Based on the ongoing manga series of the same name, Natsume’s Book of Friends follows the adventures of Natsume, a boy who is able to see monsters from Japanese folklore called Yokai. As it turns out, Natsume’s gift is inherited from his grandmother – something he discovers when the Yokai begin mistaking him for her.
The passing of this trait isn’t unexpected. His grandmother could see Yokai as well, leading her to create The Book of Friends, a sort of encyclopedia of Yokai. Natsume finds the book and, after thumbing through it, he notices a series of scribbles in the margins. In addition to acting as the field guide to Yokai, the book also acts as a prison for any Yokai named in the pages. The person who controls the book controls the Yokai trapped within, making it – and Natsume – a target.
Here’s where Natsume’s Book of Friends takes a not unexpected, but interesting take. Rather than use his collection of Yokai to battle the evil Yokai, he decides he wants to free all of the trapped Yokai from the book. A few of the spirits sense his sympathetic vibrations and decide to help him, despite their distaste for humans – even one who is trying to help them.
Natsume’s budding relationships with his spiritual companions is a driving force behind the first two seasons. The first sets up the "rules of the game" so to speak, while the second plunges the companions into their quest to free the book’s inhabitants.
I couldn’t find much to not like about Natsume’s Book of Friends. As I said previously, the series trends towards what I usually consider "anime," but it never completely goes overboard. This was the case with Ghastly Prince Enma; the two share similar supernatural sensibilities, but Natsume’s Book of Friends goes just to the line without crossing it.
Natsume’s Book of Friends is light on extras. Clean openings and endings are included on the disc, as is a collection of commercials for the series. A hardcover art book is, as is tradition with NIS Premium Edition offerings, included. The book’s cover is designed to mimic the look of Natsume’s book from the series, though I really wish the concept were incorporated into the entire design.
The first section offers episode recaps and a few screen caps from each. The book also includes character sketches accompanied by short character descriptions and a collection of artwork depicting characters from the show. The most interesting part is the sketches of the Yokai, which is something I wish was more central to the book. I would have loved a few lines about each Yokai, but the artwork is a nice addition regardless. Finally, there’s a one-page interview with director, Takahiro Omori.
Natsume’s Book of Friends is fantastic addition to any anime library. It manages to offer just enough supernatural adventure to appease fans that want that in a show, while also keeping plots relatable and antics low key.