Image Description: the book-cover of Natsume’s Book of Friends – Volume 1 by Yuki Midorikawa. The background is olive-green. Mid-background has Natsume in a standard black-high-school uniform, wearing a yukata/robe that’s red with pink and white flowers. He’s kneeling on the ground with a folded piece of paper in one hand and a folded piece of paper in his mouth. Held in Natsume’s other hand is a verticle caligraphy notebook. In the central foreground is a white-orange-black maneki-neko cat.
About The Creator:
Yuki Midorikawa is a Japanese mangaka (manga artist). Midorikawa is best known for drawing the manga series Natsume Yujin-cho (“Natsume’s Book of Friends”). Yuki Midorikawa started writing manga when she was an elementary school girl. When she was a junior high school student, she sent her manga for the first time to “Hana to Yume”, a semi-monthly Japanese shōjo manga magazine published by Hakusensha. Since then, she had kept drawing manga to become a mangaka.
About The Book:
With friends like these, enemies are overkill. Takashi Natsume can see the spirits and demons that hide from the rest of humanity. He has always been set apart from other people because of his gift, drifting from relative to relative, never fitting in. Now he is a troubled high school student who has come to live in the small town where his grandmother grew up. And there he discovers that he has inherited more than just the Sight from the mysterious Reiko.
~Curses, Ghosts, and Yokai – Oh My: One of the main factors that I like about this series is the focus on Japanese mythology and folklore. I love reading about Yokai, and how the world of Humans and the world of the Supernatural co-exist, one subtly influencing the other. Spirited Away is one of my top ten films of all time, and while this is more of a high-school setting with a male protagonist, I feel as though if you enjoyed one, you’ll probably enjoy the other.
~Character Orientated: This manga series focuses on Natsume and the various Yokai, how they grow or change, or if they don’t grow or change. While this style of literature doesn’t normally suit me, however, I find this manga series super enjoyable, the characters are interesting and engaging enough to keep reading. It’s very shojo-like in that it focuses more on how the event made people and Yokai feel, rather than the event itself, which is good when it’s done well.
~Content Warning – Child Abuse: I watched the anime series first and then started reading the manga books, and as the narratives progress, it becomes apparent that Natsume has been seriously abused by his previous guardians. The abuse is very subtle, there’s definitely some emotional abuse, but there could just easily be physical abuse mixed in too.
It’s not always easy to tell just how deep those wounds go. The act of being passed around like an unwanted package is going to take its toll. The damage is highlighted when he’s with new foster parents who legitimately care for him. When Natsume is with them, he doesn’t know how to act or how to reciprocate to being cared for, and it’s really heartbreaking to see in some issues/episodes.
Despite all of this, Natsume is one of the most empathic male characters I’ve read, while he is wary of trusting other people (which is understandable given his history), however, he’s still actively kind and gentle despite all the pain he’s endured.
All in all, an excellent manga series that places a strong emphasis on empathy and kindness, I highly recommend this series.