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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Natsume's Book of Friends: Season 3 Premium Edition (Blu-ray)
Natsume's Book of Friends: Season 3 Premium Edition (Blu-ray)
NIS America, Inc. // Unrated // March 5, 2013 // Region A
List Price: $69.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted March 27, 2013 | E-mail the Author
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Natsumes Book of Friends Season 3 Blu-ray Premium Edition Review


Click on an image to view the Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution

Unlike many anime series currently in production, Natsume's Book of Friends is a quiet and contemplative type of series with an ethereal environment that is at times calming. This is certainly a unique effort. This is the type of series that can branch out and bring in some traditionally non-anime fans as well as appeal to the bases of anime audiences. It's an enchantingly charming anime show that can help audiences to smile.

Natsume's Book of Friends (in its anime form) is the adaptation created following the success of Yuki Midorikawa's manga series. It's from an acclaimed director, too: episodes are helmed by Takahiro Omori of Baccano! fame. The production continued through a fourth season and it's release in North America is from NIS America, one of the best anime companies throughout America. They are becoming well known for releasing smarter and more independent and spirited anime series which are made of the upmost quality and this series is no exception.


This series doesn't offer a great deal in regards to developing plotlines or linear continuing and complex storylines. This just isn't something that defines the show. Rather, this series delves primarily into the realm of looking at these great characters and their development over the course of the series and how these character interactions and developments occur within it. While nothing ever becomes too complicated storyline wise, these are things certainly as fascinating as possible with regards to developing characters, yokai spirits, and more.

Following upon the heels of the first two entertaining seasons successes, the storyline is still about a young man named Natsume and his adventures seeing and seeking out various yokai spirits that chase after him because of his resemblance to his relative and their belief that he's capable of having a book that contains their names and spiritual energy. This is partly accurate because Nasume received a book that contains the names of several yokai spirits.

Natsume's just someone wanting to return the names to where they came from, and he doesn't want to keep the names for himself to become more powerful or anything of the sort. He is a gentle, compassionate, and kind soul to those around him and that includes to yokai that he views with his inner kindness as well. His real aim to find a normal life or at least a life he's hopeful that can be considered as close to such. Of course, not all of the spirits are as nice to him in return and Natsume has many strange encounters where he finds himself getting into a world of trouble with more dangerous yokai.

His grandmother Reiko collected the yokai names into the book of friends, and that Natsume has made his job of putting back the names to where they belong is a focal point of the entire story: Natsume is determined to put back the names so that they belong with the spirits themselves. This task is at the core of the series.

With the help of a funny and decidedly strange feline friend and determined yokai who wants the book for his own reasons (and who spends most of his time in a cat appearance) named Nyanko-sensei, Natsume encounters many odd, disturbing, and beautiful yokai spirits as both nice and mean-spirited ones can be found all around.

Natsume journeys to bring about peace through his own helping of these spirits, for the book of friends, and for himself. He also has the aid of a couple close friends (who are given more time to shine during season 3, with more to do), whom he spends time with along the way to fixing this book of friends and all of that fun, ghostarific jazz business.

The animation on this show is absolutely beautiful. It's one of the greatest strengths of the show. The character designs are fantastic. The background art and use of colors and design make this series feel comforting and melancholic both at once, while also giving viewers a chance to see comparable elements to the works of other top-quality modern productions out-there, like the work on Kimi ni Todoke or Puella Magi Madoka Magica. This is top-class animation.

This series reminds me of a haiku: each episode seems as though it exists within its own realm of poetic wonderment.  I liken the whole series to good poetry, because something about it is calm, beautiful, and delicately artistic throughout. It's all as impressive as one may hope to find in a modern day anime production that has genuine creativity in its core design. This is an episodic creation enhanced by development of the characters and their journey of self-discovery. Still, Natsume's Book of Friends spends the majority of its time in a "yokai of the week" mode the plot-heavy viewers will find disappointing. I don't consider it a deal-breaker as this series has plenty to offer with the characters and the wonderful artistic design, and it's something that is sure to find new audiences over time for it's a show filled with quiet beauty and definite charm.


Video:

Natsume's Book of Friends looks much better with its 1080p High Definition presentation than it did on DVD with the Season 1 and 2 release. It's a significant improvement and one that viewers with HD capable displays will greatly appreciate. The colors are better defined and the line-art and clarity is superb all around.  The 1.78:1 widescreen transfers retain the original television broadcast presentation.

Audio:

The audio is Japanese Uncompressed PCM 2.0. Subtitles are in English. The series has a rather standard audio presentation that seems more focused on dialogue than anything else, but it has improved in clarity significantly with the upgrade to lossless and it seems as though Season 3 contains more interesting sound effects and mixing elements overall. This series does well in regards to reproducing dialogue. There is also good depth when it comes to music score. The audio presentation certainly enhances the overall majesty of Natsume's Book of Friends.  Its lossless quality presentation will be pleasing for fans.


Additional Screenshots:

Click on an image to view the Blu-ray screenshot with 1080p resolution





Extras:

NIS America is undeniably the most impressive new anime distributor to arrive on the scene for North American audience in ages, and the company has licensed all four seasons of this series for release over Premium Edition collections. The first collection contained the first 2 seasons with DVD presentations. Luckily, Season 3 has received a boost with a Blu-ray presentation.

Natsume's Book of Friends: Season 3 is a Blu-ray/DVD combo release.

 

The series is housed in a collectible art-box with an art-book featuring the outer design of Natsume's book of friends (as seen in the series), an episode guide for season 3, character designs, additional production artwork, and pages of full-page art from the series. It's the stunningly beautiful presentation that fans should now be hoping to find from all of these Premium Edition sets released by NIS America.

On-disc extras include a clean opening/ending, a Japanese commercial, and trailers for other NIS America releases.

Final Thoughts:

NIS America has released another excellent set of episodes with this Season 3 Blu-ray Premium Edition release. The collection containing Season 1 and 2 was done at once to "catch the series up", so to speak, because of how far along it is and to offer viewers a discounted price for the amount of content, but it's a pleasant shift to see the third season (and future seasons) in this combo Blu-ray/DVD form instead of the earlier DVD-only method.

The series greatest strength can be found in its animation, so being presented with a release that lets fans enjoy the show with a lush presentation is a wonderful element to the overall quality featured on the release. This is another must-own for NIS America anime collectors and for anyone who considers themselves a fan of this beautifully crafted series. It's a quality show presented with a top-quality release.

Recommended.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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