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review 2016-12-05 12:40
Natsume's Book of Friends (manga, vol. 10) by Yuki Midorikawa, translated by Lillian Olsen
Natsume's Book of Friends, Volume 10 - Yuki Midorikawa

This volume contains two stories. In the first, Natsume finds himself forced to help a former classmate of his, Shibata. Shibata is in love with a girl he thinks might be a yokai, and he wants Natsume to confirm that she isn't. In the second story, Natori is hired to find and free a harvest god so that a pestilence god can't take over and make the crops in the area fail for the next 10 years. If he can't manage that, then he's supposed to exorcise the pestilence god. Meanwhile, yokai have convinced Natsume is pretend to be the harvest god until they can find and free the real one.

The story with Shibata was so-so – very similar to a lot of previous stories in this series, with a tragic love between a human and a yokai. However, I always enjoy getting little glimpses of Natsume's past, so it was nice to hear a bit more about him from someone who knew him before he went to live with the Fujiwaras. Even if that person was basically blackmailing him.

My favorite detail from that story: Natsume getting birthday cake for Mr. Fujiwara. I seriously love the Fujiwaras. They're just perfect.

The second story was, visually, one of my favorites from the anime, and I enjoyed it in the manga as well. The character designs for the harvest and pestilence gods were so pretty. I suppose the story wasn't really anything special, but it was still fun seeing Natori again. Unlike Matoba, Natori is willing to meet Natsume halfway. In this volume he takes a huge risk, trusting that in the end Natsume will arrive at a solution that will work for everybody. A nice quote from Natsume: “Once the fever's gone down, I should go visit Mr. Natori. We still have our philosophical differences, but...but it also felt like we could complement each other because of those differences.”

As always, this is a lovely series, and I look forward to reading more of it. It has such a gentle and peaceful feel to it.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2016-12-05 12:38
Natsume's Book of Friends (manga, vol. 9) by Yuki Midorikawa, translated by Lillian Olsen
Natsume's Book of Friends, Vol. 9 - Yuki Midorikawa

This volume contains three stories. In the first, Natsume saves a fuzzy little yokai called Karu, which is rumored to be vicious when in groups.

However, it and other Karu save Natsume from a yokai that threatens to burn his home for (it thinks) stealing his ring, so Natsume realizes it can't be as bad as the rumors say.

(spoiler show)

In the second story, Natsume is attacked by yokai in simian masks and ends up imprisoned at one of the Matoba estates. Matoba tries to convince Natsume to join the Matoba clan and leave behind humans who don't understand him and yokai who he says will eventually betray him.

However, Natsume escapes with the help of all his yokai friends.

(spoiler show)

The third story is a brief look back at an earlier time in Natsume's life, before he went to live with the Fujiwaras, from the POV of a female classmate of his who didn't really know him all that well but who still managed to look past his seemingly strange behavior.

I don't remember seeing the fuzzball yokai story in the anime, but maybe it was there and I just forgot about it. At any rate, the little guy was pretty cute, except for the sharp teeth.

I particularly liked this quote, said by Tanuma to Taki: “I once asked [Natsume] why he hasn't told Mr. and Mrs. Fujiwara what he can see. I thought he was stubborn. He said...it's because he wants them to keep on smiling. At first I didn't get it, but there are days I've had some dreams where he gets eaten by yokai. And I realized that's what he meant. He's late to school, and his classmates laugh, thinking he's overslept again. But a chill goes up my spine.” Oh, my heart. I loved this glimpse into what it's like to be Natsume's friend and to know a little about what he can see and what he goes through. Even if it's hard on Tanuma and Taki, I'm glad that Natsume has human friends who know his secret.

I don't recall liking the second story as much in the anime, but I enjoyed it in the manga because it really emphasized a couple things: one, that Natsume has come a long way and now has a great group of yokai friends, and two, that Natsume's yokai friends may actually make him more powerful than Matoba. That second bit really stuck with me. Matoba is someone who sees yokai as (at best) tools and (at worst) enemies of humans. He seems powerful, but there are likely limits to how much he can accomplish by trapping, tricking, and/or enslaving yokai, and at least a part of him has to be worried that he'll slip up and one of them will kill him. Natsume has encountered some dangerous yokai too, but he doesn't have to constantly force Nyanko-sensei and the other yokai to help him – they just do.

My favorite quote from the end of the second story (Natsume's thoughts): “I vowed to understand and to not look away from the plight of those I can see and hear.”

As far as the third story went, it was nice to see that there were a few people here and there who saw Natsume at least a little for the person he really was, and not the liar and attention-seeker that everyone kept saying he was. Midorikawa has shown readers stuff like this before, so it wasn't exactly new, but I still liked it because it expanded the world of this series a little more. It'd be nice if this girl and Natsume could cross paths again at some point, but, even if they don't, I feel like she'd think about him occasionally and hope he's doing okay.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2015-12-06 01:54
Natsume's Book of Friends (vol. 8) by Yuki Midorikawa, translated by Lillian Olsen
Natsume's Book of Friends, Vol. 8 - Lillian Olsen,Yuki Midorikawa

First story: Nyanko is resting due to events in the previous volume, so Natsume tries to deal with a weird yokai rock that keeps possessing people around him on his own. He doesn't want to ruin the cultural festival, which he's really looking forward to. Second story: Tanuma gets possessed by a yokai looking for shards of a mirror that could help her sick friend. For once, Tanuma gets to experience some of what Natsume goes through. Third story: A flashback to Natsume's childhood, when he tried to deal with a yokai feeding off his loneliness (or fear? My notes could be better). This was also the first time he met Toko and Shigeru. Fourth story: From Chobi's POV. Natsume helps a yokai remove a rock that fell on top of a bird's nest.

This is the first volume to include something that I don't remember seeing in the anime (Chobi's story).

I loved how the second story turned the tables a bit. Natsume learned how much it hurt to be avoided, even for his own protection, and Tanuma got a glimpse of what Natsume's life is like.

I also enjoyed getting to see Natsume's friends worrying about him at the cultural festival. It's nice to see that his ordinary, have-no-clue-he-can-see-yokai friends care about him and try to watch out for him. It's too bad that Natsume's first home, after his parents died, wasn't with the Fujiwaras.

And speaking of the Fujiwaras, the story in which Natsume first met them was one of my favorites in the anime. I was happy to be able to read it in the manga. It was so sad that, when he first met Toko, a part of him wondered if she was really a yokai, since no humans had ever shown signs of wanting him to live with them. And Toko! She was so adorable and awkward. I really do love the Fujiwaras. A part of me hopes that a future volume shows how Toko and Shigeru first met and became a couple.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2015-12-06 01:51
Natsume's Book of Friends (vol. 7) by Yuki Midorikawa, translated by Lillian Olsen
Natsume's Book of Friends, Vol. 7 - Lillian Olsen,Yuki Midorikawa

First story: Natsume investigates incidents of yokai getting their blood drained. He thinks the head of the Matoba exorcist clan is behind it – a theory supported by Nyanko and Natori's wariness towards him. Second story: Natsume and a bunch of yokai play shadow-tag. Third story: Unrelated to Natsume's Book of Friends. It's about a kid who gains amazing athletic abilities by drinking juice. He's secretly in love with a female friend of his, who he realizes loves someone else.

It's nice to finally meet the head of the Matoba clan, a character I enjoyed in the anime. However, this was very different from the usual Natsume's Book of Friends volume. I think Midorikawa does better with bittersweet short stories.

The second story is utterly and completely fluff. Nice fluff, with everyone playing tag with Natsume, who never got to do it with other human kids, but still fluff.

The third story, the one-shot, was an utter mess. Poor storytelling, plus a lack of focus. We have over-the-top  stuff like the boy who gets amazing physical abilities from drinking ordinary juice, of all things, a lackluster romance, and a thief. Midorikawa has definitely improved since she wrote this.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2015-12-06 01:48
Natsume's Book of Friends (vol. 6) by Yuki Midorikawa, translated by Lillian Olsen
Natsume's Book of Friends, Vol. 6 - Lillian Olsen

First story: Natsume meets a boy who seems to be like him – he can see and is being chased by yokai. He's also maybe being bullied. Second story: The little fox yokai decides to visit Natsume because he's feeling lonely. Third story: Hinoe tells the story of how she met Reiko. Fourth story: A one-shot completely unrelated to Natsume's Book of Friends. A student falls in love with the teacher for whom she often acts as an assistant. He chose his career over his girlfriend, and the student therefore does her best to hide her feelings, not wanting to mess things up for him.

I think this volume includes the first story in this series that might be called “lengthy,” although it somehow doesn't feel any longer than any of the other stories. This is also the first volume in which Natsume starts thinking about his future and the possibility that he might one day become a parent.

It was nice to see more of Reiko, although Hinoe's story was disappointingly skimpy. And the fox yokai was adorable.

The one-shot was...blah. Okay, for a teacher-student semi-romance, but blah.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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