I write the following words with great sadness: NIS America’s Premium Edition of Natsume Season 4 collects the final thirteen episodes of the series produced by Brain’s Base animation studio. That’s it. No more. As much as I yearned between NIS releases of Natsume’s Book of Friends to hold the next collection in my hand and plow through the episodes therein over the course of one– maybe two– sittings, I would that I could it all over afresh. Wipe my memory of it all and let me do it again.
Still, I take solace in knowing that the DVDs and Blu-rays are here whenever I need them, whenever I long to return to that comfortable place Natsume takes you with its natural, languid pacing and unwavering devotion to issues of home and family. That Natsume managed to remain as warm and inviting as I described it in my previous reviews of the series (here and here) through 52 episodes is a testament to the brilliant writing of the original manga’s author, Yuki Midorikawa, and the spot-on animation of Brain’s Base. It certainly can’t have been easy to maintain that warm tone, particularly when the series’ central character, Takashi Natsume, finds himself battling for his life against yokai in almost every episode.
In Season 4, the series brings Season 3’s emphasis on the orphaned Takashi’s inner, figurative demons to the forefront of the narrative. Having finally accepted the Fujiwara’s home as his own, Takashi can at last come to terms with his past, but to do so, he must drudge up painful, long-repressed memories of a troubled childhood during which he was shunned for claiming he could see monsters and was passed from one relative to another. With its heavy focus on the past, the season concludes in the most honest, satisfying of ways, even if it refuses to tie up the myriad of loose ends as any other series might. This leaves us with the impression that the story isn’t over and that life moves on for Takashi and his friends.
Of course, the story isn’t over though. Not exactly. After all, Midorikawa is still producing chapters of the Natsume manga. What’s more, the anime adaptation’s fourth season aired well over a year ago. This indicates that, although Season 4 concluded so beautifully and there is yet no sign of a Season 5, we might still hope to see new episodes in the future. Fingers crossed. As perfect as I think the series is to-date, I would love for these not to be my last words on it.
Natsume’s Book of Friends: Season 4 is now available from NIS America in a 4-disc, Blu-ray/DVD Premium Edition combo pack, and the transfer of the animation here is every bit as stunning as it was in the HD transfer of Season 3. The Premium Edition set is packaged in the same type of 8”x11”x1” (WxHxD) hardboard case as the previous sets, and includes a collectible hardcover artbook designed to resemble the Book of Friends, just like the previous sets. The book features an episode guide, 12 pages of character designs, a two-page interview with series director Takahiro Omori, and 8 pages of artwork featuring various characters from the series. Supplementing the hardcover book, special features on the discs include textless openings and closings and the original Japanese commercials. Additionally, the outer hardboard case of Season 4 boasts what I find to be the most compelling artwork of the three sets, featuring images of Takashi and Madara having painted a tableau of yokai on Takashi’s bedroom floor.