Natsume Yūjin-Chō Go
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Natsume Yūjin-Chō Go (TV 5) ?
Once upon a time, Natsume Yujin-cho was a “yokai of the week” anime. In the first and second season, many episodes were standalone, featuring Natsume's struggle to assist a brand new yokai, solve their problems, and probably never see them again. This week's episode, “Shadow Linked Chains” proves just how important continuity has become to this series. As the second installment of last week's cliffhanger, it reveals more complicated ties between some secondary recurring characters (Matoba and Natori) than we've seen so far. It feels like the show is finally firing on all cylinders, going from a relaxing weekly introspection to a roiling drama that will test the limits Natsume will push to protect his peaceful life.
In previous seasons, Natsume's drama has been very much private and internal, but now he's caught in a passive-aggressive power struggle between two powerful exorcists who both want something from him. Last week's half of the story focused on Natori, Natsume's kind but slippery actor friend who also happens to be the heir to an exorcist family. In previous seasons, it seemed that Natori practiced as an exorcist simply for the thrill of it. This week, Natsume has been forced by a less trustworthy exorcist, Matoba, to visit his family's villa. While Natori seeks Natsume's alliance (and powerful spiritual abilities) with overtures of friendship, Matoba and his family once kidnapped Natsume to arrange a meeting with him. Matoba has certainly smoothed out his edges, appearing in a suit and speaking with a honeyed voice, but Natsume remains wisely resistant to the heir's ways. It's enough to make you wonder, since Matoba can't be trusted, whether Natori can either. After all, this episode reveals that the two exorcists know one another, and when Matoba finds a paper doll in Natsume's hair, he knows exactly who put it there. It's a bold but inevitable move in the story to share that these night-and-day exorcists are acquainted. It makes me realize how little I know about Natsume Yujin-cho's handful of recurring characters, who usually lie adjacent to Natsume's internal struggles and personal fears. This focus on characters other than Natsume shows that he is coming out of his shell and strengthens my attachment to his world.
As they prowl the mazelike halls of Matoba's villa, Nyanko-sensei notes that it reminds him of the Omnibashara mansion. Back in season 4 (episode 6), Natori invited Natsume to a yokai gathering in a sinister mansion where, one by one, the yokai in attendance were getting picked off by Natori's target, Omnibashara. It's a good reference because honestly, I was thinking the same thing. Once again, Natsume is wandering a mansion with a terrible secret. It's one of the oldest horror story plots out there—a haunted house—but thanks to Natsume's power, the fear of the unknown is replaced by an all-too-unnerving knowledge of just what is putting him in peril. Background music with a rapid, rhythmic beat replaces the usually gentle soundtrack of the show to emphasize the danger and tension behind every corner. Since this episode also features a party, it combines Natsume's natural reticence to interact with human strangers (who have usually been cruel to him) with a vengeful yokai threat. Far from the nostalgic feel of episode two, Natsume is facing one of his most stressful adventures yet.
The episode concludes a two-part arc, but a resolution between Matoba and Natori still waits in the future. This uneasy new conflict between two of the show's recurring characters shows that there's a lot more to discover about the Natsume Yujin-cho world, and this season's revelations may be the most pivotal ones yet.
Natsume Yūjin-Chō Go is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist
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