Natsume: I’ve taken some medicine, it should be fine as long as I take it easy. I don’t want to worry Touko-san.
Nyanko-sensei: Geez, when’re you going to get it?
Natsume: Get what?
Nyanko-sensei: Forget it.
[Later, Natsume collapses, his friend Tanuma catches him and asks what’s wrong, but he passes out completely]
Friends [to Touko, after bringing him home]: I’m sorry we didn’t notice something was wrong.
Touko:His fever’s down and he took some medicine, so I think a good rest should cure him. I’ll make him stay home from school tomorrow.
Tanuma: If only he’d said something…
Touko (sighs and looks up at Natsume’s room); I agree.
And undercurrent of this episode is a huge issue/flaw that Natsume struggles with. He puts very little value on himself and is so worried about being a burden to others that he’ll hide when he’s struggling, not feeling well or otherwise indisposed and overextend himself.
“They work too hard and nobly sacrifice themselves to avoid worrying others” is a “flaw” you typically see in heroes, but the this show handles it differently than most in that it treats it as an actual problem that not only damages Natsume and screws with his health but deeply upsets the people around him. What’s more, it’s pretty clear that him having this mindset comes from how he was abused and mistreated as a child- he was treated like a burden, so he learned to put very little value on himself and obsesses about never asking anything of others.
The show calls the whole attitude out for being illogical. If Natsume had let his friends and family know he was sick and rested when he needed it, he wouldn’t have upset them, but because he doesn’t tell them and ends up really making himself sick in front of them, he does upset them. Natsume doesn’t get that he needs to trust people and let them worry about him and take care of him a little, or they’re just going to end up worrying a LOT down the line when he inevitably burns himself out, and they’re also going to be hurt he didn’t lean on them. The people who love him want to know how he’s doing, they want to be able to help him before it gets too bad, they want him to trust them with his problems. They don’t like that he values himself so little.
This is treated as a pathological issue Natsume needs to deal with and work on, something that breaks the hearts of people around him, not some noble suffering deal that highlights his heroism, and I really appreciate that. I also appreciate that it’s not resolved in the episode it’s bought up in- Natsume doesn’t really seem to get what happened and how his thinking is wrong, but you get the sense he’ll get it someday, and this is just the first step of his journey.
One moment that was especially affecting here was the fact that Tanuma catches Natsume. I don’t think Natsume expected anyone to catch him when he fell, and even I as a viewer didn’t expect it. Natsume has fainted before in the show (his life is very hard) and he’s hit the ground every time because people won’t notice he’s collapsing until it’s too late. But Tanuma was looking out for Natsume and Tanuma noticed and didn’t let him fall. Natsume’s so used to enduring the fall, he doesn’t quite realize he has people who are here to catch him now. That they want to catch him . It’s honestly really moving.