The Cult of Natsume vs. The Friends of Natsume – reflecting on my own cringe inducing moments on WordPress

When I’m referring to Natsume in this context, I am referring to Natsume Yuujinchou or Natsume’s Book of Friends as a series. I’m just shortening it to Natsume for ease of writing. When I am referring to the character Natsume Takashi, I will indicate so, via lack of italics.

When it comes to real life anime and manga fans – Natsume Yuujinchou is not a title that often becomes a topic of conversation. While it has multiple seasons, a movie and even some OVA’s at this point all with consistent quality and style, plus an on-going manga, I’ve never really seen it ‘take off’ in Western fandoms.

Personally, I got into Natsume out of semi-obligation. Without getting too boring, I use to run a club on DeviantArt dedicated to ShojoBeat branch manga (I deleted it back when I deleted my dA account, sorry!). Each month I made a point to highlight a different manga with a synopsis, my thoughts, etc. I’d do my best the month prior to consume as much of the manga as was available, in addition to any anime releases, etc and one of those series happened to be Natsume.

Unlike a lot of the series prior to Natsume, I didn’t immediately (metaphorically of course) chuck Natsume into my ‘done’ pile for the blog, and shove it on my on-hold list. Natsume lingered the way that smoke from cigarette does – but in a good way. It got overwhelmed by other, more brash series, but it never went away either. Unlike many flavor of the year stories, I didn’t feel the need to keep up with it. It would be a pleasant surprise when a new volumes appeared on shelves, and I’d gravitate towards it. Reading a new volume was like catching up with an old friend, rekindled certain passions and feelings, but never really overstayed itself. Always leaving off with a promised “we should catch up more often”.

If I have an excuse to re-use some of my favorite photos, I am absolutely going to do so.

When I got into Natsume the anime, I believe the first five seasons were available. I watched them all in my cool temperature basement, largely by myself. There was a sort of absentminded nature to watching – you had to pay attention, but not in the ‘turn your head away and you missed seven plot lines’ way. It was soft, and un-abrasive and just engaging enough where you’d watch the whole disc through but could easily set it aside when dinner came.

It’s probably for those exact reasons I’ve mentioned that a lot of my irl anime friends weren’t too keen to try it. Many of them simply preferred stories with a bit more flair to them, then what I mentioned about Natsume. Even when I’d say that some of the yokai encounters were probably more intense then other anime battles but that’s a matter of taste.

I never expected that joining the anime/manga space on WordPress I would discover so many people who not only knew of Natsume but liked it! Enough to mention it once, twice and more times in a positive manner!! Being a newcomer at the time, I made the good-faith but poorly executed choice to refer to fans of Natsume as part of a cult.

I think most of the other bloggers who I referred to as members of the cult/leaders/etc understood that this was a joke. A rather edgy way of saying ‘ah yes, you too like Natsume the way I do’. Admittedly, I took it a bit too far, using it just once too many times in retrospect. But if you’re not cringing at how you use to be, I don’t think you’re living a particularly fun life. Regardless –

Cult is a heavy word. Especially when talking about it in fandom spaces.

Most pop-culture folks usually mean cult as in “cult classic” i.e. a work of some sort, typically film or books, that that is popular or fashionable among a particular group or section of society. I’m still back and forth on if Natsume would actually qualify as a cult classic. I have arguments for both, but that’s neither here nor there.

However, there are parts of fandom that do jokingly refer to themselves as a cult. I knew people that referred to liking Lain as a cult, or liking NANA as a cult mentality. I am aware outside of anime/manga that there were several actual cults in fandom – the only one coming immediately to mind being the Snape Wives (from Harry Potter), and something within the My Little Pony fandom many years back. Surprisingly, I can’t name a cult that formed around an anime in particular. Anime made by a cult? Sure. Cults actually formed around an anime, surprisingly none. At least not one that’s documented the way other fandoms cults were. That’s not particularly an abyss I want to peer into at the moment.

But back to Natsume – I was very wrong to say that Natsume fans are a cult. There are certainly some religious or spiritual connections made in the series. After all the concept of yokai and how they function is very much rooted in Shintoism and other aspects of spiritualism native to Japan. But by no stretch of the imagination would Natsume fans would create a whole system of religious veneration and devotion directed towards a particular figure or object I would think.

To the character of Natsume, even in my most poorly worded comments, I never wanted to put Natsume on the pedestal. In fact, given the whole premise of the series it’s so obvious what I actually wanted to say. It just took Irina to say it first (second paragraph of the post), “I am a friend of Natsume”.

Yeah. That’s what I really should have been thinking, and saying the entire time. People who like Natsume, the anime/character/manga are friends to him. You can’t really keep coming back season for season, volume to volume, if there isn’t a sort of draw for you.

For me my friendship feels like the silent supporter style. Like the type of person you meet at a convention, click with maybe trade twitter/Instagram handles with, but never really talk to again. You still see the snippets of their lives that they share on those platforms, and maybe give them that heart/like/simple comment and move along. Except, this time it’s entirely one-sided since it’s us, the various friends of Natsume peering in on his life… since to my knowledge he doesn’t do the same to ours.

So, I am formally retiring my past cringey comments of “you’re in the cult of Natsume too!”. Instead, I’m going to borrow from Irina the notion, and commenting style of “You’re a friend of Natsume, too!”.

Also, because I think that the friends of Natsume can all acknowledge that if anyone in that series would be a cult figure, it’s Nyanko-Sensei. But I don’t think Natsume himself would ever really allow that to happen.



  1. Lol! Nyanko Sensei would totally love being the center of a cult. Cult of the pudgy drunken cat. All donations would need to be in the form of sake. This was a fun read, thanks for the post! Though I always thought of other Natsume Yujincho fans as part of a secret society like the Free Masons but more low key and easy going, I think you’re right being called a friend of Natsume sounds much better.

    Liked by 2 people

    • He would be so into for like… a year or two. I think he’d get bored at some point with everyone just praising and adoring him. Probably why he secretly likes Natsume way more then he lets on.

      I mean, that would be really cool if we could like the Free Masons but Natsume focused… would that just make us ghost hunters with sake? Things to consider, although we could just do that as a group of friends too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully said! I actually lent the first volume of Natsume to afriend a few weeks ago. I think she’s on volume 8 now and I regularly get texts that are just pictures of manga panels. It’s been really reigniting my love for the series. And just like you, I found that the wrold is filled with these gentle firends of Natsume. It’s a show that speaks to people that sometimes feel alone or lost but in a very soft voice. Those of us how appreciate soft voices are drawn together like that!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! That’s so awesome that there’s another friend of Natsume whose joined us! I really should try pitching this series to my friends again to see how it would go… And exactly, sometimes the softest voices really speak to the largest audiences.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Perhaps you should have referred to a “culture” instead of a “cult”? But never mind – we all have our “mea culpa” moments with respect to our online lives…

    Liked by 1 person

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