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A beautiful Shoujo Manga by Yuki Midorikawa and fifty-two episode anime. Translated as Natsume's Book of Friends.

Natsume Takashi is one of those manga protagonists. All of his life, he has possessed the ability to see spirits. He's been tossed about from home to home for most of his life, unable to fully interact or be honest with people due to the way they tended to react to his bizarre ability. As a result he is Not Good with People at all. So yeah, kid's got Angst.

Natsume's ability to see spirits is a power he inherited from his grandmother, Reiko, who made a personal hobby out of gathering the names of as many spirits ("Youkai") as possible binding them to her servitude via writing their names in the titular Book Of Friends - a highly prized item that many denizens of the spirit world desire for themselves. Upon her death, Reiko bequeaths to her grandson several of her belongings - including the Book.

Upon discovering the purpose of the Book of Friends, Natsume makes it his mission to return all of the names his Grandmother took to their appropriate spirits. Yes, including the evil ones who want to kill him. He spends his time releasing the various spirits that come to him for help from their contracts and trying to stay alive in the face of the ones who'd rather just eat him and take the book for themselves.

One spirit in particular, Madara (aka Nyanko-sensei), who spends most of his time in the body of a fortune cat (when he's not going One-Winged Angel on us in which case he appears to be an inugami), is particularly helpful when it comes to the not-letting-Natsume-get-eaten thing. He serves as Natsume's bodyguard and spiritual adviser, and his main motivation is apparently to possess the Book of Friends - which Natsume has promised to Madara, should he be killed.

There is an anime based on the manga, in four thirteen-episode seasons (the third aired in the Summer 2011 Anime and the fourth in the Winter 2012 Anime).

An appropriate word of description for this series would probably be "heartwarming". It's been described as "Tactics, but less violent", though it definitely has its moments. The occasional outbursts of action are balanced out against gentle explorations of the supernatural, basically it's a light-on-plot, Slice of Life take on the spirit world, and a sometimes exciting, sometimes peaceful foray into the world of the supernatural. And it's packed with more Crowning Moments of Heartwarming and TearJerkers than you can shake a stick at.

Has a Character Sheet that desperately needs more love.

Tropes Used. Edit

  • Adaptation Dye Job - In the manga, Natsume is almost always drawn with silver hair and eyes. The anime changes these both to gold.
  • Adorably Precocious Child - Chibi-kitsune all the way. Maybe Kai too, with a dash of Tsundere?
  • Androcles' Lion - Saving Youkai occasionally turns out to be unexpectedly useful later on.
    • One extremely powerful Youkai jumps to Natsume's defence, saving Natsume and Natori from an evil Ayakashi trying to eat them, because Natsume helped him earlier in the episode. This is a pretty big reward considering all Natsume did was cover up a puddle in the road so that his servants could pass ? despite the fact they could just as easily have walked around it. It was probably a Secret Test of Character or something...
      • It might have more to do with the East Asian concept of honor and duty. Quite a few Chinese (and I'm sure Japanese as well) folktales have people or spirits repaying small debts in grandiose manner.
    • That, or the servants weren't smart enough to figure that out.
  • Animated Tattoo - Natori, has one. Which is also a Youkai.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism - Sure, Natsume believes in spirits, but not fairies. Fairies couldn't possibly exist.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: "Which is more important to you? Humans or youkai?"
  • Attractive Bent Gender - Though it's not really an outright gender bend -Natsume just gets possessed by a Youkai who happens to be female, and who occasionally slips to the surface causing him to to exhibit feminine qualities (sometimes seemingly having longer hair). All of his friends start finding themselves disturbingly attracted to him
  • Author Appeal/Signature Style - partially covered faces. The more human(oid) a particular youkai looks, the higher is the chance that is would have its face partially or completely covered most of the time. Benio, Hinoe, Hiiragi, Tsubame, and several others have something ( butterfly / hair / Noh mask / veil / etc. ) covering part or whole of their face. Even Natsume does this to pass off as a youkai.
  • A Shared Suffering - Natsume and Natori.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me - The Fujiwaras were the only guardians who ever wanted Natsume to live with them. And it's this that pulls Natsume off the brink of the Despair Event Horizon and gives him enough courage to fight back against the Ayakashi that wanted to make him its "pet".
  • Big Eater - Nyanko-Sensei
  • Bishonen - A number of the male characters, but actor and part time exorcist Natori really plays it up, complete with the rosepetal motifs and bishie sparklies. In his own words, he can't help being fabulous.
    • Our hero Takashi is Bishonen enough on his own, looking almost exactly like his grandmother did at his age but with short hair and, obviously, no breasts. Especially when he's returning a spirit's name, and he has a slip of paper in his mouth, and his hair is fluttering in the wind...
  • Bishie Sparkle - Actor and part time exterminator Natori gets at least one parody of this in almost every episode he appears.
  • Big Damn Heroes - Many characters in the series pull this off but mostly Madara, who usually arrives just in time to save Natsume when he gets in over his head.
  • Bittersweet Ending - Several episodes, notably episode two, where the shrine "god"'s last worshiper dies, and he vanishes along with her, only to meet her immediately in the afterlife, and finally speak with her. Natsume even offers to take her place, but the spirit claims that won't work "because you and I are friends".
    • In the manga, the two don't meet in the afterlife. Instead, the "god" simply disappears, though Natsume does say that he hopes the two of them saw each other again.
    • Also, any episode dealing with a broken bond between a Human and Youkai. Because, you know, they don't all hate each other. The staggering briefness of a human's life in comparison to that of a Youkai is a point of interest, scathing, and even heartbreak amongst them.
  • Body Snatcher - One or two get their hands on Natsume.
  • Broken Bird - Reiko.
  • Brought Down to Normal - A minor character in one episode could once see the Youkai - but at some point, his ability mysteriously vanished leaving Natsume to wonder whether the same thing might happen to him one day.
    • And then next season, it temporarily does.
  • But He Sounds Handsome - Nyanko-sensei (in Madara form) indulges in this when he and Natsume go searching for a black Nyanko-sensei doppelganger. It backfires

 Madara: Have you seen a lovely black cat with a sheaf of papers in his mouth around here?

Natsume: "Lovely"?

Benio: No, but I did see a gluttonous, fat-headed one running towards the Youkai banquet grounds.

  • Cassandra Truth - Natsume was prone to these when he was a child.
  • Cliff Hanger: The end of season 2, episode 6.
    • Season 3, Episode 6 leaving Natsume unconscious and at Matoba's mercy.
    • Natsume Yuujinchou Shi episode six: The episode revolves around Nyanko sensei's efforts to get Natsume out of a magic jar. Turns out it wasn't just a joke; an ayakashi that intended on taking Natsume in the night so he could be used as an offering to a powerful spirit was the one that tossed it in, and he does eventually 'nab poor Natsume. The episode ends there.
  • Cast From Hit Points - Freeing Youkai from the Book Of Friends is exhausting business.
  • Chick Magnet - Natsume proves to be this in episode 35.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome - Natsume will rush headlong toward Youkai, and all kinds of other danger if he knows someone is in trouble. Knowing full well that his opponents are more often than not much much stronger than.
  • Classical Antihero - Natsume. He's an ordinary human minus the ability to see youkai, and is filled with self-doubt and trust issues.
  • Creepy Child - Natsume and Reiko were considered this while growing up.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass - Nyanko sensei. It's subverted though. You know almost right off the bat that his somewhat laughable cat form isn't the real him and that he's an extremely powerful ayakashi.
  • Curtains Match the Window - Natsume is a blond with Eyes of Gold. Both are Sliver in the manga.
  • Cute Monster Girl - While most Youkai resemble inhuman or Gonkish monsters, there's a number of Youkai that instead resemble Petting Zoo People attractive individuals with masks. There's a couple of Bishonen among them, but most of them are female
  • Cuteness Proximity - Taki, although her eye for cuteness is called into question when she has this reaction to Nyanko-sensei (who everyone else regards as the cat equivalent to a Gonk)
  • Deathbringer the Adorable - This little guy. (Actually a Youkai possessing a snow-bunny Natsume made). D'awwww!
  • Despair Event Horizon: Natsume was on the border of one before he was taken in by the Fujiwaras, nearly resigning himself to become the pet of one of the many Youkai that stalked him because he felt like he had nowhere else he could go.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Natsume fends off the stronger youkai that try to eat him by literally punching them out. Seems he inherited his grandmother's power as well.
  • Distinguishing Mark - Natori's lizard-shaped birthmark which moves around his body -it's actually a Youkai attached to him.
  • Distressed Dude: Natsume has the bad habit of getting captured frequently.
    • For instance, in episode 5 of season three. He gets captured by an ayakashi that's intent on cutting off his arm so that it can use it to retrieve its lost head. Natsume's friends are left frantically searching the house for him.
  • Dogged Nice Guy - Non-romantic example in Sasada Jun who's basically trying to get Nasume to spill the beams on the supernatural spirits thing.
  • Dropped A Bridget On Her - Hinoe, who really liked Reiko, gets as far as groping Natsume's chest before it dawns on her that he's actually her Identical Grandson. She is not pleased.

 Hinoe: ...Where are your boobs?

 Kai: ...Sorry for calling you a sprout, a chopping board, and a girly boy...

Natsume: Ah, w-well, i-it's okay...

Tanuma, Taki & Sensei: (suppressed snorts & laughter)

Natsume: ...Notamusing!

Trio: (guilty, somber, not meeting one another's eyes) ...Right!

    • When Natsume shows his friends his parents photo, they compared him to his mother at instant, not father.
  • Even the Guys Want Him - In the manga, Natori's horde of squeeing fangirls includes Nishimura.
  • Expecting Someone Taller - One Ayakashi's a bit disappointed to learn that Natsume doesn't match her his grandmother's reputation
  • Eyes of Gold - The Natsume family seems to have this.
  • Festival Episode - the final episode of the first season
  • Flash Back - Natsume gets a few, usually to childhood events. When he returns a Youkai's name to them, it's accompanied by a Flashback to the event during which they lost their name to Reiko in the first place.
  • Foreshadowing - In episode eight of the first series, Natsume thinks on how horrible it would be to suddenly not be able to see Youkai any longer - and surprises himself when he realizes how much he means it, when he's spent all his life wishing to be ordinary. This makes it all the worse in the sequel series when he actually does lose his ability.
  • Furo Scene: Usually provided by Natsume.
  • Geometric Magic: Natsume can call forth youkai in the book of friends that he's seen and knows the name by drawing a magic circle, have a mirror, and giving a part of himself (blood would do).
    • Natori has magic circle patterns he uses in exorcising.
    • Taki has a magic circle pattern, passed down from her grandfather, that allows youkai to be seen by anyone.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly - the second chapter of the manga has a local spirit who is greatly reduced in power because hardly anybody believes in him any more, and dies when his last sincere worshipper does. (Interestingly, Natsume can't help with this, because it needs to be worship as a god rather than mere belief that the spirit exists.)
  • Goldfish Scooping Game - Played by the fox child and Natsume in the anime, during the Festival Episode.
  • Hellish Pupils - Natsume, his grandmother, and 80% of youkai have these.
  • Hey, It's That Voice! - Natsume has appeared in quite a few other series.
  • Humans Are Bastards - a few Youkai are of this opinion, and many have good reason to be, but it's not by and by the rule. The anime is far from leaning in favour of this trope alone. It also shows that humans can be pretty awesome sometimes, too and many Youkai either have a fascination with them, just don't find them all that interesting, or want to make a tasty snack out of them.
  • Identical Grandson - Natsume Takashi looks a lot like his grandmother Reiko, original owner of the Book of Friends. and since many (if not all, Hinoe certainly seems to express a preference) Youkai don't really care too much about gender, Natsume tends to get Youkai who are looking for his grandmother on his tail.
    • Taken to it's logical conclusion when someone calls Natsume "Girly Man".
  • Idiot Crows - Joked with in episode 11 of series one, where Nyanko-Sensei yells at the crows not to call him an idiot.
  • If It's You It's Okay - Hinoe's solution to the whole Stupid Sexy Flanders situation with Natsume.

 Hinoe: If I just don't think of you as a boy, there's no problem.

  • I Just Want to Be Normal - Natsume for a long time. he gets over it eventually.
  • In Love with the Mark - Chapters 37 and 37 deal with a starving Ayakashi that took human form so that she could eat a human, only to end up falling for him instead.
  • Intellectual Animal - Kind of. Madara is a Youkai example. Though most Youkai tend to be at least sentient.
  • Interspecies Romance - Several, between Youkai and Humans.
  • Invisible to Normals - the Youkai are invisible to most people in the series, with the odd exception.
  • I See Dead People - Sorta. Depends on whether the Youkai count.
  • I See Them, Too - Natsume's meeting with Natori has this result. Natsume also asks Tanuma whether he can see the Youkai standing on the school field - Tanuma claims he can't - but he does see a vague shadow of their presence.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy - One Youkai's human love can no longer see her and has since grown to fall for another, human woman - the Youkai is only glad that he has found someone to love and isn't lonely anymore.
  • I Was Just Passing Through - Nyanko-sensei often insists that he's serving as Natsume's bodyguard so that he can have the Book of Friends once Natsume bites it. Given that he has yet to give a clear answer as to why he doesn't just eat Natsume and take the book, it's probably just an excuse.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold - Nyanko-sensei's true reason for staying with Natsume is totally up for debate. Wanting the Book Of Friends definitely has something to do with it, but by the time he's rescuing little girls from the bottom of pits and throwing himself in front of every Youkai that makes a lunge at Natsume, you have to wonder just how much of a jerk he really is.
  • Kids Are Cruel - Many children shunned and rejected Natsume through his childhood because he openly told people that he could see ayakashi at the time. When he'd learned his lesson, the damage had already been done. Many kids laughed at him. In season 2, you learn that some children even followed him home and threw rocks at him as a sick game of make-fun-of-the-weird-kid.
  • Kimodameshi - The "Test of Courage" occurred in one episode - of course, this being Natsume Yuujinchou, it's obvious what ended up happening.
  • Les Yay: Invoked- Hinoe's outright adoration and utter devotion to Reiko, her dislike of men (it's of great annoyance to her that Takashi Natsume looks so much like her Reiko yet is male), and her distraught reaction at hearing of Reiko's death, are anything but subtle.
  • Magnetic Medium - Natsume.
  • Mayfly-December Romance - any relationship between Youkai and human is doomed to end this way, it seems, because of the humans short lifespan in comparison to a Youkai.
    • Notably averted with Shibata (human) and Murasaki (youkai). It was Murasaki who was about to disappear. There was also a firefly youkai who died before the human she loved.
      • Although Youkai have the potential to live for centuries, death for them can be quite sudden when it does come.
  • Meaningful Echo - Natori calls Natsume "a nice kid... just a nice kid" not long after their first meeting. It turns out this is exacty the same thing a Youkai once said to Natori himself, when he helped her as a child.
  • The Messiah - Natsume himself.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body - What Nyanko-sensei claims is responsible for his more cat-like tendencies
  • Morality Pet - Ironically, Natsume is more Nyanko-sensei's.
  • My Name Is Not Durwood - Nobody besides Natsume bothers to get Nyanko-sensei's name right
    • Giving us such gems as Nyan-Nyan Sensei, Nyankichi-kun, and Nyangoro. Tanuma eschews trying to remember it altogether, and just calls him Ponta.
  • Noble Demon - Madara continues to insist that he's really nasty and uncaring and only hangs around Natsume because the latter is his prey (or alternatively his servant). He's not really fooling anyone.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing - Yuki Midorikawa says that Natsume Yuujinchou was born out of her desire to write a supernatural story without a noticeable romantic element (something her editor pushed her to add to her previous manga). Even the occasional romance between minor one-shot characters are rather subdued and low-key.
  • No Social Skills - While Natsume is perfectly fine at being polite (he thought if he wasn't, people would have yet another reason to throw him out of their house), but he's terrible at actually developing friendships with other people and has problems sharing his concerns with anyone, even if he logically knows that he really should.

 Natsume: I’m sorry, Tanuma. I know that you and Taki will listen to me, but I’ve never talked to anyone about this stuff before. No one’s ever listened to me before... I don’t know how to talk about it.

    • In fact, those who are able to see or sense Ayakashi have somewhat poor social skills. This includes Matoba, who seems to have No Sense of Personal Space in the anime.
  • Not Good with People - Natsume. Also Tanuma who also sees Youkai, but worries that he won't be of any use, or will just be a burden on Natsume, because of his weak power - he can only see shadows and glimpses of Youkai.
  • Not So Above It All - Nyanko-sensei regularly brings up his truly awesome powers and the fact that he is "not a fortune cat, damn it!" - Until Natsume starts petting him, or hanging a chew toy in front of his face. Or he spots a grasshopper. Or a little girl has fallen down a cliff and needs rescuing.
  • Not What It Looks Like - Touko once walks in on a half-dressed Natsume while he's examining a Youkai-made mark on his chest in the bathroom mirror. She thinks he's doing something else.

 Touko: Well, you are that age...

  • Oddly-Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo - The second season prefixed Zoku (続), meaning "continued", to the title, making it Zoku Natsume Yuuijichou.
    • Note that zoku spelled with a different kanji (族) can also mean "family" of a non-genetic nature, like a Nakama. This has a lot of significance to Natsume since it's what he gained throughout the course of the series.
  • Orphan's Ordeal - A good bit of Natsume's difficulty with people (and his reluctance to tell the Fujiwaras about his abilities) stems from the fact that, up until then, he was passed around from relative to relative because nobody wanted to deal with the Creepy Child that kept telling "lies" about seeing ghosts and Youkai.
    • Abusive Parents: Chapter 31 confirms that several of the parents he's lived with were physically or emotionally abusive.
  • Parental Abandonment - Natsume's parents are dead, and every single family he's lived with before the Fujiwara's looked forward to the day he left their family, since he could see spirits.
  • Parental Substitute: The Fujwaras are this for Takashi. Already in high school, and this is the first time he has felt like he is part of a real family.
    • Meanwhile Natori straddles an uncomfortably thin line between this and Ho Yay.
  • Petting Zoo People - Many of the Youkai, including the adorable little fox boy.
  • Posthumous Character - Reiko. Once Natsume has returned the name of a youkai, a flashback is usually shown about the circumstances surrounding when Reiko first took the name.
  • Purely Aesthetic Glasses - Natori often wears a pair. It's not to look smarter, but because glass and mirrors tend to enhance one's ability to see Youkai.
  • Remember That You Trust Me - Years of Cassandra Truths and bullying means that Natsume tends to be secretive even with people he knows he can trust. In his words, he's never really learned how not to.
  • Right Behind Me - Nyanko-sensei actually joins in on the Nyanko-sensei bashing before the other Youkai actually realize that he can hear them.
  • Secret Keeper - Tanuma and Taki, for Natsume.
  • Secret Test of Character - Turns out that Natsume being infected with the Five Day Curse from a particuarly vicious spirit was orchestrated by one of his own contracted Youkai, who wanted to test Natsume to see whether he was worthy of holding onto his name.
  • Silent Scapegoat - Natsume often wound up as one in his adolescence, when Ayakashi started causing acts of vandalism around him; his options were either to let everyone believe he was some sort of delinquent, or let them believe he was some sort of crazy delinquent.
  • Slice of Life - This show's secondary theme, alongside the supernatural.
  • Sleep Mode Size - Nyanko-sensei's Lucky Cat form
  • Snowball Fight Episode two of Zoku.
  • Snarky Non-Human Sidekick - Nyanko Sensei/Madara.
  • Spirit Advisor - Nyanko-sensei... sort of.
  • Stock Footage - Natsume's method of returning the spirits names to them, (it's really a rather pretty piece of stock).
  • Stupid Sexy Flanders - Besides the incident mentioned in Attractive Bent Gender, Natsume's managed to fluster Hinoe with a smile.

 Hinoe: Dammit, why do you have to be a man?

  • Subordinate Excuse - Implied to be why Hiiragi becomes one of Natori's Ayakashi servants.
  • Super Strength - One of Natsume's paranormal powers is the ability to punch out particuarly strong Youkai. Apparently it only works on them, though.
  • The Alcoholic - Nyanko-sensei, and a lot of the recurring youkai.
  • The Imp - Nyanko-sensei/Madara.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You - One of Nyanko-Senseis several explanations for not letting the Ayakashi get to Natsume is because Natsume promsied Nyanko-sensei the Book of Friends upon his death - he regularly calls Natsume "His Prey" - and no one else's.
  • The Quiet One - Taki. At first. Seeing as she's been cursed, and that the last thirteen people who's names she spoke will be devoured by the Youkai along with her, you can't blame the girl.
  • The Scrappy: Invoked- Natsume was this to almost every human he meet up until the beginning of the series, due to nobody being able to believe him when he freaked out at the youkai who often were trying to either scare him or eat him.
  • Tsundere - Hinoe has her moments. Also Madara and Natsume to each other. Don't EVER try to point out the fact that they get along well, or BOTH of them will deny, deny, deny.
  • Twelve-Episode Anime - Thirteen episodes, all three seasons.
  • Those Two Guys - Kitamoto and Nishimura like whoa. Although they do get way more screen time and focus than most examples. Just not much character development other than being friendly, hilarious, and Nishimura has a crush on Taki.
    • Though they did teach Natsume how to ride a bike part way through the story.
    • There's also a youkai example with the cyclops and bull youkai. They get a well-above-average amount of focus as well.
  • Three Amigos - Natsume, Taki, and Tanuma, once Natsume properly introduces them to each other.
  • Took the Bullet for Him - Sorta. In chapter 26 Natsume takes an arrow for Nyanko-sensei although it kind of doesn't live up to its merit as the next one hits and disables Nyanko-sensei for several days.
  • Unfinished Business - Depsite not quite being ghosts, a lot of Youkai seem to have some particular task they're desperate to complete before they move onto the next world. Many seek Natsume out to do this.
  • White-Haired Pretty Boy - Natsume, in the manga
  • Wholesome Crossdresser - Taki has one panel of this for a school festival crossdressing cafe, and looks damn good too.
  • You Are Not Alone - Most of both series' deal with Natume steadily working this out, one Tear Jerker at a time.
  • You Can See Me? - Many Youkai are often highly surprised when Natsume does just that.
  • Youkai - Well, obviously...