Natsume Yūjin-Chō Roku Episodes 1-2
by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 1 of
Natsume Yūjin-Chō Roku (TV 6) ?
How would you rate episode 2 of
Natsume Yūjin-Chō Roku (TV 6) ?
Editor's Note: Since Lauren already reviewed episode one of this season in the preview guide, which you can read here, this review will cover episode two.
“Wow, I'm not alone anymore, am I?”
For a show that constantly wrestles with themes of isolation, this is a standout line in the second episode of Natsume Yūjin-Chō Roku. It's no longer Natsume against the world by a long shot, and his growing social circle paints yokai troubles in a new light. This is a crowded episode, packing in cameos or references to almost everyone Natsume knows while he attempts to reunite two yokai who only have each other in this world.
What is a stonewasher? This term made me think of a type of denim popular in the '90s. I assume that the concept of stones removing impurities from the air until they themselves become impure is a reference to Eastern spirituality that I know nothing about. Regardless, the act of stonewashing as portrayed in this episode is sheer gorgeousness. These beautiful flowers (which only the most idiotic amateur exorcist would see as “graffiti”) are as pretty as they are functional, the same way real flowers are just fulfilling another role in the global ecosystem. It's interesting to see a story about a yokai who performs a needed function to make the world better for everyone, at least spiritually. Usually, the yokai Natsume meets seem frivolous on the surface, but the stonewasher inherits a level of respect, even from other yokai.
Throughout the episode, Natsume sees washed stones while going about his everyday life, always accompanied by different people who are precious to him. Over the last five seasons, Natsume's process of coming out of his shell and learning to trust people after his horrific childhood has been a slow, painful process. Now I just like seeing his ever-widening social circle trotted out to revel in how far he's come. From Touko to Taki to the “Dog's Circle” of Natsume's most fiercely loyal yokai friends, it's not about character development for Natsume's social circle through these fleeting cameos, but for Natsume himself. Natsume may never realize the extent to which he is loved and appreciated, but it's heartwarming to see him begin to get an inkling of how many people care about him now.
It's this reason that compels Natsume to help the Stonewasher find his companion. The way the Stonewasher tells it, his future pupil appeared one day injured and in need of care—Natsume sees himself in that story, bandaged on his hospital bed the day Shigeru and Touko took him in. It's what compels him to search for this genderless companion, though my one issue with this episode's subtitles is how the companion is repeatedly called an “it.” Even the AP Style Guide says writers should refer to people who can't be called "he" or "she" with “they” to indicate that they are people, not things. On the other hand, I have only a nominal understanding of Japanese and no clue how difficult this show is to translate. There were several untranslatable puns, especially from the ox yokai, that went through smoothly, so the translation is still mostly solid.
Anyway, in an episode filled with beautiful natural (and supernatural) phenomena, the most emotional moment was the reunion between Stonewasher and companion. Natsume Yūjin-Chō does an amazing job of making yokai seem both strange and utterly familiar—they may look and act differently, but their emotional motivators are the same as our own. And for Natsume, who is just beginning to realize the importance of his own interpersonal relationships, this parallel couldn't be clearer.
Natsume Yūjin-Chō Roku is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist.
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