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 is an ongoing fantasy manga series by Yuki Midorikawa. It began serialization by Hakusensha in the shōjo manga magazine LaLa DX in 2005, before switching to LaLa in 2008. Chapters have been collected in eight bound volumes  . The series is about Natsume, an orphaned teenage boy who can see spirits, who inherits from his grandmother the notebook she used to bind spirits under her control. Natsume's Book of Friends was a finalist for the first Manga Taishō award in 2008.


Natsume's Book of Friends has been adapted as a series of drama CDs, as well as an anime television series produced by Brain's Base, which was broadcast on TV Tokyomarker in two seasons in 2008 and 2009. The manga has been licensed by Viz Media for English-language release in North America, with the first volume scheduled for release in January 2010.

Story

For as long as he can remember, Takashi has been cursed by the ability to see spirits, a power inherited from his grandmother Reiko. Upon her death, Reiko bequeaths to her grandson only one belonging - the Book of Friends, a book containing the names of spirits Reiko had bullied into servitude. The Book of Friends is a highly prized item in the spirit world, and spirits hound Takashi constantly. Whereas Reiko formed the contracts, however, Takashi spends his time dissolving the contracts and releasing the various spirits that come to him for help. But that doesn't mean there aren't malicious spirits trying to kill him. Which is where Madara (called Nyanko-sensei by Natsume) comes in; Madara serves as Natsume's bodyguard and spiritual advisor of sorts, even though he is motivated by his own desire to possess the Book of Friends. He later on begins to become more attached to Takashi.

Characters

Natsume Takashi
The main character of the story. Like his grandmother, Natsume Reiko, Natsume has the ability to see spirits. He has inherited the Book of Friends, a book of names that no one but Reiko, Natsume, and other spirits can read. Because of Natsume's strong resemblance to Reiko, he is often mistaken for her, causing spirits who hate Reiko to chase him constantly. He decided to dissolve the Book by giving all the names back to their owners. He is accompanied by the spirit Madara, who he calls "Nyanko-sensei" or sometimes simply "sensei," promising that he can keep the Book of Friends once Natsume dies.
Natsume is an orphan. When he was younger, his parents died, and he was constantly sent to live with relatives. Because of his ability to see spirits, Natsume would scare his relatives because they didn't understand what he was doing. Eventually, Natsume lived with the Fujiwaras, an old couple from his father's side. He loves them, and does not want to cause them trouble, so he keeps quiet about his problem. Though he is rather slender, Natsume is incredibly strong when it comes to Youkai, having enough strength to knock spirits (mainly Nyanko-sensei) out with one blow (backed up with his spiritual powers). He also has a bit of a short temper, since he argues with Cat most of the time. In the anime, he is more cheery and good-natured, while in the manga, he is slightly more dismal and short-tempered.
Natsume is able to return the names inscribed in the Book of Friends by first picturing the spirit in his mind in order to learn the spirit's name. The book flips to the page on which the name is written and Natsume takes the page and places it in his mouth while breathing out. The spell which originally enslaved the spirits used Reiko's saliva and breath, though as Reiko's grandson and one who bears a strong resemblance to Reiko, Natsume is able to use the spell as well. The cost of releasing the name, however, is that Natsume's energy is completely drained in the process.
Natsume also has the ability to channel the dreams and memories of spirits, whether he wants to or not. If a spirit gets too emotional, and sleeps in the same room as Natsume, Natsume can see the dreams the spirit is having. On the other hand, most of the spirits let Natsume see their memories, so that he can understand them better. Natsume can also see their memories when he releases a spirit's name. When Natsume is completely frustrated over a problem and falls asleep in class, he actually sleep-draws in his notebook about whatever is bothering him at the time. When he was being chased by a shadow he called "Mary," he started drawing it in his sleep, making his friends wonder if he was in love with a foreigner. His incredibly strong ability in spiritual magic and strength causes him to smell "yummy" to man-eating spirits, as Madara puts it.


Madara/Nyanko-sensei
A mysterious feline spirit. Madara was sealed in a shrine until he was accidentally released by Natsume. Because Madara was trapped in a material form for so long, Madara ordinary takes on the shape of a maneki neko (lucky cat), leading Natsume to nickname him Nyanko-sensei. In this form, other people can see him, leading for Natsume having to ask his guardians if he could keep him as a pet. He is a powerful spirit, who protects Natsume from others and teaches him spells on occasion, in return for Natsume's promise to give him the Book of Friends when he dies. They often fight each other, which leads to Natsume punching Madara on the face and knocking him out. Despite his protests of not being a cat, he likes to play with cat toys. In the anime, Natsume is more respectful to Madara.


Natsume Reiko
Natsume's grandmother, from whom he inherited the ability to see spirits. When Reiko was young, she was considered a freak by everyone else because of her ability. Since she believed no human could ever understand her, she turned to the spirits for companionship. Reiko's power was extraordinarily powerful, and so she bullied spirits in to obeying her by playing games with them. If they lost, she would make them give her their names. Reiko gathered the names in to the Book of Friends, and commanded most spirits, except for Madara, who beat her in a game. Reiko died when she was young, so no one remembered her.


Tanuma Kaname
Another student that had recently moved into the area. He is sickly and quite susceptible to illnesses. Like Natsume Takashi, he is able to detect spirits, but to a lesser degree limited to seeing merely shadows and sensing slight presence of spirits. He wants to help Natsume in anyway he can, but is afraid that he will just be a burden because of his weak ability.


Taki Tooru
A new girl at school who doesn't talk much because of a curse a Youkai has placed on her, which Natsume later helps her to break. She’s an omniyojist, she can’t actually see youkai but she can with a magic circle she draws with a stick. One of Natsume's friends, Nishimura, has a crush on her, but thinks that she and Natsume are going out.


Sasada Jun
The class president of Natsume's class. Sasada believes that Natsume can see spirits, and constantly asks him questions about it, to which he replies that he doesn't have such an ability. Much to Natsume's chagrin, she wants to come along with him when he's visiting spirits.
The story in the manga differs slightly, as Sasada moves away after the encounter with Shigure, so she has far more spotlight in the anime.


Natori Shuuichi
A man who is also able to see spirits. He is a famous actor and exorcist and has a lizard birthmark that moves around on his body. He has the ability to manipulate paper dolls and has three youkai under his command. Natsume tends to disapprove of his forceful exorcism methods.


Kitamoto and Nishimura
Natsume's friends from class. Kitamoto is a sensible and rational person, while Nishimura is funny and easy-going, with a slightly perverted side. They often hang around more with each other than Natsume, though that is because Natsume rejects their offers because of spirits. Nishimura has a crush on Taki Tooru, but thinks that she and Natsume are going out, and ran off comically crying. Kitamoto said that he would support Natsume all the way before running after his friend.


Media

Manga

Natsume's Book of Friends is written and illustrated by Yuki Midorikawa and published in Japan by Hakusensha. It began serialization in 2005 in the bimonthly shōjo (aimed at teenage girls) manga magazine LaLa DX; in 2008, serialization switched to the monthly sister magazine LaLa. Chapters have been collected in eight tankōbon volumes as of July 2009.

The series is licensed in English in North America by Viz Media, with the first volume scheduled for January 2010. It is also licensed in French by Delcourt, in South Korea by Haksan, in Taiwan by Tong Li, and in Thailand by Bongkoch Publishing.

In addition, a fan book was published on January 5, 2009 (ISBN 978-4-592-18696-0) and a notebook reproduction of Natsume's book of friends is scheduled to be published July 3, 2009 (ISBN 978-4-592-18690-8).

Drama CDs

Natsume's Book of Friends has been adapted as a series of three drama CDs, which were distributed as extras with issues of LaLa.

  1. LaLa Treasure Drama CD (October 2007)
  2. LaLa Excellent Drama CD (November 2008)
  3. LaLa Double Premiere Drama CD (May 2009)


Anime

Natsume's Book of Friends has been adapted as an anime television series produced by Brain's Base, directed by Takahiro Omori. It was broadcast on the TV Tokyomarker network in two seasons of 13 episodes each, the first from July 7 to September 29, 2008 and the second, called , from January 5 to March 30, 2009. For the first season, the opening theme was by Shūhei Kita, and the ending theme was by Kousuke Atari. For the second season, the opening theme was by Long Short Party and the ending theme was by Kourin. Season one was released on five DVDs; releases of the season two are on-going, with three DVDs out as of June 2009.

Separate soundtrack albums for the two seasons were released in Japan by Sony Music on September 24, 2008 and March 18, 2009, respectively. The series opening and closing theme songs were also released by Sony Music. As singles, "Issei no Sei" reached a peak rank of 48th on the Oricon singles chart, "Natsu Yūzora" reached 27th, and "Ano Hi Time Machine" reached 38th. "Aishiteru" was not released as a single, but instead included on an album by Kourin.

The series is licensed in English by Crunchyroll, which streams it online; episodes of the second season were available online on the day of broadcast.It is also licensed in Chinese by Muse Communication.

Natsume Yūjinchō (Season One)



























# Title Original airdate


Zoku Natsume Yūjinchō (Season Two)



























# Title Original airdate


Reception

Natsume's Book of Friends was one of twelve finalists for the first Manga Taishō award in 2008.

Since the fifth volume of the series, the individual volumes have made the best-seller list for manga in Japan. Volume 5 was ranked at number 8 on the charts for the week of March 4–10, 2008; Volume 6 was number 5 for the week of July 8–14, 2008; Volume 7 has done the best so far of the volumes, staying on the chart for two consecutive weeks (number 2 for the week of January 6–12, 2009 then falling to number 16 for the following week).

References



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