Tag Archives: empathy

Things That Bring Me Joy: Natsume’s Book Of Friends (Natsume Yūjinchō)

As a lifelong fan of animation, I’ve experienced a ton of different Japanese anime over the years. We’re talking many hundreds, perhaps even into the thousands now, of animated shows that I’ve seen, and continue to enjoy today.

There are few I would recommend more than Natsume’s Book of Friends.

Watch Natsume’s Book of Friends for free on the Crunchyroll anime streaming website.

The most wonderful thing about this particular anime is that it holds an almost universal appeal regardless of age or gender or any other predisposition or preference.

Here is a trailer to give you some idea. It is from the show’s 5th season, and though this trailer does not have English subtitles, it was far and away the better example of the show’s charm and emotion. None of the official English trailers came even close to this quality sadly.

The synopsis for the show is as follows (from AnimeNewsNetwork):

Natsume Takashi has the ability to see spirits, which he has long kept secret. However, once he inherits a strange book that belonged to his deceased grandmother, Reiko, he discovers the reason why spirits surround him. Containing the names of these spirits, a binding contract was formed between the spirits and the owner of the book. Now, Natsume is determined to free the spirits and dissolve the contracts. With the help of a spirit cat, his days are filled trying to return the names to these spirits.

Along the way, Natsume meets all manner of strange and wonderful creatures, and people. He learns about himself, his grandmother, their connection, and about the things that are most important to him in life.

There’s a certain resonating undercurrent to Natsume’s Book of Friends that speaks to all of humanity. The impression I always get when watching this show is that it reminds us how to be better human beings, helps us remember the little things in our own lives that are often overlooked or ignored, that make all the difference in the world to someone.

In much the same vein as a Studio Ghibli or Disney production, you’ll get attached to these characters and their stories, even if you only get to “meet” them for the span of a single episode. Some of their tales with be very touching and easy to empathize with, and others will be equally mysterious and fascinating and full of imagination. Most episodes are a healthy mixture of both.

The music, as you might get a taste of from the trailer, is really quite good. Emotional at times, relaxing at others, it really fits the show well, and draws out the emotions of each scene flawlessly.

And while we’re talking about scenes, the artwork and animation are top notch. I’m a sucker for anything with lots of soft glowing lighting, and that’s a common feature of the beautiful artwork. I’m not an expert on the technical side of things here, but I’ll just say that to me it is very visually pleasant and enjoyable.

Natsume’s Book of Friends is a great show to watch when you want to wind down too after a stressful day. There are a few tense episodes here and there, but generally speaking the show offers a pleasant 30 minutes of wonder and imagination, all tied up with a nice little underlying positive thought or message to the tale.

If you’re curious and want to give this show a look, then you’re in luck, because it so happens to be available to watch freely on the Crunchyroll anime streaming service. For those who aren’t familiar, Crunchyroll is a streaming service that works directly with anime production companies to be able to provide content legally, and a portion of the ad revenue (or subscription cost if you have a premium account) goes to the companies involved in creating the animated shows that you watch on the service.

So please do give this one a shot if you’re interested at all after reading this. It’s an anime that I can readily recommend to anyone, regardless of their usual taste in shows or entertainment, and one of my personal favorites which is very close to my heart.


Image credits: https://mobile.twitter.com/NatsumeYujincho/media


Re-sensitize to Violence

I don’t know when it started. The 80’s? 90’s? The early 2000’s? Maybe it’s always been around and I have just lived oblivious during my earlier years. It seems to me more and more people today are desensitized to violence. It makes me sad thinking about it.

Going far beyond simply being desensitized to violence, our culture seems to propagate it.

Let me illustrate a personal example:
A year or so ago I was once in a meeting room with a group of about 15 or 20 people, and during a quick break in our meeting, someone asked the organizer to pull up a random video on YouTube for all of us to watch, a common request for such meetings. The one that was chosen was a recording from somebody’s dash cam on their car, and it showed someone getting dragged out of their car and physically beaten for some minor traffic related transgression while driving.

Do you know what happened in that room? People laughed at that video. Not everyone in the room, but a majority of them saw another human’s pain and abuse as something entertaining.

Personally this experience was an eye opening one for me. I was shocked and appalled that not only was this deemed perfectly normal by the majority present, but that it was enjoyed, encouraged! And no, it wasn’t simply that the group was laughing out of awkwardness or embarrassment either, though I wish that would have been the case. It would have made the reality of it a lot easier to swallow for me.

And I know that this is not an isolated case either. Take a look at social media, or YouTube, or any other popular collaboration medium today. Take a look at the “news” as we jokingly call it. What videos are popular? What stuff goes “viral” online? Really stop and examine it. What do you see? Do you, like me, see an alarming majority of violence, aggression, pain, fear, and any number of other negative feelings and situations being “popular” or “trending”?

Why is this? Why are we as a culture, as a society, as a race and a species, celebrating and elevating fear and pain and hurting of others?

By putting these things up on a pedestal, giving them our energy and attention, at best it is passing on feelings of shock, fear, and pain to others. At worst, empathy is so lacking that we seem to seek out these scenarios for our own satisfaction, entertainment, and even pleasure.

It is as if the hurting of others actually brings us joy.

Is this what we have become? Are we proud of this behavior? Are we okay with our daily “news” being nothing but shocking and negative events going on around the world at any given moment while the real news and breakthroughs and positive things pass by unnoticed?

Are we okay with knowing the names of mass murderers and the daily death tolls, and yet the names of the medical scientists that just found a cure for a particular disease will never see the light of day?

Are we satisfied with the fact that we couldn’t tell you the names of the inventors who brought us the camera, the television, the internet, or the cell phone, and yet we can tell you all about the horrific shootings or the aftermath of a natural disaster, or “that one video where the guy breaks his arm and his friend laughs at him”?

Because I for one am not okay with this.

I think we as a people need to learn to re-sensitize ourselves to violence and pain. Learn once again how to be empathetic to another human being’s plight. Understand what it means to be hurt, what it feels like to be sad, and then never again wish those feelings towards any other person or make light of them when another person is experiencing such events.

We need to think, and we need to feel. To empathize with other humans is of a vital importance to the integrity of our species.

We need to no longer be satisfied with thoughtlessness. We need to revel in acts of kindness, empathy, giving, selflessness, compassion, and love. These are the things we should be propagating and elevating and celebrating as one whole connected species living together on this planet.

The more we are able to empathize with others, to propagate positivity instead of negativity, the more we will be able to lift one another up and elevate ourselves. The more we elevate ourselves, the less violence, suffering, upheaval and pain will take place on this Earth, and the better off all of our lives will be for it.

But to do that, we have to first wake up, to think, and to remember how to care for another’s plight.