Natsume Yuujinchou and Natsume

Natsume Yuujinchou is a series that is more suitable for episodic review than an overall opinion. Due to my exams, I could only watch the anime in one sitting, and missed the episodic fun, something that will sadden me for a long while. So, instead of a review, I decided to focus more on why Natsume Yuujinchou is a precious series to me.

Natsume Yuujinchou falls in the category of my most beloved shoujo manga, and while I never imagined liking the animated version just as much, it stills hit me every single time a new season comes out.

The anime gives off a feeling of warmth, Starting from the melodic opening and ending song, to the colour tone and atmosphere, it gives of a sense of calm and angst. Something that is extremely hopeful and sweet, and yet, it leaves such a bitter feeling in your chest.

The circumstances surrounding Natsume is fictional. Youkai don’t exist for most people, unless you believe in that stuff. However, the series still has one foot set firmly in reality, the two worlds coming together and mingling in a painful way. For example, Natsume’s fear of abandonment comes from the way he was thrown around from home to home as a child,  something that was a reaction to his insistence that Youkai exist. The Youkai’s aren’t real, but kids who fear abandonment and are closed up because of the system, and parental neglect do exist.

Natsume is a character grounded in reality, even if his world is fantasy to us.

I can’t count the countless times I have wanted to reach out and assure him, that everything is going to be okay.

On that note, special mention to episode one and episode six of Natsume Yuujinchou, which firmly explores Natsume as a character. Both does an wonderful job on focusing on the distance Natsume places between himself and others, his fears, and explores why he wants to hold on to the life he has now so firmly.

Here’s to hoping for another season of Natsume and his book of friends.


Ghost Hunt

Synopsis- The decrepit building was condemned long ago, but every time the owners try to tear it down, “accidents” start to happen-people get hurt, sometimes even killed. Mai Taniyama and her classmates have heard the rumors that the creepy old high school is haunted-possibly by ghosts from the Second World War. So one rainy day they gather at the told school to tell ghost stories, hoping to attract one of the suspected spirits.

No ghosts materialize, but Mai and her friends do meet Kazuya Shibuya, the handsome young owner of Shibuya Psychic Research, who’s been hired to investigate paranormal activity at the school. Also at the scene are an exorcist, a Buddhist monk, a woman who can speak with the dead, and an outspoken Shinto priestess. Surely one of them will have the talents to solve this mystery!

I don’t think I have enough words to describe what Ghost Hunt is to me. Presumably, one of the most detailed dabble into supernatural to this day, Ghost Hunt is a wonderful fusion of the science and supernatural. Ghost Hunt is far from perfect, in fact it is filled with truckload of faults and failures, but it will always have a special place in my heart.

Maybe it’s my fascination towards the supernatural, maybe its the passion apparent in the author’s work, the hard work and day and night of research.

Originally released as a Light Novel by Ono Fuyumi under the name Akuryo, Ghost Hunt managed to garner a Manga and anime adaptation due to its popularity. Due to the fact the Akyuro series  is still under translation, I would review the manga instead, though arguably the light novel has more details and lovely moments, and tidbits the manga misses out on.

Ghost Hunt starts on a relatively simple, and even a cliche shoujo premise. Boy meets girl, ends up doing something stupid out of curiosity and ends up having to pay the price by working for him. It sounds more like a romantic comedy than a school girl’s  horror story- Sensei’s words- but what sets Ghost Hunt apart is its opening where girls gather round for after school horror story and surprisingly enough, while they might not scare you, they do send a chill up your spine.

From then on it heads long into list of cases with scientific twist to them. Ghost Hunt doesn’t make up scary ghost 101 facts as it goes. It is clear the information found in Ghost Hunt is work of actual research on phenomenon and all psychic abilities and while some events are explained with research found from all over the world by actual scientific researchers, others are ordinary events mistaken as ghost haunting and compelling reasons on why they are thought so. There are times when the characters goes on to explain phenomenon for multiple pages which might be boring for normal readers but fascinating for Ghost enthusiasts.

Consisting of twelve volumes, while Ghost Hunt doesn’t dedicate much time to individual characters, the huge cast of characters are well made out. There isn’t much room for development or information about the characters, just tidbits thrown here and there, which leaves room for lot of imagination. You get the idea of who they are personality wise, but different aspects aren’t explored- understandable since this is primarily a mystery genre. (Also, if you read the light novels, there are one shots dedicated to many characters which explains their life better.)

The fiction is primarily from Mai’s perspective, a sixteen year old high school student. Mai, a complete rookie when it comes to the supernatural ends up becoming Kazuya Shibuya’s assistant, a seventeen year old Ghost Hunter.

Mai is outspoken, loud and hot headed, which makes her a refreshing female lead than most Shoujo Manga.

Kazuya Shibuya is- how should I put it? He feels like Sherlock, just a little less moody. I can’t help but wonder whenever I look at Kazuya if he Sensei modeled him after Sherlock Holmes.

Like I mentioned before, Ghost Hunt doesn’t have much room for personal relationships, but Mai and Kazuya’s interactions, and their feelings and all the read between the lines moments is one of my favorite thing about Ghost Hunt.

Since Ghost Hunt is about spirits, a lot of emotions are put into the cases too.

Also, for a series that’s mainly about Ghost Hunting, it’s final volume is full of unexpected revelations and twist, the sort to make you go, how did I miss it?

All in all, if you aren’t into the supernatural, Ghost Hunt might be the place to look.



Skip Beat; Or Why You Should Definitely Read It

I’ve never been one for romance. Books, manga, anime, it doesn’t matter. The leads were destined to be together, the heroine is always  a klutz and has a habit of chasing guys who aren’t interested, until he is.

Which is why, after dropping the series over and over again after the first chapter, I picked it up one summer afternoon, and then I couldn’t find it in me to put it down. Despite the agony of waiting for a whole month for a new chapter, the pain of reading a series that never ends, Skip Beat’s hold on me turned out to be stronger than I could ever imagine.

From the start, Skip Beat is the type of series you either love or hate. Though, the hatred probably has more to do with slow pacing than any problem with the character or storyline.

Currently at 38 Volumes, Skip Beat is probably one of the longest running shoujo manga out there and for good reasons. Skip Beat! follows the journey of one Kyoko Mogami as she tries to make her way in the Show Biz industry after being jilted by her childhood friend turned musician Sho Fuwa. Brutally used by Sho as a maid, and thirsting for revenge, Kyouko decides to beat Sho at his own game by joining LME(where Sho’s rival actor Ren Tsuruga works) , with the sole dream of having Sho begging at her feet.

From the synopsis, Skip Beat sounds surprisingly simple. In fact, Kyoko sounds like another stupid girl, which is one of the reasons I couldn’t look past the first chapter. Kyoko was every other hard working girl whose sole purpose is to uplift the man in her life and while it is perfectly fine to do that out of a well informed choice, it is stupid to waste your time on someone who doesn’t appreciate it.

I first started reading Skip Beat! when I was thirteen, and I think it shaped a lot of how I view the world, or should I say it reinforced my belief on how relationship works. While it doesn’t portray Sho as an absolute bad guy, Skip Beat! makes it abundantly clear it is not nice to treat someone like trash. Even if it is a guy pulling the hair of a girl he likes, abuse is abuse, and Skip Beat! doesn’t try to glorify it like a lot of Shoujo does.

Romantic progress on the other hand is frustratingly slow. A male lead like Ren Tsuruga, and a female lead like Kyoko, fast romance is a far fetched dream . However, what little progress we have got, is the kind where you are certainly going to start screaming, doesn’t matter whether you are male or female.

The romantic aspect is also quite realistic, as it is understood that while it is easy for Ren to fall in love, someone with a broken heart like Kyoko is bound to take a longer to time.

Ah, but romance isn’t everything. What Skip Beat is about its characters and acting. Skip Beat is about Kyoko. You could probably remove all the characters from Skip Beat and just have fun watching Kyoko enjoy acting, doing crazy things, and try new things to understand herself- which isn’t to say the side characters aren’t fun, they are lovely. Kyoko is smart, crazy, funny, hardworking, and a little bit broken. She is emotionally as strong as she vulnerable, which makes it a delight to watch her grow as a character.

Then, we have Ren. Ren who loves Kyoko, Ren who is the biggest star in the Skip Beat world and after the initial misunderstanding is removed – guess what- isn’t a big jerk to Kyoko. Ren is a character who believes in doing nice things for the person he loves, who for the most part respects others boundaries and is the slightest beat childish. This isn’t to say Ren is perfect, he has his flows, is somewhat broken himself, a master manipulator and quick to anger. Ren is human and we love him for it.

The side characters are well developed people themselves, with their own ambition and goals. Kotonami Kanae, who in most series with her character design would have been a villain, is Kyoko’s best friend, and is probably the most lovely Tsundere out there.

Oh, and did I mention how funny it is?

At its heart, Skip Beat is a story about love. A story about learning to love yourself.

I think everyone, especially teenagers should give Skip Beat a try. There is also an anime of the same name which you could check out, however, it is way behind from the story right now.