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Natsume's Book of Friends

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Written by  Yuki Midorikawa
English publisher  Viz Media
Original run  2005 – present
Author  Yuki Midorikawa
Published by  Hakusensha
Demographic  Shōjo
Volumes  21
Magazine  LaLa DX, LaLa
Natsume's Book of Friends Crunchyroll Natsume Yujincho Full episodes streaming online for free
Adaptations  Natsume's Book of Friends (2008)
Genres  Supernatural, Drama, Comedy
Publishers  Viz Media (NA), Hakusensha
Similar  Hotarubi no Mori e, Bungo Stray Dogs, Haikyū!!, March Comes in like a Lion, The Disastrous Life of Sai

Natsume's Book of Friends (Japanese: 夏目友人帳, Hepburn: Natsume Yūjin-chō) is a Japanese fantasy manga series by Yuki Midorikawa. It began serialization by Hakusensha in the shōjo manga magazine LaLa DX in 2005, before switching to LaLa in 2008. The chapters have been collected in twenty-one bound volumes. The series is about Natsume, an orphaned teenage boy who can see spirits, who inherits from his grandmother the notebook she used to bind spirits under her control. Natsume's Book of Friends was a finalist for the first Manga Taishō award in 2008.

Contents

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Natsume's Book of Friends has been adapted as a series of drama CDs, as well as an anime television series produced by Brain's Base, which was broadcast on TV Tokyo in 4 seasons in 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012. The manga is licensed for English-language release in North America by Viz Media, which released the first volume in January 2010. All four seasons of the anime have been licensed by NIS America for a North American release in 2012. A fifth season began airing on October 4, 2016. A sixth season will begin airing in April 2017.

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Story

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For as long as he can remember, Takashi Natsume has had the ability to see spirits, inheriting the power from his grandmother Reiko. Upon her death, Reiko bequeaths to her grandson her Book of Friends, a book containing the names of spirits Reiko had bullied into servitude. The Book of Friends is a highly prized item in the spirit world, and spirits haunt Takashi constantly. Whereas Reiko formed the contracts, however, Takashi spends his time dissolving the contracts and releasing the various spirits that come to him for help. But that doesn't mean there aren't malicious spirits trying to kill him. Which is where Madara (called Nyanko-sensei by Natsume) comes in; Madara serves as Natsume's bodyguard and spiritual advisor of sorts, even though ostensibly he is motivated by his own desire to possess the Book of Friends. He later on begins to become more attached to Takashi.

Main characters

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Takashi Natsume (夏目 貴志, Natsume Takashi) 
Voiced by: Hiroshi Kamiya The main character who like his grandmother (from whom he has inherited the Book of Friends - a book of contracts binding ayakashi defeated by Reiko to her in servitude), Reiko Natsume, can see ayakashi. Because of Natsume's strong resemblance to Reiko, he is often mistaken for her, and chased by yokai who hate Reiko but covet the Book of Friends. He decided to dissolve the book by returning all the names to their owners. He is accompanied by the yokai Madara, who he calls "Nyanko-sensei" or sometimes simply "sensei," promising him possession of the Book of Friends once he is dead. Natsume is an orphan. His parents died when he was a very young child, leaving him to be passed from relative to relative most likely because of his attempts to share that he could see ayakashi. Natsume has a tough and sad childhood because other people cannot see ayakashi, so he is often framed as a liar and attention seeker for telling strange stories, his attempt to fight off or run away from ayakashi often disturbs others, thinking he is insane. Natsume is eventually passed on to the Fujiwaras, a middle-aged couple on his father's side of the family. He loves them, and does not want to cause them trouble, so he keeps this 'alternate landscape' problem to himself. He has incredibly strong spiritual power, allowing him to actually hit and hurt yokai. Natsume is described by Yuki Midorikawa as "a boy who is trying to be a kind person." Natsume returns the name inscribed in the Book of Friends by first picturing the ayakashi in his mind. The book flips to the page on which the name is written and Natsume takes the page and places it in his mouth and exhales. Natsume is only able to do this because he is Reiko's blood relative. The cost of releasing the name, however, is that Natsume's energy is completely drained in the process. If an ayakashi becomes emotionally unstable, in the same space as a sleeping Natsume its dreams may flow into Natsume's. On the other hand, most of the ayakashi let Natsume see their memories, so that he can understand them better. Natsume can also see their memories when he releases a yokai's name. When Natsume is completely frustrated over a problem and falls asleep in class, he actually sleep-draws in his notebook about whatever is bothering him at the time. When he was being chased by a shadow he called "Mary," he started drawing it in his sleep, making his friends wonder if he was in love with a foreigner. His incredibly strong ability in spiritual magic and strength causes him to smell "yummy" to man-eating yokai, as Madara puts it. Natsume's incredibly strong spiritual power and his rare senses has him targeted by yokai and wanted by exorcists. At the beginning Natori wants him to join his exorcist clan, but later prefers him as a friend. Matoba, a powerful exorcist, also tries to recruit Natsume to the Matoba clan.
Madara () / "Nyanko-sensei" (ニャンコ先生)
Voiced by: Kazuhiko Inoue A mysterious Inugami. Madara was sealed in a shrine until he was accidentally released by Natsume. Because Madara was trapped in a material form for so long, Madara ordinarily takes on the shape of a maneki neko (lucky cat), leading Natsume to nickname him Nyanko-sensei. In this form, other people can see him, leading for Natsume having to ask his guardians if he could keep him as a pet. He is a powerful ayakashi, who protects Natsume from others and teaches him spells on occasion, in return for Natsume's promise to give him the Book of Friends when he dies, so Madara often complains when Natsume returns other yokai's name, say that at this rate he will be nothing left in the Book when Natsume dies. They often fight each other, which leads to Natsume punching Madara on the face and knocking him out. But as the story progresses, Madara takes a liking to Natsume. Despite his protests of not being a cat, he likes to play with cat toys. Nyanko's design is based on a lucky cat statue Midorikawa was given as a child. In the anime, Natsume is more respectful to Madara. Many times in the manga, other characters call Madara a 'pig' because of his round shape as a maneki neko. This annoys him a lot. Madara is implied to have had a close relationship with Reiko, which is implied to be one of the reasons he is content to be Takashi Natsume's companion.
Reiko Natsume (夏目 玲子, Natsume Reiko) 
Voiced by: Sanae Kobayashi Natsume's grandmother, from whom he inherited the ability to see yokai. When Reiko was young, she was considered a freak by everyone else because of her ability. Since she believed no human could ever understand her, she turned to the spirits for companionship. Reiko was extraordinarily powerful, and so she bullied spirits in to obeying her by playing games with them. If they lost, she would make them give her their names. Reiko gathered the names in to the Book of Friends, and commanded most spirits, excluding Madara. Madara mentions that she had sloppy table manners and was very forgetful. Reiko died when she was young, so no one remembered her.
Kaname Tanuma (田沼 要, Tanuma Kaname) 
Voiced by: Kazuma Horie Another student that had recently moved into the area. He is sickly and quite susceptible to illnesses. Like Natsume, he is able to detect spirits, but to a lesser degree limited to seeing merely shadows and sensing slight presence of spirits. He wants to help Natsume in any way he can, but is afraid that he will just be a burden because of his weak ability.
Touru Taki (多軌 透, Taki Tōru)
Voiced by: Rina Satō A new girl at school who rarely talks because of a curse a spirit has placed on her, which Natsume later helps her to break. She is an onmyouji; she cannot see spirits without drawing a magic circle. Taki, like Tanuma, wants to help Natsume in any way possible.
Jun Sasada (笹田 純, Sasada Jun)
Voiced by: Miyuki Sawashiro The president of Natsume's homeroom. Sasada believes that Natsume can see spirits, although he repeatedly denies this to her. To Natsume's chagrin, she frequently tries to accompany him when he is on business involving sprirts. She is a recurring character in the anime; in the manga, she is rarely seen after the encounter with Shigure due to transferring to another school from her step-father's job.
Shuuichi Natori (名取 周一, Natori Shūichi) 
Voiced by: Akira Ishida A man who is also able to see spirits. He is a famous actor and exorcist and has a lizard birthmark that moves around on his body. He has the ability to manipulate paper dolls (Shikigami) and has three spirits under his command. Natsume tends to disapprove of his forceful exorcism methods. When Natori is first introduced, he hated spirits for his horrible childhood. But, after meeting Natsume, he gradually softens even though his ways aren't much different. Over the course, Natori develop concern for Natsume's well-being for he tends to be reckless when it involves with spirits.
Seiji Matoba (的場 静司, Matoba Seiji) 
Voiced by: Junichi Suwabe The head of the Matoba clan. A cold-hearted man, Seiji is an exorcist who doesn't mind sacrificing innocent youkai to reach his goals. Although he wants stronger youkai to protect humans, he will not hesitate in hurting anyone who gets in his way. He is mostly seen armed with a bow and arrow, which he uses to eliminate youkai. There is a scar on his right eye, covered by an eyepatch with a spell on it, due to a past member of the Matoba clan offering his eye to a youkai for assistance but ended up breaking his promise. This causes later heads of the clan to have their eye targeted by that youkai, and the distrust from other clans. After his first encounter with Natsume he takes great interest in him, and even later on asks him to join the Matoba clan.
Atsushi Kitamoto (北本 篤史, Kitamoto Atsushi) and Satoru Nishimura (西村 悟, Nishimura Satoru)
Voiced by: Hisayoshi Suganuma and Ryōhei Kimura
Classmates of Natsume. Kitamoto is a sensible and rational person, while Nishimura is funny and easy-going, with a slightly perverted side. Although Natsume initially rejects their overtures of friendship because of his fears of his ability being found out, he eventually becomes friends with them, although they still hang around more with each other than Natsume. Nishimura has a crush on Taki, but thinks that she and Natsume are going out.
Touko Fujiwara (藤原 塔子, Fujiwara Tōko) and Shigeru Fujiwara (藤原 滋, Fujiwara Shigeru)
Voiced by: Miki Itō and Eiji Itō A childless middle-aged couple and Natsume's current foster parents. Shigeru is a second cousin of Natsume's dead father, and as a boy once met Reiko without recognizing it was her. Both Touko and Shigeru assure Natsume that they consider him a part of their family. They both worry often about him, wanting him to be as happy as possible. Despite this, Natsume goes to great lengths to hide his ability from them. Slowly, Natsume comes to understand that his keeping the Fujiwaras at a distance, including always addressing them formally (see Honorific speech in Japanese), is preventing him from forming close human attachments. Despite this, he still fears being rejected because of his abilities.
Hinoe (ヒノエ)
Voiced by: Akemi Okamura A powerful youkai whose form is a human woman. She is madly in love with Natsume Reiko. Being knowledgeable, she often acts as Natsume Takashi's mentor. Hinoe enjoys teasing Natsume and Madara.
Misuzu (三篠)
Voiced by: Takaya Kuroda A huge powerful horse youkai with many followers. He acknowledges that Natsume Takashi is a worthy holder of the Book of Friends and offers himself as Natsume's bodyguard in place of the "useless" Madara.
Kogitsune (子狐, Little Fox)
Voiced by: Akiko Yajima An orphaned fox youkai whose form is a boy with fox ears and tail however humans only see him as an infant fox. He becomes friends with Natsume after being rescued from bullying youkai.

Development

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Midorikawa created Natsume's Book of Friends as an episodic serial for a manga magazine published every two months, so that each chapter was a story that could be read on its own. As the result of earlier writing a ghost story that an editor made her revise to include more romance than she initially wanted, Midorikawa specifically created Natsume's Book of Friends as a supernatural story with less romance, containing supernatural elements that stir readers' imaginations the way stories about yōkai and local gods stirred hers growing up in a rural area. For the basic story, she wanted to write about a boy and his non-human teacher, and include the incongruous element of the boy's grandmother in a school uniform.

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This was the first series Midorikawa wrote in which the protagonist was also the central character. Midorikawa claimed that as a character Natsume is almost as bad as herself at expressing his thoughts, which caused her to use more interior monologue than she was comfortable with for a male character.

Manga

Natsume's Book of Friends is written and illustrated by Yuki Midorikawa and published in Japan by Hakusensha. It began serialization in 2005 in the bimonthly shōjo (aimed at teenage girls) manga magazine LaLa DX; in 2008, serialization switched to the monthly sister magazine LaLa. The untitled chapters have been collected in twenty-one tankōbon volumes.

The series is licensed in English in North America by Viz Media, with the first volume published in January 2010. It is also licensed in French by Delcourt, in South Korea by Haksan, in Taiwan by Tong Li, and in Thailand by Bongkoch Publishing.

In addition, a fan book was published on January 5, 2009 (ISBN 978-4-592-18696-0) and a notebook reproduction of Natsume's Book of Friends was published July 3, 2009 (ISBN 978-4-592-18690-8).

Drama CDs

Natsume's Book of Friends has been adapted as a series of three drama CDs, which were distributed as extras with issues of LaLa.

  1. LaLa Treasure Drama CD (October 2007)
  2. LaLa Excellent Drama CD (November 2008)
  3. LaLa Double Premiere Drama CD (May 2009)

Anime

Natsume's Book of Friends has been adapted as an anime television series produced by Brain's Base, directed by Takahiro Omori. It was broadcast on the TV Tokyo network in two seasons of 13 episodes each, the first from July 7 to September 29, 2008 and the second, called Zoku Natsume Yūjin-chō (続 夏目友人帳?, Natsume's Book of Friends Continued), from January 5 to March 30, 2009. For the first season, the opening theme was "Issei no Sei" (一斉の声?, "Simultaneous Voice") by Shūhei Kita, and the ending theme was "Natsu Yūzora" (夏夕空?, "Summer Evening Sky") by Kousuke Atari.

For the second season, the opening theme was "Ano Hi Time Machine" (あの日タイムマシン?, "That Day's Time Machine") by Long Shot Party and the ending theme was "Aishiteru" (愛してる?, "I Love You") by Kourin (pronounced as Callin'). Both seasons were released on five DVDs each.

A third season, titled Natsume Yūjin-chō San (夏目友人帳 参?, Natsume's Book of Friends Three) began airing on July 5, 2011. The opening theme was "Boku ni Dekiru Koto" (僕にできること?, "I Can Do") by HOW MERRY MARRY and the ending theme was "Kimi no Kakera" (君ノカケラ?, "Pieces of You") by Kousuke Atari featuring Emiri Miyamoto.

A fourth season titled Natsume Yuujinchou Shi (夏目友人帳 肆, Natsume's Book of Friends Four) began airing on January 2, 2012. The opening theme was "Ima, Kono Toki" (今、このとき。?, "Now, This Time") by Hiiragi and the ending theme was "Takaramono" (たからもの?, "Treasure") by Marina Kawano.

In the August, September, and October 2013 issues of LaLA Magazine, readers were able to get a special original-OVA DVD for Natsume Yuujinchou titled "Nyanko-Sensei and the First Errand", "Nyanko-sensei to Hajimete no Otsukai" (ニャンコ先生とはじめてのおつかい). This one-hour long episode OAD was aired on December, 2013.

An OVA titled Itsuka Yuki no Hi ni (いつかゆきのひに) was released on February 5, 2014, with the staff and cast of the previous anime seasons returning. The BD/DVD consisted of two discs, the second containing a clip of the "Sound Theatre x Natsume Yuujinchou ~ Tsudoi Ongeki no Shou~" musical event which was held the previous year on September 28, 2013.

A fifth season, titled Natsume Yūjin-chō Go (夏目友人帳 伍, Natsume's Book of Friends Five), was announced in the Monthly LaLa magazine's May 2016 issue and began airing on October 4, 2016. Shuka produced the anime, while the main staff from the previous seasons returned for the sequel. The opening theme was "Takarabako" (タカラバコ?) by Sasanomaly and the ending theme was "Akane Sasu" (茜さす?) by Aimer.

A sixth season, titled Natsume Yūjin-chō Roku (夏目友人帳 陸, Natsume's Book of Friends Six), was announced at the end of the fifth season's final episode. It is scheduled to premiere in April 2017.

Separate soundtrack albums for the two seasons were released in Japan by Sony Music on September 24, 2008 and March 18, 2009, respectively. The series opening and closing theme songs were also released by Sony Music. As singles, "Issei no Sei" reached a peak rank of 48th on the Oricon singles chart, "Natsu Yūzora" reached 27th, and "Ano Hi Time Machine" reached 38th. "Aishiteru" was not released as a single, but instead included on an album called Uta no Hibi by Kourin (Also known as Callin').

The series is streamed online by Crunchyroll; episodes of the second season were available online on the day of broadcast. NIS America has licensed the series for retail release in North America. It is also licensed in Chinese by Muse Communication.

Reception

Natsume's Book of Friends was one of twelve finalists for the first Manga Taishō award in 2008.

Since the fifth volume of the series, the individual volumes have made the best-seller list for manga in Japan. Volume 5 was ranked at number 8 on the charts for the week of March 4–10, 2008; Volume 6 was number 5 for the week of July 8–14, 2008; Volume 13 has done the best so far of the volumes, staying on the chart for three consecutive weeks (number 2 for the week of January 2–8, 2012, number 4 for the week of January 9–15, 2012, then falling to number 19 the following week).

References

Natsume's Book of Friends Wikipedia


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