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So, you read that title and probably thought… What the hell is Arthis thinking? Comparing Natsume with Mushishi does not make much sense since both shows are completely different from each other. Which is true. In fact, the settings could not be more different! However, they do start from the same premise. Both Ginko and Natsume are rare people who are able to see Youkai. Because of that, both end up attracting Youkai around them. However, the way the story develops is completely different.
That’s why I thought about writing this post. It always amazes me how creativity can send you to different stories even though you are starting from the same foundation.
– The Similarities –
Before getting into the differences between these two magnificent shows, let’s think about the similarities.
First of all, we have Youkai in both stories. Although they do present themselves in a little different way, there’s no mistake. Both Animes are going for the Japanese Spirit World. Even though, one goes for a darker version and the other a lighter one.
Next, we have that both main characters are rare people who are able to see Youkai. This makes them both attract Youkai towards them and both of them end up being lonely people because of that, in a different way though.
Both Animes also go mostly for the one short story per episode. Meaning, in each episode, we will watch a problem with a Youkai/Human and we will see it resolved at the end of the same episode.
So, in the end, the same premise, the same way to tell a story. However, Mushishi and Natsume couldn’t be more different from each other don’t you think?
– The Differences –
– The Tone –
Let’s first address the difference between the tone of the story of Mushishi and Natsume.
Mushishi presents itself in a way darker and more adult show. From the bat, you can see this aspect by the animation. Mushishi presents a darker color tone. Moreover, the animation itself tends to be stronger than Natsume. Most of the time you will see Mushishi going around Japan from village to village helping people who have problems with Youkai. So, you can expect a lot of dark and closed forests.
On the other hand, Natsume presents way lighter color tones. Especially when they show you the sunset (which is almost every episode). Contrary to Mushishi, Natsume is looking for the teenager audience. Here we have a teenager that is going to Highschool which gives the show a little more “Slice of Life” kind of style.
But, there’s more to that. The Youkai design is also really different. If we think in Youkai from Natsume, most of the time we are going to remember the cute little buds that help Natsume every time is in distress. That, or we can actually just go for Nyanko-Sensei, which gives the comedy factor of the Anime.
However, in Mushishi that’s far from the reality. Probably when you think Yokai on Mushishi you will remember first the Youkai that hide in the shadows ready to attack any human who passes. That, and of course, the little white thingies.
– Loneliness Approach –
Although both Natsume: Book of Friends and Mushishi address loneliness, the approach is far from similar.
Ginko from Mushishi decides consciously to lead a lonely life. Since he attracts Youkai if he stays in the same spot for too long, there is no way for him to just stay and live his life forever happy in one place. Moreover, Ginko is now a lonely way, however, when he was a child he did have people who cared about him (though that didn’t go too well). This way, if we watch Mushishi, we will actually see that there are not really many characters that appear more than once. And, even the ones who appear more than once, end up not having that much of a spotlight. Mushishi is to be centered in the Mushi and Ginko.
Natsume, on the other hand, gets lonely because people end up going away from him. Here it’s not his choice and, in fact, here we have that Natsume can actually live in a place without leaving. Yes, he will encounter many Youkais, but normally they are not that bad that will put other people in danger. Moreover, the loneliness is more in the past of Natsume than in the show itself. Here, right from season one, we will see him creating bonds with others who accept him even though he’s a little different. And, let’s not forget! Even if no human wanted to be with him, he always would have Nyanko-sensei to be there for him!
– Conclusion –
In conclusion, when you look at both Animes and put them side by side, they couldn’t be more different than they are. For me, it goes like this:
If you are looking for a relaxing (that music), darker, more adult and with a lot of food thought you would pick Mushishi. While if you are going for a lighter, warmer and full of emotion Anime you would go with Natsume.
It’s really funny when you watch two Animes which are both considered excellent, coming from the same certain of background but end up being so different from each other.
What about you? What do you think? Did I forget about any difference between Mushishi and Natsume: Book of Friends? Have other Animes which also have similar backgrounds but completely different routes? Tell me in the comments! 😀