Natsume Yūjin-Chō Roku
Episode 6

by Lauren Orsini,

How would you rate episode 6 of
Natsume Yūjin-Chō Roku (TV 6) ?

After one heavy two-parter comes two short-and-sweet stories. This week on Natsume Yujin-Cho Roku, we got two bookended tales about Natsume's school friends, Nishimura and Kitamoto. Amazingly, they've been around since season one and we've known nothing about them, until now. It's more evidence of Natsume Yujin-Cho's ability to dig deep and unearth new layers of meaning without introducing a single new character, by instead getting to know two side characters I've always taken for granted until now.

Until this week, have we ever seen Nishimura without Kitamoto? Normally they're a pair, significant only in their obliviousness to Natsume's rich spiritual world. This time, we really get to know them beyond the surface level. Before this, all I knew about Nishimura was that he really wanted a girlfriend. As it turns out, that's just one of Nishimura's problems. He's also having trouble at home, as he struggles to get along with his far more serious and studious big brother. Nishimura isn't only oblivious to yokai, it seems. He doesn't realize that while he envies his brother's grades, his brother envies his laid-back lifestyle and friendships. Nishimura thinks he's the one helping Natsume when he invites him into his home, but in the end it's Natsume who ends up helping Nishimura in ways he can't comprehend.

Kitamoto is also having some trouble at home, with a sick dad around while everyone else in the family puts on a cheerful front. Kitamoto is the serious foil to Nishimura's slacker act, and we realize it's because he's had to grow up more quickly than other kids. Perhaps as a coping mechanism, he also seems to be excellent at ignoring the evidence of what he sees in front of him in order to make life go smoothly. While Nishimura's yokai manifestation made him moody and anxious, Kitamoto actually witnesses otherworldly physical effects, with Natsume seemingly wrapped up in a classroom curtain, inches above the floor. Kitamoto's ability to take this kind of thing in stride says a lot about how he's able to be Natsume's friend without questioning his sanity all the time. Instead, Kitamoto just accepts Natsume for who he is, weird whirlwinds and all: “For an instant, his eyes looked like glass beads. Like they were fake and impossible to read. Natsume looked so calm. He felt like someone far away, like he lived in a different world.” It seems Kitamoto sees himself reflected in these expressionless eyes—and it encourages him to open up a bit more.

Both of these stories involve yokai, of course, but since they're each centered on one of Natsume's friends who can't see yokai, we don't get to see them either. What's fascinating is that even without being able to see any spirits, both of the pivotal yokai scenes are beautiful in execution. Nishimura's dream in the forest fits the right kind of ethereal mood for the show, while Kitamoto's whirlwind, illustrated mainly by class assignments slowly falling to the ground, is a memorable visual. Yokai stories without yokai are surprisingly evocative, helping us to understand what it's like to be a regular person in Natsume's world and moreso, why these two in particular are especially primed to be friends with an oddball like Natsume. As a deep dive into two of Natsume Yujin-Cho's more underdeveloped characters, it doesn't disappoint.

Rating: A

Natsume Yūjin-Chō Roku is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.

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