Okay guys i just…i love Natsume Yuujinchou/Natsume’s Book of Friends so much. SO MUCH. It has touched my heart SO DEEPLY and is now one of my top five anime, so i am making one of those overly long overenthusiastic rec posts with tons of gifs in an attempt to impart on you all why it is a thing you should watch.
Basic premise: A teenage boy, Natsume Takashi, has the rare ability to see otherworldly beings (youkai), who range from violent and dangerous to relatively friendly, but are often very startling when they show up regardless. Natsume was orphaned at a young age and passed around among his relatives, who all considered him a liar and troublemaker because he claimed to see all these things they couldn’t. He often faced abuse and neglect from his guardians and bullying and alienation from his peers.
Natsume has at long last found a kind foster family to live with, but he’s having a very hard time adjusting to the idea that people care about him now and he struggles a lot with the trauma and scars his past has left him with.
What’s more, he’s in inherited a strange book from his deceased grandmother, Natsume Reiko, who he discovers could also see youkai. She would often get in fights with youkai and win due to her strong spiritual power and cunning nature. After she won, she’d make the youkai sign their names in what she called her “book of friends” and bind them to her in servitude. Now Natsume has the power to control these youkai, which makes a lot of youkai want to kill him and steal the book from him.
Natsume decides he will give the youkai back their names and release them from their servitude. In the process, he learns a lot about his grandmother, himself and the youkai world in general.
His companion during these adventures is Madara, a poweful youkai who was sealed in a maneki-neko, or “lucky cat”, statue. Because of this, he takes the form of a very rotund cat most of the time, though his true and most powerful form is kinda wolf-like.
However, he acts like a cat more than anything else, despite his protests to contrary. He can be seen eating a lot, lazing around, chasing grasshoppers and sunbathing. Natsume has therefore dubbed him “Nyanko-sensei”. Nyanko-sensei knew Natsume’s grandmother. He has a deal with Natsume that he’ll act as his bodyguard against violent youkai in exchange for getting whatever’s left of the book of friends when Natsume dies. He lives with Natsume as the family cat and the relationship between the two grows and deepens as the show goes on.
Natsume Yuujinchou is a beautiful anime about healing from trauma, growing as a person and connecting with those around you. I’ve heard it described as “like a warm hug” and I can’t think of anything more accurate. I often feel like it helps me heal from my own wounds. The main character is a total sweetheart, most of the characters are lovely and the beauty of the world the show takes place in is astounding. There’s tension and conflict a plenty, as well as complexity, but the show is really mostly about growth and love. There’s absolutely no gross fanservice or tropey, shady bullshit to be found here. This anime is heartfelt, gentle and emotional in the best way. It starts a little slow and does keep up a very relaxed pace throughout, but I’m telling you, I have cried plenty and been moved deeply by it many times.