Thank you to MechAnime for inviting me to join this collab on Natsume! I love this anime so I’m glad I got to take part. With that being said, today is my day to post something on Natsume and I went with the theme of “Meetings and Encounters” only to realise that’s basically every episode so, I narrowed it down to one of my favourites! Hope you guys enjoy! 🙂
It wouldn’t be a stretch for me to say that I could write a post a day on all the meetings and encounters in Natsume Yuujinchou and what each one of them signifies. This is a show where nothing goes to waste. Every step each character takes and the interaction they have along the way all amount to something. Whilst I’d love to talk about all of these meetings, I do not have the space to do so today so, instead I’ll talk about Natsume’s meeting with Tsubame, the swallow youkai, which left a deep impression on me.
Tsubame initially possesses Natsume and that’s how we meet her. A desperate youkai, who has a limited time to roam around now that Futaba village isn’t submerged, simply wants to meet a human that gave her food twenty years ago when people still lived in the village. Tsubame was simply a youkai who wanted to give her gratitude to the human that saw her when nobody else, human or youkai did.
At first, Natsume doesn’t exactly want to help her. Whilst he isn’t against having her around, helping her find Taniozaki seems like too much trouble for him. However, as he spends more time with Tsubame, he decides to help her as that would be easier. What I liked about the montage we see at this point is that Tsubame seems pretty content because her meeting with Natsume was very special from the get go even if this wasn’t the case for Natsume. She wanted to meet Taniozaki but instead, she met another boy, someone who could actually see her and was willing to listen to her and, let her stay by his side. Even if she isn’t getting any closer to finding Taniozaki, there is a smile on her face as she watches Natsume live his daily life.
However, things do change when Natsume begins to help Tsubame. He comes to realise that simply knowing where Taniozaki lives brings Tsubame great joy because she had longed to meet him, a feeling Natsume claims he has never experienced. I don’t think that’s true. I think for Natsume, it’s more that he has yet to notice those that are important to him and those he cherishes hence he hasn’t felt that way but, if he was to turn back even at this stage and give meaning to everyone he has met, maybe he would realise he already has many encounters that fit.
One such encounter is the one Natsume has with his current adoptive family, the Fujiwara’s. When we learn more about Natsume’s past, how he met them and came to live with them, we learn what this meeting came to mean for him. It’s interesting that this is revealed to us when Natsume realises their importance in his life and is thankful to them. The Fujiwara’s didn’t simply take in Natsume because they had to or on a whim. Shigeru, learning of his background, wanted to do something for the boy and, after quite some time, he discussed it with Touko, who accepted the idea of taking him in. They worried about it endlessly, wondering if Natsume would be happy living with them in the countryside. They weren’t worried about themselves, but rather, about Natsume. They went as far as to give him an option, something he hadn’t been given before. Not only that, but they gave him space and time to grow comfortable and open up to them. One of the reasons why Natsume doesn’t want them to know that he can see youkai is because he cherishes them and wants to protect them just as they want to protect him and give the family he always deserved. Just as Tsubame is thankful to Taniozaki for noticing her when nobody else did, Natsume comes to be thankful to the Fujiwara’s for giving him love and a comfortable home when everything else looked alien and cold to him.
Going back to the main topic, in the end, Natsume and Tsubame, unconsciously became friends even if it was for a short time. Being around one another gave them an appreciation for the other which is why, even when Tsubame met Taniozaki and conveyed her feelings to a person who could not sense her, she still thanked Natsume. He went out of his way to find him and allow her to meet him. After all, Tsubame simply wanted to see him. Whilst having some sort of interaction with him would have been a wonderful gift for her, she wasn’t expecting that hence she felt gratitude towards Natsume for simply giving her the chance to meet him.
Natsume, however, felt he didn’t do her justice. For someone who was ecstatic at having met the man she’s been wanting to thank for so many years, Tsubame was unable to truly get her emotions across and that, to Natsume means he failed. Not that he failed in what he set out to do, but rather, he failed a friend. After coming to this town and having met many youkai, Natsume, by this stage, has come to the realisation that youkai are not all that different from humans. They have regrets and unfulfilled desires just like everyone else. Just because they can’t be seen by others does not mean they do feel the same way we do. After realising this, Natsume becomes more open to youkai and starts treating them as he would anyone else hence he comes to see Tsubame as a friend – not as a thing or a nuisance, but as someone who he has come to cherish. It is for this reason that he goes the extra mile to get her the yukata and give her the meeting with Taniozaki that she deserved. It’s actually no wonder that the picture of Tsubame made him cry. She looked really happy, the happiest he had ever seen her and that, in turn, made him happy.
One of the reasons why Tsubame was able to ask for help and enjoy Natsume’s company in the first place goes back to her initial meeting with Taniozaki back in Futaba village. It was someone warm like him who showed her care when she was still a swallow and later fed her once she became a youkai. What Tsubame learnt from such interactions was that humans can be warm and they can be giving. They do have time for other living creatures and are willing to show love to even those that are not part of their family. In the same way, through Tsubame, Natsume once again learns that youkai and humans are not that different and, more importantly, that he, too, not only loves humans but also cares for youkai, especially the ones that work hard for what they want and strive to achieve it.
This was a chance meeting that taught those involved that it is up to them to decide what this means for them and what they make of such a meeting. Natsume didn’t have to help Tsubame at all but he still chose to because that was the right thing to do and Tsubame could have simply possessed him, like she did at first, but she didn’t. Instead, these two developed an unexpected friendship that simply grew out of the time they spent together. It led them to appreciate that such meetings do not need the approval of others and nor do they need recognition from others. It is up to those involved to take away the good parts and cherish them because these encounters are ones we create for ourselves and for nobody else.
One of the reasons why this episode left an impression on me was because it was the first Natsume Yuujinchou episode where I cried. The ending, where Tsubame finally meets Taniozaki and is able to take a picture with him – a tangible piece of evidence that she was there and their meeting did occur – simply showed her at peace. That the journey she had taken and the help Natsume had given her were not in vain. Natsume was never able to properly say good bye to her but in the end, she was happy, he made his friend smile, and that was all that was important. Just like youkai, people come and go. A person’s presence is fleeting but they always leave behind a piece of them, something that helps us change and become better just how Taniozaki shaped Tsubame’s views on humans and how Tsubame influenced Natsume’s view of humans and youkai alike.
I hope you guys enjoyed reading that! I realise it was quite a long piece so thank you, if you read it all the way through. 🙂
Here are the links for everyone else’s posts and what days they’ll be out on. Of course, most aren’t out yet but they’ll be coming out this week so don’t miss them! 🙂