Natsume’s Book of Friends Vol.1 by Yuki Midorikawa
Series: Natsume’s Book of Friends #1
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Shojo, Paranormal, Fantasy
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC
Release Date: January 5th 2010
Synopsis: With friends like these, enemies are overkill. R to L (Japanese Style). Takashi Natsume can see the spirits and demons that hide from the rest of humanity. He has always been set apart from other people because of his gift, drifting from relative to relative, never fitting in. Now he is a troubled high school student who has come to live in the small town where his grandmother grew up. And there he discovers that he has inherited more than just the Sight from the mysterious Reiko.
I’ve only read the first volume and Natsume’s Book of Friends has already warmed my heart. The plot that shown in this one volume volume is simple but still profound and meaningful. I would even say, even with the risk of coming off as too passionate, that this first volume itself could be called a masterpiece.
The story that is presented as of right now tells of the life of Takashi Natsume, a boy that finds himself in the possession of his grandmother Reiko’s Book of Friends. Because of that book, he is constantly being hunted by youkai who have had their names trapped in Reiko’s book and what them back (or, in some cases, visited and politely asked) of youkai that just want the Book of Friends. Natsume decides to take it upon himself to return the names in the Book of Friends to their rightful owners. This decision causes him to meet some fascinating creatures and people and learn their stories.
What I love most about this manga is the fact that each chapter has some form of meaning and sweetness weaved in it. Some stories like the ones about Swallow or Tsuyukami made me feel happy and sad at the same time. Some stories like the one about the youkai trying to escape the exorcist made me laugh. But each story has something to grab hold and reflect on, which is something that I truly loved and admire Yuki Midorikawa for being able to create such stories.
The mood that embodies Natsume’s Book of Friends is the aspect of the manga that soothed and warmed my heart. It’s very subtle but it gives off a very sweet and calm feeling. Sometimes all a story needs is a good mood to it in order to be well off, and while the first volume of Natsume’s Book of Friends can boast more than just having a good mood, the mood is definitely a reason why I loved reading this so much.
Natsume and Nyanko, the main characters, are pleasant to read about. Natsume mostly because I liked how ordinary he was compared to the strange youkai that are around him. The only thing that keeps him from being completely normal is his ability to see the creatures. Otherwise he is a regular boy who just lacks connection to other people, which he will hopefully gain throughout the rest of the manga. Nyanko is a funny character. He’s a youkai that desires the Book of Friends but also happens to have made a deal with Natsume to help him in return for breaking the seal placed on it. This leads to some amusing moments in which Nyanko pretends (or not…) that he is about to eat Natsume because the deal between them states that if Natsume dies, Nyanko will get the book. Nyanko does tend to embellish things, though…
The relationship between the two leads is an odd one, to say the least. I wouldn’t call them friends, calling them partners would be more suitable. But it is fun to read about the reactions between the two. It always makes me laugh whenever Nyanko will pretend to be preparing to eat Natsume (strange, the things I laugh at) or just irritating him a bit. And it always makes me laugh whenever Natsume gives the cat-like youkai a good bonk on the head whenever his fuse runs out. I would love to see the relationship between the two partners develop. Maybe into a friendship?
Reiko is an enigma to the reader, as she only appears in visions or memories. All we know is that she was a person who was distant from regular people and spent her days bullying youkai and taking their names. I am eager to learn more about her lonely character.
It would be a bit hard to talk about each supporting characters that are not Reiko all the way from their personality traits to their place in the story. That is because each chapter has a different supporting character to go with its new story. But it wouldn’t be hard to talk about them as a whole. To the fluttering, sweet Swallow to the kind, wise Tsuyukami, the supporting characters and their stories never felt unnecessary or boring. In fact, I felt a great amount of love for each one of them, despite the small amount of time I had with them.
Midorikawa is a real treat to look at. It’s very simple and pretty, fitting in with the tone and mood of the story. I love looking at the drawings of the youkai with their creative and sometimes beautiful designs.
Comparing the first volume of Natsume’s Book of Friends to the show Mushishi wouldn’t be to far off the mark. Both have a episodic story structure and handle supernatural creatures, this manga with youkai and Mushishi with Mushi. I loved Mushishi and have a very, very good impression with Natsume’s Book of Friends so far. I hope that this manga continue to be as lovely as its first volume!