Natsume’s Book of Friends Season 3
Animation: Brain’s Base Release Date: March 5, 2013
Production: Nihon Ad Systems MSRP: $69.99
Publisher: NIS America Episodes: 13

When we last left Takashi Natsume, a high school boy with the supernatural ability to see yokai, he finally had some human friends who knew about and accepted his gift. Natsume was also getting along well with his family, and he embraced the fact that he cared deeply about his friends from both the human and yokai worlds. Now that Natsume’s Book of Friends has run through a third season, how well does this arc hold up against its predecessors? (If you’d like to see our review for seasons one and two, you can check it out here.)

Natsumes Book of Friends S3 3
Watching Nyanko-sensei eat will never stop being funny.

First off, I have to admit that there really isn’t much to talk about in terms of what’s “new” with this series. The art style is the same, the background music hasn’t changed much, the episodes are still mostly self-contained, and Nyanko-sensei is still hilarious. I do feel like the story shifted to focus even more on Natsume’s relationships and personal growth, which worked pretty well for the most part.

Of Natsume’s friendships that developed further in season three, it was particularly rewarding to watch him learn to trust Tanuma and Taki, his school friends who know he can see yokai. Natsume’s bond with these two strengthened more than most when he realized how much they wanted to help him with his yokai troubles. Natsume never liked being a burden to people, so he mostly avoided talking to Tanuma and Taki about yokai until this season. As each friend got their own opportunity to shine, Natsume decided it was time he started relying on them, which helped him count on other people, too. Now that Natsume has learned that he can’t do everything all on his own, I’m hoping that next season, we’ll see him team up with others more often.

Apart from shining a brighter spotlight on the fact that Natsume doesn’t feel alone anymore, the plot really didn’t go anywhere this season. The biggest downside to this for me was that Natsume didn’t learn as much about his spiritual powers and other people who have similar abilities as I had hoped he would. The mysterious exorcist clan from last season showed up again to cause some mischief, but even this bit of intrigue didn’t stick around long enough for true resolution. Here’s hoping the story ties up that loose end in season four.

Natsumes Book of Friends S3 2
I wanted to learn more about that shadowy exorcist family. Maybe next time?

At least you can usually count on the intro and outro themes to change with a new season, and I found both songs pretty agreeable. The new intro theme, “Boku ni Dekiru Koto” (“The Things that I Can Do”), is particularly catchy. Also, I feel the need to give the background music for the series as a whole more credit than I did last time. The soundtrack is never overpowering, and most of the background tracks are very relaxing. The notes flow along gently, like the plots for most of the episodes in the show. When Natsume finds himself in more tense situations, the music definitely picks up the pace to match. There are even a few bluesy gems hidden here and there, but those mostly seem to show up when something silly is happening. Overall, the music in Natsume’s Book of Friends is pleasant without being intrusive, and lately I’ve even found myself listening to it while I work.

As for extras, the premium edition once again includes a full-color, hardcover guide to the season with a cover modeled on the Book of Friends. The book contains episode summaries, intro and outro lyrics, and character designs, but the biggest treat is definitely flipping through the twelve full-page prints at the back. As usual, don’t read the spoilery episode summaries without watching the season first! The box that encloses the set is also a gorgeous work of art. On disc, you’ll find a clean opening and ending as well as some Japanese commercials for the series.

Natsumes Book of Friends S3 1
Natsume has a lot of nice moments with his friends this season.

Ultimately, by the end of season three, Natsume is still a weakling, but at least he’s not lonely anymore. He also seems to be slowly (agonizingly so!) discovering what he can do with his powers, which is definitely a good thing. There’s a cute part where he and Tanuma start thinking about possible career paths, and the first thing that Natsume thinks of is becoming an exorcist. Even though he discards the thought quickly, it would be nice to see Natsume train up his powers in season four, if only so he can defend himself against the yokai that want to hurt him.

My biggest worry is that season four will end as inconclusively as the last three seasons. Hopefully, either the show will prove me wrong, or Natsume’s Book of Friends will continue into a fifth season. Regardless, even though there wasn’t as much plot progression as I would have liked, season three was still a good one, and I’d highly recommend it if you enjoyed the first two.

If you haven’t seen seasons one and two, you should definitely watch those first. Natsume’s Book of Friends is really about the main character’s growth as a person, and you won’t get much out of this season if you don’t know what he was like when the show began. The first two seasons also contain a lot of background information about Natsume’s family history, how he met various recurring characters,  and so on. Though you could probably follow season three’s plot easily enough without that knowledge, certain episodes might not make as much sense.

Full Disclosure: This series was reviewed using a copy provided by NIS America.

Art: ★★★★★★★★☆☆
Music/Voice: ★★★★★★★★☆☆
Characters: ★★★★★★★★☆☆
Story: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆
Intangibles: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆
Overall: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

So how does our rating system work? Read more here.

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