Natsume’s book of friends, season 6, ep 3
So, I know these Thoughts about episode 3 of Natsume 6 are late, but I am just. so proud of how far Natsume has come and so amazed with the show’s character development. Sometimes you forget how much Natsume has grown, because it’s happened so slowly and naturally. But then something will happen that just starkly demonstrates how much more confident and comfortable with himself he’s gotten and episode 3 of this season where he sees Shibata again really really does that.
The fact that Natsume is able to be so openly annoyed with Shibata and bicker with him and calls him on his bullshit and doesn’t just sit there and take it is HUGE.
Especially when you contrast it to the last episode where he interacted with him, seasons ago. Shibata said ALL KINDS of shitty things to Natsume he first arrived and Natsume didn’t really defend himself much or act annoyed about it all that much. He was scared of him- scared of him revealing his secret to his friends, scared of being bullied again and he basically slipped back into having very little confidence with himself.
It never even crossed his mind Shibata should talk to him in a nicer way because being treated that way was still the default for him, he didn’t even feel like he deserved more respect. There was no way he would have gone “you know what you’re not showing me very much respect and it’s super annoying” to Shibata back then.. He also seemed to genuinely think if his friends interacted with Shibata too long, they’d start treating him like Shibata did when they were kids and everything would revert to how it was when he was a kid. He felt his friendships were that fragile.
Of course, Shibata apologized at the end of this episode and showed some understanding towards Natsume, which is partly what’s responsible for Natsume feeling less threatened by him and more comfortable with him- he has changed since they were kids and he bullied Natsume.
But I really think a lot of Natsume’s behavior in ep 3 is a testament to how much more confident and comfortable with HIMSELF he’s gotten since that episode. He’s like “yeah Shibata isn’t very nice so. that’s why we don’t really get along”, like he’s explicitly acknowledging that it’s a problem on Shibata’s end that he isn’t nice. Natsume doesn’t assume, like in the past, that it’s his fault for being weird and that people will be “not nice” to him by default, because he’s now had enough friends and loved ones care for him to know that this is NOT TRUE and people SHOULD and CAN be nice to him.
And for him to be like “Shibata I can’t see you I’m hanging out with a friend” “Haha YOU have friends?” “yeah i sure do also screw you and do you want me to hang up” “no waitwaitwait” like can you imagine Natsume having standing up for himself like that in early seasons? He would have agreed with Shibata that it was weird he had friends. instead he’s like “YEP SURE DO AND FUCK YOU FOR ACTING SURPRISED”.
He was also comfortable enough to take Tanuma to see Shibata. He wasn’t worried that Tanuma would have a magic “oh wait I should really be being a lot meaner to Natsume like this guy is” epiphany when he interacted with Shibata he trusts Tanuma enough at this point to know he’s better than that. In fact, he’s worried about Shibata annoying Tanuma and is alll “HEY TANUMA i’M SO SORRY WE HAVE TO MEET WITH HIM HE’S PRETTY TACTLESS IF HE ANNOYS YOU EVEN A LITTLE BIT TELL ME AND WE’LL LEAVE IMMEDIATELY OKAY SERIOUSLY JUST TELL ME”. And there’s still a little insecurity in that- he’s nervous and overly solicitous there and worried about making Tanuma will be mad at him for having such an obnoxious friend, which is ridiculous considering how chill Tanuma is- so that shows Natsume is still not COMPLETELY confident in his relationships and has a lot of the anxiety and over-attentiveness still, he’s not magically over all the effects of his abuse.
(And how friggin’ adorable was it when Shibata was like “you look like a beanpole” to both of them and both Tanuma and Natsume immediately yelled at him on the other one’s behalf”).
And then overall he was just basically able to comfortably bicker with Shibata, demand Shibata tell him what was going and even tease him and call him a scaredy-cat, which is wow, SUCH a big step to see Natsume confident enough to comfortably do things like that.
Speaking on Tanuma, it also shows how much Natsume has grown that he basically told Tanuma immediately what was going on and took relatively less convincing this time when Tanuma wanted to help. He’s still obviously pretty nervous about burdening people. but he’s come a long way.
And this show is so good about characters actually comminicating openly and honestly- that moment where Natsume apologized to Tanuma for asking for his help and Tanuma being like “I actually really prefer knowing what you’re dealing with to being kept in the dark because that makes me worry about you way more. I actually wish you’d let me help you more, but I know that freaks you out and sends you into a guilt spiral when I push it to hard. It makes me happy you’re trusting me and even relying on me even a little bit.” LIKE WOW. A PLUS COMMUNICATION, A PLUS FRIENDING.
Basically this show has an end-goal of showing how much better it is when people communcate and are open with their feelings, but also acknowledges that it takes real work to get to that point, especially when you’re dealing with characters who are dealing with a lot of trauma like Natsume is. But Tanuma and Natsume and the rest of his friends DO put in the work and it’s beautiful to see how that is resulting in really healthy, honest relationships where they truly consider and understand each other’s feelings and that these relationships grow and get stronger with each passing episode.
I also have to praise the development on Shibata’s part too. I was very grumpy with him his debut episode for how he treated Natsume. (not because he didn’t feel like a realistic character or that his growth wasn’t good even in that episode, just. he spent most of it being a fuck so). He did apologize, but he didn’t seem to fully grasp exactly how much hell he put Natsume through. In this episode, though, he had a lot of growth. he fully gets all the scary shit Natsume has to deal with and is horrified and genuinely does his best to help and take responsibility for his part in it and lets Natsume know “hey I know I was shitty to you and I still am a little bit shitty but I really like seeing you and don’t want to hurt you”. LIKE YES EXACTLY THANK YOU. LET’S ALL JOIN THE “PROTECT NATSUME” SQUAD. It’s honestly one of the better “reformed bully” sidestories I’ve seen.
(And Natsume realizing that he gets what Tanuma’s talking about because it also makes him happy that Shibata reached out to him and relied on him!)
BASICALLY ALL I WANT TO SAY IS. I AM PROUD OF NATSUME AND I LOVE HIM AND I’M SO GLAD HE’S BECOMING MORE COMFORTABLE WITH HIMSELF AND THIS SHOW IS SO GOOD WITH IT’S SLOW-BURN CHARACTER AND RELATIONSHIP DEVELOPMENT AND COMMITMENT TO SHOWCASING POSITIVE GROWTH AND COMMUNICATION. I LOVE IT. SO PURE AND SWEET.