Natsume Yujincho Episode #09 (Mania.com)

By:Ben Leary
Review Date: Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Release Date: Friday, January 23, 2009

Natsume meets another person with a similar power, but a different opinion of youkai. When both of them encounter a youkai guarding some local property, which idea will win out?

What They Say

“Ayakashi Exorcism”

Natsume meets a popular actor named Natori Shuuichi who can also see spirits, and has a side job as an exorcist.

The Review!
This episode of Natsume Yujincho is the most unusual yet, and not necessarily the better for it. For starters, we get a new character who introduces a couple of elements to the show that it's done just fine without. His name is Natori, and he's the kind of character you'd rather expect to find in a high school romantic comedy, in the capacity of rival to the male lead. He's a well-known television actor, a smooth talker, and very popular with the girls. His scenes have a more pronounced tendency to the cartoonish than the show has displayed so far. Whenever he does anything that makes female onlookers weak at the knees, a glittering background framed with roses appears behind him. On top of everything else he keeps two female attendant spirits and moonlights as an exorcist.

This is all a little odd and sudden, and the episode is held back because of Natori's place in it. The plot revolves around a youkai that Natsume meets when he notices a length of rope on the ground and follows it, only to discover that the end of the rope is tied around her neck. At first she doesn't want to have anything to do with him, but eventually she comes to see that Natsume is a friend to youkai and opens up to him. Long ago a priest bound her - literally and figuratively - to a piece of property, placing the rope around her neck. Eventually the rope will tighten and end her life, but until that time she must haunt the house and storehouse on that land, and guard it from intruders. Intruders, we're lead to understand, include the people who own the property now. This is problmatic for everybody concerned, as an exorcist has been hired to get rid of her.

And you guessed it, the exorcist is none other than our actor friend Natori. This is where it starts to get complicated, and not for the reasons you might expect. Natori's attitude toward youkai is difficult to follow. Early in the episode we see him take an agressive stance toward them and telling Natsumi he's too nice to them. Later on we learn that he had dealings with the same youkai that he's been hired to get rid of, and even treated her kindly when he was a child. The episode suggests that the present Natori has a certain hostility towards youkai, because of something that he's gone through, but doesn't explain the change of heart. Now he doesn't have any qualms about zapping her or any youkai like her. After his exorcism he claims not to have remembered her, but that doesn't make for a good dramatic situation even if you can accept it as credible. It wouldn't have been so bad if Natori had been set up as a rival type of character, but the thing is, he wasn't. He calls Natsume a friend, treats him decently, and even offers to take him on as an assistant. And Natsume gets along with him just fine, despite disagreeing with him about how youkai ought to be dealt with. Is Natori supposed to be mysterious? Could the strange lizard "tatoo" that moves around on his skin have anything to do with any of it? If Natori turns up in future episodes some of this may be explained. Right now I'm a little confused by it all.

Summary

I felt this episode of Natsume Yujincho was under the average, and that was largely Natori's fault. But the episode still has its good points. The Lucky Cat doesn't exactly take a liking to the two attendant spirits that accompany Natori everywhere he goes, and watching those guys rub each other the wrong way sets up some good comedy situations. The "versus" screen that pops up just before a fight is averted is easily the funniest moment in the episode. I don't want to make the story sound worse than it is. The show is too good to let somebody like Natori come in and sink it. For all the missteps the story makes along the way, it reaches the right ending. If this is the closest the series gets to a bad episode I'll still be plenty satisfied with it.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles



Mania Grade: B-
Audio Rating: NA
Video Rating: NA
Packaging Rating: NA
Menus Rating: NA
Extras Rating: NA
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: All Region DVD
Released By: Crunchyroll
Running time: 25
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Natsume Yujincho