Natsume's Book of Friends

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Natsume's Book of Friends
NatsumeYuujinchou1.gif
Cover of Natsume's Book of Friends volume 1 as published by Hakusensha
夏目友人帳
(Natsume Yūjin-chō)
Genre Supernatural, Drama, Comedy
Manga
Written by Yuki Midorikawa
Published by Hakusensha
English publisher
Demographic Shōjo
Magazine LaLa DX, LaLa
Original run 2005 – ongoing
Volumes 16
Anime television series
Natsume Yūjin-chō
Directed by Takahiro Omori
Music by Makoto Yoshimori
Studio Brain's Base
Licensed by
Network TV Tokyo
English network Crunchyroll
Original run July 7, 2008September 29, 2008
Episodes 13 (List of episodes)
Anime television series
Zoku Natsume Yūjin-chō
Directed by Takahiro Omori
Studio Brain's Base
Licensed by
Network TV Tokyo
Original run January 5, 2009March 30, 2009
Episodes 13 (List of episodes)
Anime television series
Natsume Yūjin-chō San
Directed by Takahiro Omori
Written by Sadayuki Murai
Studio Brain's Base
Licensed by
Network TV Tokyo
Original run July 5, 2011September 27, 2011
Episodes 13 (List of episodes)
Anime television series
Natsume Yūjin-chō Shi
Directed by Takahiro Omori
Written by Sadayuki Murai
Music by Makoto Yoshimori
Studio Brain's Base
Licensed by
Network TV Tokyo
Original run January 2, 2012March 26, 2012
Episodes 13 (List of episodes)
Portal icon Anime and Manga portal

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. Chapters have been collected in sixteen bound volumes as of July 2013. 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.[1]

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.[2]

Story[edit]

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 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[edit]

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."[3]
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.[4] 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.
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 omniyojist; 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: Ishida Akira
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 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 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.

Development[edit]

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.[5] As the result of earlier writing a ghost story that an editor made her revise to include more romance than she initially wanted,[6] Midorikawa specifically created Natsume's Book of Friends as supernatural story with less romance,[7] containing supernatural elements that stir readers' imaginations the way stories about yōkai and local gods stirred hers growing up in a rural area.[7] For the basic story, she wanted to write about a boy and his non-human teacher,[8] and include the incongruous element of the boy's grandmother in a school uniform.[9]

This was the first series Midorikawa wrote in which the protagonist was also the central character.[9] Midorikawa claimed that as a character Natsume is almost as bad as herself at expressing his thoughts,[9] which caused her to use more interior monologue than she was comfortable with for a male character.[8]

Media[edit]

Manga[edit]

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.[10] The untitled chapters have been collected in fourteen tankōbon volumes as of July 2012.

The series is licensed in English in North America by Viz Media, with the first volume published in January 2010.[11] It is also licensed in French by Delcourt,[12] in South Korea by Haksan,[13] in Taiwan by Tong Li,[14] and in Thailand by Bongkoch Publishing.[15]

No. Japan release date Japan ISBN North America release date North America ISBN
1 October 5, 2005[16] ISBN 978-4-592-17158-4 January 6, 2010[11] ISBN 978-1-4215-3243-1
2 August 5, 2006[17] ISBN 978-4-592-17159-1 April 6, 2010[18] ISBN 978-1-4215-3244-8
3 February 5, 2007[19] ISBN 978-4-592-18446-1 July 6, 2010[20] ISBN 978-1-4215-3245-5
4 August 4, 2007[21] ISBN 978-4-592-18447-8 October 5, 2010[22] ISBN 978-1-4215-3246-2
5 March 5, 2008[23] ISBN 978-4-592-18448-5 January 4, 2011[24] ISBN 978-1-4215-3247-9
6 July 5, 2008[25] ISBN 978-4-592-18449-2 April 5, 2011[26] ISBN 978-1-4215-3248-6
7 January 5, 2009[27] ISBN 978-4-592-18667-0 June 7, 2011[28] ISBN 978-1-4215-3274-5
8 July 3, 2009[29] ISBN 978-4-592-18668-7 August 2, 2011[30] ISBN 978-1-4215-3592-0
9 January 4, 2010[31] ISBN 978-4-592-18669-4 October 04, 2011[32] ISBN 978-1-4215-3887-7
10 July 5, 2010[33] ISBN 978-4-592-18670-0 December 6, 2011[34] ISBN 978-1-4215-3939-3
11 March 4, 2011[35] ISBN 978-4-592-19361-6 February 7, 2012 ISBN 978-1-4215-4122-8
12 July 5, 2011[35] ISBN 978-4-592-19362-3 July 3, 2012[36] ISBN 978-1-4215-4231-7
13 January 4, 2012[37] ISBN 978-4-592-19363-0 December 4, 2012[38] ISBN 978-1-4215-4923-9
14 July 5, 2012[39] ISBN 978-4-592-19364-7 July 2, 2013[40] ISBN 978-1-4215-5375-7
15 January 4, 2013[41] ISBN 978-4-592-19365-4 January 7, 2014[42] ISBN 978-1-4215-5967-4
16 July 5, 2013[43] ISBN 978-4-592-19366-1

In addition, a fan book was published on January 5, 2009 (ISBN 978-4-592-18696-0)[44] and a notebook reproduction of Natsume's Book of Friends was published July 3, 2009 (ISBN 978-4-592-18690-8).[45]

Drama CDs[edit]

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[edit]

Natsume's Book of Friends has been adapted as an anime television series produced by Brain's Base, directed by Takahiro Omori.[2] It was broadcast on the TV Tokyo network in two seasons of 13 episodes each, the first from July 7 to September 29, 2008[46] 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.[47] 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.[48] 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').[49] Both seasons were released on five DVDs each.[50]

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 is "Boku ni Dekiru Koto" (僕にできること?, "I Can Do") by HOW MERRY MARRY and the ending theme is "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 is "Ima, Kono Toki" (今、このとき。?, "Now, This Time") by Hiiragi and the ending theme is "Takaramono" (たからもの?, "Treasure") by Marina Kawano.

Separate soundtrack albums for the two seasons were released in Japan by Sony Music on September 24, 2008 and March 18, 2009, respectively.[51][52] The series opening and closing theme songs were also released by Sony Music.[53][54][55][56] As singles, "Issei no Sei" reached a peak rank of 48th on the Oricon singles chart,[57] "Natsu Yūzora" reached 27th,[58] and "Ano Hi Time Machine" reached 38th.[59] "Aishiteru" was not released as a single, but instead included on an album called Uta no Hibi by Kourin (Also known as Callin').[56]

The series is streamed online by Crunchyroll; episodes of the second season were available online on the day of broadcast.[60] NIS America has licensed the series for retail release in North America. It is also licensed in Chinese by Muse Communication.

Reception[edit]

Natsume's Book of Friends was one of twelve finalists for the first Manga Taishō award in 2008.[1]

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;[61] Volume 6 was number 5 for the week of July 8–14, 2008;[62] 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).[63][64][65]

References[edit]

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