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Kids fighting ghosts…

Ghost Stories and Natsume Yuujin-chou

…in anime (Natsume Yūjin-Chō and Ghost Stories).

[Warning: Rambling anime pseudo-review blah-blah-blah follows.]

Miss T and I have been watching two anime series that delve into Japanese ghost folklore. Both feature:

  • teen-aged protagonists (like most anime, seemingly);
  • powerful spirits in the form of cats;
  • Japanese ghosts and monsters;
  • and, books with the ability to deal with said ghosts and monsters.

Although we’ve been keeping up with both shows, only one is really worth watching.

Natsume Yūjin-Chō (Natsume’s Book of Friends) is centered on the story of Natsume Takahashi, a quiet teenager who has been troubled from a young age with the ability to see spirits. With his friend and spiritual advisor Madara/Nyanko-sensei—who is in the form of a rotund maneki neko—Natsume goes about releasing spirits previously bound in the “Book of Friends” by his (long-deceased) grandmother Reiko.

Ghost Stories (originally Gakkō no Kaidan) follows a group of five middle– and elementary-school students who battle angry spirits plaguing their town (usually in the old, decrepit school building). To deal with each of the displaced spirits, the protagonists follow instructions from “The Ghost Journal,” a diary left behind by the deceased mother of two of the kids. A powerful antagonistic spirit trapped in the body of the lead character’s pet cat rounds out the main cast.

The stories in Natsume Yūjin-Chō reflect Natsume’s character—hopeful, melancholy, sometimes dealing with loneliness and loss. Likewise, the character design, art direction, and story pacing are careful and deliberate. Ghost Stories episodes, on the other hand, seem haphazardly written. Characters reactions are often in the “why would anyone do that?” category. My own reaction after a recent episode was “why am I still watching this?”

If you’d like to watch Natsume Yūjin-Chō—and you should—Crunchyroll is streaming it online (subtitled only). And, uh, Ghost Stories is available on Netflix.

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