starlady: (mokona crossing)
Midorikawa Yuki. Natsume Yûjinchô. 11 vols. Tokyo: Hakusensha, 2005-11.

This is, judging by its general scarcity and high buying and selling price at Book-Off (¥150! and ¥300 or ¥350, respectively), one of the most popular manga in Japan right now; the third season of the anime is also ongoing. It follows one Natsume Takashi, an orphan whose ability to see spirits has led to his being foisted off on a succession of increasingly-distant relations. Natsume's ability to see yôkai is an unknowing inheritance from his grandmother Reiko, who took to the practice of recording the names of the yôkai she met in her "yûjinchô", or 'book of friends.' Considering that most of the yôkai have their names in the notebook unwillingly, and that their fates are tied to the notebook, "friends" may be a somewhat strong word, but that was apparently Reiko's personality. Natsume discovers he has the notebook as part of an encounter with a yôkai stuck in the shape of a maneki neko, who agrees to act as Natsume's bodyguard in exchange for inheriting the notebook on Natsume's death. Without Nyanko-sensei, as things go on, Natsume wouldn't last long, but along the way he begins to learn that maybe humans aren't so bad after all, and that humans and yôkai aren't so different.

I have a weakness for these "boy sees spirits" manga, I admit, and Midorikawa's spin on these tropes is genuinely charming, and later genuinely heart-warming, particularly in light of the fact that, especially in these first volumes, there's a cold bitterness to Natsume's perceptions of the world and its treatment of him that strikes a real, painful chord. The series eventually introduces two of Natsume's fellow students, Tanuma and Taki, who help to keep Natsume from being quite so alone. That said, thinking about it, I'm surprised Natsume still has his sight in both eyes, but on the other hand, the story shows no signs of stopping any time soon. As [personal profile] seichan perceptively commented, it's the kind of thing that could go on for as long as the mangaka wants, and they can keep making anime whenever they feel like too. The art also gets better as the story goes along; it's not bad here at the start, but it's very much the sort of unsettled sketchy linework I associate, rightly or wrongly, with Hana to Yume.

[community profile] natsumeyuujinchou is the DW comm for the manga and anime. And have a beautiful Tanabata fanart for the series, too.


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