It’s plot progression time, which translates to grandiose mansions, exorcist meetings, whimsical disguises, and confrontation of ideals. Individuals meet, their ideologies collide and influence each other, and find ways to coexist. Our hero faces new ordeals but handles them with integrity and honour, and comes out stronger than ever. This dual episode focuses primarily on interpersonal relations and their gradual outcomes, both short and long term. While episodes focused solely on youkai have their own charm in being emotionally engaging, sometimes it’s a good reminder that dealing with actual humans, especially in a combustible social circle of exorcists may be the most difficult of all tasks.
To break down the themes at play, we have here the growing affinity between Natori and Natsume; the great influence of the Matoba clan on the exorcist community, even though we will come to know later that those bonds are not as strong as they appear; and the difference between how Matoba and Natsume think youkai should be treated.
Matoba has always been a difficult individual for Natsume to handle, since they somewhat belong to opposite ends of the spectrum in their behaviour towards the supernatural. While Natsume stays out of youkai business as long as it doesn’t concern him personally or in family affairs, Matoba is someone who won’t think twice before exacting someone’s services by underhanded means to help him identify the impostor among his supposed allies.
Natsume has no other option but to oblige because he fears what would happen if his parents found out about his special abilities, not because they won’t believe it, but considering how protective and caring they are, they might get into trouble while trying to help him.
But before he heads to the mansion the next day, he has a brief but significant meeting with Natori. Among those who share his abilities, Natori is probably the closest to be called an ally. He has become increasingly understanding of Natsume as well as having developed a brotherly affection toward him. He lets him in on facts about how exorcist clans often hold grudges against one another that spans generations, so much as to actually act on them, and how some amateurs may get tricked into practising forbidden techniques. But more importantly, the invitation letter that Matoba had sent him which incidentally got lost ends up in Natori’s possession.
The sparkles reminded me of ‘Life Beauty’ for some reason.
Back to one of Matoba’s mansions, they try to unveil the culprit but it appears only Natsume is able to see whether or not a person is possessed by the demon.
Two things beg to be highlighted in the events that follow:
- Matoba continues to try and persuade Natsume into joining his clan, which is to be expected since many of his own accomplices are turning against him and someone having strong spiritual abilities as Natsume can come in handy any day. Although, Natsume, as far as he’s come since he has discovered the Book of Friends, knows better, as Matoba’s vision regarding youkai is in stark contrast with his own; he sees them as no more than tools to meet his personal gains.
- Matoba’s so-called “allies” aren’t happy with the fact that their overseer is not very trustworthy, because it appears one of their ancestors broke an agreement they had made with a youkai, and since then the right eye of all their descendants are targeted by that youkai, which explains why the current chief wears that talisman over his right eye. It also explains why their clan forms a master-servant relationship with the youkai.
And while the agreements formed by the Matobas may be designed to help create structural stability in a large social network, one can never make companions that way. And people like Natori, Natsume, or even his grandmother Reiko always treated youkai as one of their own, because human bonds are inherently characterised by affection and trust, the likes of which Seiji has never known. He tries to exact demands of complete companionship which can never be met within a larger circle.
He believes, with an innocence peculiar to himself, that they are equally proud of this alleged confraternity. He says, ‘Look at my two noble friends – – they are dumb, but they are loyal.’ I have for years suspected that they are only tolerant. – Beryl Markham, West with the Night
But when Natsume leaves the scene after telling him that he and Madara aren’t bound by an agreement but a promise, his gesture almost tells a different story. Will he ever be able to understand such mutual bonds? Only time will tell, but this may be the beginning.
And all the while Natori has been playing his cards from behind the scenes.
Full credits once again to both Suwabe Junichi and Hiroshi Kamiya for bringing out the characters perfectly. Next episode preview looks like it’s gonna be a Taki-centric episode, which are my favorites.