Whereas Reiko formed the contracts, however, Takashi spends his time dissolving the contracts and releasing the various spirits that come to him for help, with the help of his sensei, the powerful spirit in the form of a cat, Nyanko-sensei. But that doesn't mean there aren't malicious spirits trying to kill him
This is Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou, by Brain's Base (January 5, 2009 March 30, 2009)
Those of you who read my previous review of the first season of Natsume Yuujinchou will know that I was very much impressed by this series, and how it told what was for the most part a previously done story, but did in such humble and almost peaceful manner that it was unlike anything I've seen. Its biggest crime really was that it had to finish at 13 episodes.
Well, in 2009, this wonderful series got its second season! Does it hold up to the original? Let's find out, this is my review of Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou!
Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou Anime Review
The unfortunate thing about this review is that I'm going to be repeating myself a lot from my review of the first season, since a lot of it is very similar. But honestly, I found that to be a good thing. This second season is a continuation, why change what works?
Like the first season, the animation is colourful and serene, giving a genuine lighthearted feel to it that I don't think has ever been accomplished in any other animated series, period. It's both relaxing and atmospheric. There are occasional animation dips, but they're used in the more fast paced scenes, so they're often hard to notice.
The music is exactly the same, so I was graced with being enchanted by its both whimsical and very often emotional tunes. And to put icing on the cake, the excellent voice actors from the previous series return, and are just as great as ever! Not to mention that the new characters were voiced great as well.
Overall, very little changed production wise, but like I said, why changed something that works?
Production Values Rating: 9/10
Once again, this is very much the same setting of the first season without little change. We're still in the same rural village, and we see through Natsume's eyes the way Yokai exist in this world and their individual stories. And just like the first season, it's pretty damn amazing.
That being said, this series does change slightly, or at the very least builds up a future change; the way other humans besides Natsume deals with Yokai. Before only two other characters besides Natsume could see Yokai, but this series brings in hints that there are many more who can see them, and there even clans which hunt Yokai and exorcise them. It's not much, but it definitely took the series in a slightly different, most interesting path.
Besides that though, the various stories involving Yokai were a individually unique and often touching as ever, but it was good to see potential change from this setting.
Setting Rating: 9/10
My biggest complaint from the first season was that whilst the Yokai were great, outside of Natsume and Reiko, the humans weren't nearly as interesting. I'm thankful to say however that whilst it isn't a perfect balance, the new series adds some new human characters which definitely improve this side of the cast.
I already talked of the Yokai exorcist clans, which hint at darker aspects to this story, but the biggest addition of all was Taki, a female girl who is probably the closest thing this series has to a love interest. Her introduction was actually the first two parter in the whole series, and it was definitely one of the best.
For me though, it was just great to see Natsume and Nyanko Sensei again. I've said it before, but those two are one of the greatest anime duos of all time, I just love it when they're together. Even when they're just in Natsumes' room talking, it's such a great (and often funny) scene.
The various Yokai they meet again were as great and memorable as the previous season, and it's just great how every episode managed to be different and tell something new because of them. Overall, the cast was definite improvement to the first season though not quite enough to give it the perfect scoring.
Characters Rating: 9/10
Much like it's previous season, Zoku Natsume is very much an episodic series about individual Yokai and Natsume's handling of them. That being said, it's not completely like this, as this season is the first two introduce two episode stories.
Because of this, these said stories were probably the most interesting stories in the series. Don't get me wrong, the one episode stories were great too, but the two parters were incredibly well paced and most explored of the series. The one in the middle of the series being the best example by far.
The other great improvement of the series is something I've definitely been alluding to in this review, the start-up of the main, overarching plot in Natsume. Some may find it bizarre it's only starting now, but that's what I love about this series: what would be classed as filler to other series is actually attempts at getting single, emotional responses from its viewers through its various one episode stories and it almost always works.
That being said, I really like what the series started to build up in this arc, and that's of the more turbulent side of the relationship between humans and Yokai. Sure, we saw humans and Yokai connect to each other in some form before, but here we're starting to see how humans exploit the Yokai for their own gain, sorta making a huge contrast to Natsume.
Unfortunately, whilst I do praise this, the fact is this aspect only counts for a small percentage of the story, and it's almost completely in the background. The overall feeling of Zoku Natsume is that it comes off almost as build up for the third season, as by the end of it not much has changed at all, much like how the first season ended.
But I guess this is the series charm. There's no world domination plot or attempts at Yokai waging war on humans or vice versa it's just the story of Natsume and his friends, living his life as Yokai of all sorts visit him, and despite its flaws, I love it.
Storytelling Rating: 8/10
Now don't get me wrong. Even though I gave it the same scoring as the first season, Zoku Natsume Yuujinchou is definitely superior to its prequel. It improved on every aspect, the story, the characters, the setting, even the animation a little. The story just lacked the extra push to make it to the 9 score.
After watching this season though, I officially became a lover of the Natsume Yuujinchou franchise. It's easily one of the most underrated anime ever made, and the third and fourth seasons have convinced me further and further it's an anime that only knows how to get better.
Overall Rating: 8.75/10
Hope you enjoyed! Stay tuned for my next review: Soul Eater!