Sunday, January 26, 2014
Natsume's Book of Friends, Seasons 1 & 2 Premium Edition (anime TV series)
My anime boxed set purchases have gone way, way down since I started watching streaming anime. I think I only purchased four series total in 2013. This was one of them. Getting the whole series was expensive (tip: Amazon doesn't have the best prices – I purchased it via Rightstuf), but, after seeing the series on Crunchyroll, I decided it was worth it. Since I've already written up a post for all four seasons, this post is just going to be about my re-watch experience and the boxed set itself. There will be no watch-alikes or read-alikes included at the end of this post. Take a look at my original post for the series if you want anything like that.
I love this series. I love it so much. This is just a wonderful series.
In these two seasons, Natsume makes his first true human friends and several youkai friends. Tanuma, Taki, Sasada and the rest tend to be more background characters than anything, but they're important background: they steady Natsume and give him the support that he never had prior to the start of the series. Shigeru and Toko are the same. I swear, I love those two even more on a re-watch than I did when I first saw the series. Shigeru is quiet, kind, and steady as a rock, gently encouraging Natsume to come out of his shell and believe that he finally has a real home. And Toko is the most adorable adoptive mom ever.
I had forgotten the details of some of the episodes, so re-watching them wasn't boring at all. The emotional aspects hit just as hard, as well. There's something beautiful and a little tragic about the youkai. Most people don't see them, and the younger generations are less likely to give them the offerings and prayers that gave them power and, sometimes, a sense of companionship. They live longer than humans and have a different sense of the passage of time, so they aren't always aware that the humans they befriended, hated, or loved died years before.
Of course, not all of the youkai were good. The first two seasons had several creepy ones, particularly the one that cursed Taki (I shivered when that thing licked Natsume's face) and the one with the axe. I appreciated that the human and youkai worlds weren't black-and-white – there was good and bad in both of them. Season 2 introduced the Matoba clan and showed Natsume that not everyone with youkai sensing/seeing powers could be trusted.
I'm glad I got this series. Those who'd like to give it a try before deciding whether it's worth committing to the boxed sets should check out Crunchyroll. I'm pretty sure the series can be viewed for free there, with ads.
One thing I want to mention before I write about the extras: although the subtitles were good (no typos or missing words, as far as I could tell), they didn't have my preferred look. It's a personal preference, but I like subtitles to be yellow with black outlines. These were white with black outlines. Also, the font seems a little large and chunky. I got used to it, though.
The DVD extras were skimpy, limited to previews of other shows, unsubtitled Japanese commercials for Natsume's Book of Friends, and “clean” openings and closings. Season 2's opening was one of my favorites.
The boxed set comes with a book designed, on the outside, to look like the Book of Friends. It includes: an episode guide (descriptions and tiny screenshots for each episode); an interview with director Takahiro Omori; character designs (both full-color and black-and-white line drawings) and descriptions; a few full-color backgrounds; and full-page, full-color illustrations (DVD case art?).
The full-page illustrations were my favorite. I also liked the brief interview with the director, although it didn't include a lot of information. I was at least glad it was more than just “this series is wonderful and I enjoyed working on it.” Apparently, Kazuhiko Inoue (the voice actor for Nyanko-sensei, and one of my biggest Japanese voice crushes) liked to adlib. The stuff Omoi said about the title cards and title backgrounds made me wish that one of the DVD extras was a clip of nothing but all the title cards and title backgrounds for the first two seasons. Omoi also said that Sasada, one of the series' characters, is different from the original – I haven't yet read the manga, but now I want to, if only to see what he was talking about.
To wrap this section up, I suppose I should mention the box in which everything was contained. When I have a choice of boxed sets (in this case, I didn't), I buy them based on a combination of extras and price, so appearance doesn't mean much to me. However, if I did care, this would be a nice addition to my collection. It's gorgeous. I love the artwork on the front and back, and it feels fairly sturdy. The one problem I have with it is its size. In order to accommodate the book and the two thin DVD cases, it's as tall as a regular DVD case but as long as two DVD cases sitting side-by-side. I'm still trying to decide where I'll put it.