Saturday, February 22, 2014

Natsume's Book of Friends, Season 3 Premium Edition (anime TV series)

This Natsume's Book of Friends boxed set was published by NIS America. While Seasons 1 and 2 were packaged together, in DVD form only, Season 3 is included all on its own, in both DVD and Blu-ray format. I watched the Blu-ray discs.

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.

If you liked Seasons 1 and 2, you'll like Season 3. It continues to deal with a lot of the same themes covered in the first two seasons: Natsume's difficult childhood, the bittersweetness of yokai/human relationships, and Natsume's difficulties with learning to trust and rely on his human friends and family.

This season had several more Matoba clan episodes, including the first appearance of the head of the Matoba clan, which I think I would have enjoyed more if I hadn't already known that the Matoba stuff was going to fizzle out in Season 4. My favorite episodes of the season tended to be less action-oriented. I particularly loved the ones that dealt with Natsume's childhood.

Episode 4 looked back to a time when Natsume met a yokai that delighted in scaring him. It wasn't that she hated him. I think she liked that he could see her and enjoyed interacting with him, but it didn't occur to her until it was too late that her behavior was causing him trouble. It was lovely to see the two of them reunite. Episode 12 was another look back to a time before Natsume came to live with Toko and Shigeru. While the yokai in this episode wasn't one of my favorites, I loved getting to see Natsume meet the Fujiwaras for the first time. Toko's efforts to convince Natsume to come live with her and her husband were wonderfully sweet.

A few other things I liked about this season: Taki and Tanuma got a little more screen-time. Taki learned that her grandfather, who'd never once been able to see yokai, had spent most of his life unknowingly surrounded by them. They had cared for him, even though they never wanted to admit it. In another episode, Tanuma was possessed by a yokai and briefly gained the ability to see yokai the way Natsume could. It was nice that at least one of Natsume's friends got a chance to see the world the way he does and got a little taste of what he deals with on a daily basis.

There's not much more I can say that I haven't already said in other posts. This is a wonderful show, and I'm glad I've now got it on hand for those times when I'm in need of a little comfort TV.

Extras:

The extras were skimpy, limited to previews of other shows, unsubtitled Japanese commercials for Natsume's Book of Friends, and “clean” openings and closings.

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); English lyrics for Season 3's opening and closing songs; character designs (mostly full-color, but a few line drawings) and occasional descriptions; and full-page, full-color illustrations.

Again, the box it's all contained in is lovely, if annoyingly sized. One side has a picture of Natsume with Madara curled protectively around him. The other side has a picture of the head of the Matoba clan, one of his created yokai servants, and Nyanko-sensei.

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