grope the boy’s face and rip at his jacket, demanding he hand over the Book.
Nyanko-Sensei quickly arrives to save Takashi, but soon after Takashi realizes that an old problem is back in a big way. Some youkai simply wish for their names back, others want power. Either way, hundreds of youkai have visited Takashi looking for the Book of Friends. But, these particular five youkai seemed different, they had a nastiness about them that he hadn’t normally felt, and were more blood-thirsty than any youkai he’d encountered before...And what’s even worse, the youkai are now following him to school. In an effort to protect his friends, Takashi awkwardly runs out of class, pushing several students out of the way, and running towards the forest.
The fourth season of Natsume Yujin-cho centers on the darker parts of Takashi’s “gift.” The fact that he doesn’t tell more than a few friends about his abilities are explained when Tanuma says that he once had a dream where Takashi was eaten by a youkai. After that, whenever Takashi is late for a class, Tanuma cannot help but think that maybe his friend had been swallowed alive and is now gone forever. He understands Takashi’s plight and what he meant when he said he couldn’t tell more people because he’d like to “keep them smiling,” ultimately to save them the same kind of worry and torment that Tanuma now feels.
Natsume Takashi leads the five youkai back into the forest, where he is puzzled by the appearence of the Exorcist Matoba, as he captures one of the five monkey-masked youkai. He then manages to snatch Nyanko-Sensei, which leads Takashi to frantically search the forest. He soon stumbles upon a mysterious mansion in the middle of the woods, filled with youkai locked in different rooms and cages, he bravely enters...
Cosplayer, fangirl, and RPG enthusiast Victoria Holden is featured on The Live Show. You can follow her on Twitter at @sailorbee.
By Hiromu Arakawa
Available on JManga
Hyakushou Kizoku (Noble Farmer) is not especially the secret origin story of Fullmetal Alchemist author Hiromu Arakawa. She drew herself as a bespectacled cow in FMA's sidebars, and here, that Arakawa cow-caricature relates a series of opinion laced anecdotes about growing up on a dairy farm in Japan's northern island of Hokkaido. While the manga doesn't offer obvious insight into her inspiration for FMA, her enthusiasm for the subject makes it very easy to see where she came up with the agricultural school setting for her latest ongoing manga series, Silver Spoon.
To the extent that we think about the people who create manga, we generally only think of them as manga authors. One Piece fans joke about "Oda's wife," and "Berserk" readers laugh about Kentaro Miura's fascination with "Idolm@aster," but those are more considerations of what's distracting them from making manga than they are curious about the lives of the authors.
Part of this has to be credited to the nature of the manga business. Animators, prose authors, actors and directors may have distinct projects, but mangaka are supposed to stay chained to the desk as long as health permits.
The vision of the manga author sequestered in their apartment, occasionally visited by an editor or colleague is the starting point for Hyakushou Kizoku. In an appropriate parallel that Arakawa (illustrated as a cow) points out to one of her visitors (drawn as a human), life in the manga business is like life on the farm in that neither affords the worker any vacation.
Arakawa then fills in her past, opinions and life beyond the drawing board using an approach that will be familiar to manga readers. Hyakushou Kizoku is a distinct manga series, which runs in shoujo magazine Wings (home of early CLAMP RD Vega and gender bender comedy Princess Princess). However, the series is comprised of the sort of material that runs as bonus inserts ("omake") in the collected editions of manga.
The omake style material is expanded into ten page chapters, thirteen of which are collected here. Each breaks down into shorter topics and conversational tangents. For example, in one chapter, Arakawa will discuss the nutritional value of milk, then jumps to harvesting potatoes, and the various odd objects picked up while harvesting, including arrow heads, before expanding on the time that her family found an unopened bag of potato chips in with the harvest.
The jumps between recollections, opinions and explanations do not make for a plot driven manga, and Hyakushou Kizoku doesn't serve to engender a fascination with the subject the way that a more narrative manga might.
Instead, it's fueled by personality. Given the size of the personality, that's more than enough. This isn't gentle argument or rational debate. The tone is set at a near-rant blast, as Arakawa, hammers an uncomfortable visitor or pet with the importance of Hokkaido based food production and the hard nature of those who labor for it.
She is offering the perspective from a family that owns land (this is after all called "Noble Farmer"), feeds Japan and is as tough as nails (there are plenty of stories about family members being kicked by animals or severely injured by industrial machines). Ultimately, Arakawa declares, "if you disagree with me, starve!"
At the same time, while Hiromu Arakawa the character is overbearing and out of control, Hiromu Arakawa the author isn’t or at least isn't to the same extent. The humorous incongruity of the boastful cow shaped personality making big declarations from a cramped apartment, is part of the manga's appeal.
Besides being the object of her rants, the audience characters' job is to rein Arakawa in when she goes too far. For example, she is scoffed at when she insists that Hokkaido brown bears are larger than Asian black bears, and given that there were brown bears in the vicinity of her farm, she should be able to take a mainland bear in a fight. In later strips, the straight man characters are even afforded the opportunity to do a little bit of fact checking and even retort. It's almost a punch line to the volume when Arakawa's editor suggests that if Hokkaido stops exporting food, Tokyo should stop exporting anime and manga.
The volume of Hyakushou Kizoku available on JManga collects three years of material. While it's not written to be read in one sitting, the boisterous personality that Arakawa expresses is so engaging, that it is possible to get caught up with reading large chunks at a time. Regardless of if you agree with the opinions she expresses or second guess some of her assertions, reading a manga author yell about farming in Hokkaido proves to be an entertaining, personality driven experience.
Are you looking for a light-hearted anime that’s guaranteed to make you smile? If you enjoyed Chi’s Sweet Home – Chi’s New Address following the life of Chi and all the mischief, you’ll be an immediate fan of Poyopoyo. Moe Sato was strolling along one day when she became so exhausted that she passed out right on Poyo-chan without knowing it was a cat. Upon seeing Poyo-chan for the first time, he’s just a big round fur ball. When Moe discovers he’s a cat, she brings him home.
The events in the episodes revolve around Poyo-chan in less than 3 minute shorts. Each episode is filled with a lot of action while learning more about Poyo-chan’s personality. He’s a very calm cat that does his own thing and just plays all day like most cats.
He is a super cute round fur ball that you can’t help but like. By episode 3, he already makes friends with another cat, Kurobe which can fill the show with a lot more adventure. He shows his protective nature by getting revenge on the cat that bullied Kurobe. His owners think of Poyo-chan as a dashing character with more to come.
Ichigo is shocked to learn that Chad and Orihime have now sided with Tsukishima and are even willing to fight Ichigo to protect their precious “friend.” Meanwhile, Ginjo races to help Ichigo, but the remaining members of Xcution halt his attempt.
Yukimura has invited his warriors to his private hot spring. While there Saizo, Kakei, Kamanosuke, and Sasuke get into a fight with the monk Seikai. The warriors are losing to this powerful monk and are currently unable to do anything, until an unlikely ally stops the battle.
The group receives a free trip to Okinawa courtesy of Manami. While there, Kaito runs into a childhood friend who claims to be his fiancé. Tetsuro gains a stalker that stirs some jealous feelings in Mio.
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