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Natsume’s Book Of Friends Vol. #09 Manga Review

4 min read

Life hasn’t been easy for Natsume, but in this volume it’s absolutely harrowing.

Creative Staff
Story/Art: Yuki Midorikawa
Translation/Adaptation: Lillian Olsen

What They Say
Natsume learns that no good deed goes unpunished when an irate yokai accuses him of stealing her ring when she came to the Fujiwara house to get her name returned. Natsume thinks he knows where the ring has disappeared to, but can he find it in time, or will the place he’s come to think of as home be destroyed by the vengeful yokai?!

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
With each glimpse into Natsume’s troubled childhood it becomes more amazing that he’s managed to remain so kind, and no surprise that he’s pretty introverted. Despite all of the trouble with yokai and humans, he’s managed to finally settle into an uneasy routine that balances his yokai freeing duties with school activities. He even has a few friends, both human and yokai, that understand and worry about him.

While this has made his life happier, it certainly hasn’t made it an easier. His penchant for stopping and helping the unpredictable yokai still backfires about half of the time. When Natsume stops to help a strange lost puffball of a yokai that he mistook for a kitten he ends up in familiar trouble. The puffball ends up making off with the possession of another vindictive yokai, who then blames Natsume for the loss. The other yokai believe the swarming puffballs to be dangerous, and it’s a race against time to get back the ring and set things right.

The second story makes up the majority of this volume, and focuses on Natsume being hunted down and kidnapped by a tribe of yokai that had heard of the book of friends. Unfortunately, the timing of the attack is terrible because Natsume was busy getting ready for a summer festival with his friends, something he was never really able to enjoy before. The tribal yokai are also far more organized and violent than the usual yokai that seek him out. Despite his best efforts to ward them off, Natsume is swept away to a forest in the east.

The forest tribe yokai were compelled to seek out the book of friends for their leader, because the tribe was under attack from an exorcist. This is where I started to have a moment of deja view. The up-to-no-good exorcist was Matoba, the creepy antithesis to Natsume. Just the same as the first time we met Matoba, Natsume finds himself a captive guest of the jerk. The situation was so familiar I had to go pull out volume 7 to double check that I wasn’t rereading the events by accident.

Things go differently this time though. There’s no Natori to assist Natsume out of the jam, and for a short time no Nyanko-sensei either. All Natsume has to fight back with are his yokai friends, who touchingly rally to save him at great danger to themselves.

The closing chapter in this volume is a small flashback of Natsume’s time bouncing from family to family, and one girls recollection of him. It’s nice to see that there were others who reached out to him and saw that his behavior might not be attention seeking or mental illness, but something else. It’s also depressing being reminded about how often people ostracize each other.

In Summary
A surprisingly tense volume opens the way for a new focus, with Natsume resolved to remain straddling the worlds of human and yokai. I’m eager to see what Natsume might discover about his grandmother, and what her life was like. With each appearance of Matoba I grow to despise him and his conniving ways even further. Readers that felt that Natsume’s Book of Friends lacked focus or seemed to be stalling out should be happy with the current events. The story is still more melancholic than action packed, but Natsume continues to grow as a character and draw us further in the world of the yokai.

Content Grade: B +
Art Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B
Text/Translation Grade: A –

Readers Rating: [ratings]

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