I’m a little bit nervous talking about this film. Not just because it’s been a little while since I’ve talked about this franchise and don’t remember every single attached to it, but because I’m the first person I’ve seen review it in the whole blogosphere. Not people like Irina, Karandi, Keiko, and others who love this series more then I do then I do. Just to be clear, I really do love Natsume because it’s so special and unique. But still, considering all these great blogging people haven’t written anything about this movie yet at all, I’m the first impression here for those people and other audience members. Tied to the Temporal World is an original story, so I kind of like the fact that I’m walking into a new territory that hasn’t been walked on that much. I’m hoping I’m not ruining this film for everyone else.
Spoiler Warning: If you want to go into interesting in seeing this movie completely blind, I’m at least going to spoil the minimal amount of things attached to this film. With that being said, it’s also a film that you can show people who haven’t watched Natsume before. It’s a good entry into the series.
Tied to the Temporal World starts like a lot of adventures in Natsume do. Takashi gets chased by an angry yokai who is mad about Reiko and eventually gets helped by yet another Yokai. This movies model is a shy yokai that only travels through walls and would like his name back from Natsume’s book of friends. Also, Nyanko Sensei shows up late despite being Takashi’s protector. All of which establishes the premise of the show for new comers and grounds the show for us people who’ve seen it before. The difference here is that this yokai traveled a small amount of distance in a month in a town that Natsume can get to in an afternoon on the bus. Also, a classmate from Natsume’s childhood shows up who pretended to see yokai. Yeah, that’s a side thing which kind of plays into the movie but like an after thought sort of way.
So I bet you would be surprised in knowing that Natsume heads to the town that the shy yokai is from? Or sould I say not surprised. Yeah, Touko sends Takashi on an errand in that town which leads to a mysterious yokai staring all of them down from a high location and running into a person who actually partially knew Reiko, his grandmother, from back in the day. This person is a master of paper cut outs, which is how she lives. We also meet her somewhat disabled son who is very friendly and is treated respectfully through out the film. By his mother, Takashi, and everyone who comes into contact with him. He’s just a charming guy trying his best and that’s alright. Natsume has always been soft and sentimental, so all of this makes sense.
The plot of the movie starts when Natsume returns home from that town the first time. Somehow, he took home a youkai seed from his adventure which quickly makes a youkai fruit tree outside of his foster house. Natsume heads out to school and Nyanko Sensei watches it until he sees the fruit and becomes gluttoness again. He eats the fruit, becomes three smaller Nyanko Sensei cats, and memories of Takashi’s friends start to get mixed and possibly deleted up all over the place. There is a mystery here that needs to be solved and it has to do with that town Takshi visited. Can Takashi figure it out before his friends forget him completely? Hopefully.
I feel like I can easily call this film the “Cowboy Bebop Movie” of Natsume’s Book of Friends and get away with it. Like that movie, this is everything that makes Natsume work in a two hour package. All of which means it’s pretty solid. I think the fault comes in with this film introducing too many things from Natsume’s many episodes in it. Like the dog’s circle of Youkai helpers, the mention of Matsuba, and the eventual appearance of fan favorite actor and exorcist, Hatori. All of which Natsume knows and we know if we watched it. Newcomers would only know who those people in context of the film besides Hatori because he does have a good introduction.
These elements characters aren’t the focus besides Hatori showed up at the end and plays an important role which is why he needed the introduction, but they do distract from the overall flow of what is going on. Not a completely bad thing though, because they also provide the good atmosphere that Natsume’s tv show has. This is Natsume in two hours after all. Of course, that leads to the complete story of this phenomenon that happens in the story. It’s everything Natsume too. Very powerful, impactful, emotional, saddening, but also with a lot of heart and meaning behind it too. It’s just an event that went wrong for the main yokai in question. That’s about it. Also, you can blame Nyako Sensei too for being a glutton.
So is there character development here? Yes, but also no. We are talking about messed up memories here. That kind of makes most of the character development moot. Every side character involved in the series had a mental wipe and has to return to their normal state. All of which are fine because Natsume’s side characters are great characters after all. Especially, in this film, Taki and Tanuma. Love both of them. I also feel like Natsume was given a background character to have an arc with, kind of, to give him development towards the end. Development he really didn’t need really. The mother character Natsume ran into sort of had an arc, but it really was the yokai at the center of it all which had the true development. That’s ok, this is their movie. Natsume is just our familiar guide to the craziness.
For the visuals of the movie are the visuals of the tv series with a small amount of upgrade here. You know, for cinema purposes. Plus, it’s not even like the visuals were the most amazing in the series. There were some moments of visual excellence and sakuga here in there. Plus the art style for the characters was very simple and creative. So let’s talk about Natsume being a lot more visual consistent with more backgrounds and details then usual plus some more character animation. Tied to the Temporal World takes place in a lot of locations, while still looking Natsume. Kind of like what the Chunibyou film was like. That being said, I really wouldn’t want Natsume to look different from how it usually looks. There is a visual charm to the series that I really like and I like seeing it here again. Natsume but upgraded is cool and such. We are here for the writing and characters anyway.
So yes, Natsume’s Book of Friends: Tied to the Temporal World is a good film. It has everything you would expect a Natsume film to have and a little more. That little bit more kind of ruining the usual pacing and snappiness that the film has. That’s why I am going to give this film a good rating. The story is great and you will cry in the end because it’s one of those sorts of Youkai stories, but inserting the entire world of Natsume into a two hour thing was a little too much to bare. Still, I think everyone should check this film out. Natsume fans and anime fans that are thinking about checking out the show, but are intimidated by the six, twelve episode seasons should all watch it. Like I said, it’s the Cowboy Bebop Movie for Natsume. This movie just needed the edited writing that the other movie had.
The most difficult thing about watching this film is it’s availability. Unfortunately, you can only watch this film if you buy Aniplex’s release of it which was clearly designed for fans. It has all the added goodies to it and it costs $40. That’s what makes this hard unfortunately. Gah, they need a more basic edition for people to buy OR put it on a streaming service unlike a lot of other movies that are released. Then again, Natsume is kind of niche so maybe they will put it on a streaming service like others eventually. Gah, I can only hope. You can buy it here though.