My cloak, my concealer!
Enshroud my insecurities.
Protect the pretense which I put on.
Shield my face in your appearance,
that none may know my true affection.
~excerpt of 'masks' by Stu Pidasso~
Another exposition on the intricate human and youkai relationship. It’s a bittersweet tale of love, perseverance and sacrifice that one is willing to make. In this story, Natsume meets Miya, a youkai who wants to take back a painting that belongs to her. She has accidentally lost her painting while traveling around with it. Natsume found and bought the painting at a fair. But what he didn’t know was that the painting housed a spirit named Yasaka, who was formerly a human that Miya has befriended and loved a long, long time ago. That’s the reason why she wants to have it back. Unbeknown to all until much later, the painting is slowly sucking out Natsume’s life energy, making him ill. What will Miya do and how will Natsume deals with his life threatening situation?
Once again, the issue of trust is brought up. Miya recounted how she was always afraid of Yasaka discovering what she was. But now she wishes to be able to talk to Yasaka again and for him to see her as the being that she was. This struck a fragile chord with Natsume who thought of his own predicament and his inability to fully trust his loved ones with his secret for fear of losing them. There’s a constant and troubling battle within himself and this element is flesh out a bit more in this episode where Natsume finds himself in a spot with Toko-san. It saddens him and I think that he too wishes to freely express himself to those he cares for one day. Speaking of sacrifice, I sometimes think that maybe Natsume has a death wish with how he seems to be putting his life on the line for the sake of the youkai he’s trying to help. He’s clearly overdoing it in this episode. No wonder Nyanko-sensei nags him endlessly about being too soft hearted.
Upon reflection, I thought this episode has the best ending among all the others in the second season of the series so far. It’s the kind of ending that lets you wonder and form your own conclusion about the story within but still leave you with a warm and satisfactory feeling. Next episode preview looks like we’re getting more exposure on Reiko, possibly the connection between the Fujiwaras and her. About time too, I say!
A strange thing happens after Natsume bought the painting and hung it in his room. He woke up in the morning and discovered petals scattered all over his room. Where did they come from? It happened again and Natsume suspected Nyanko-sensei for tracking those petals in from one of his night outing…neko-san denies vehemently. He doesn’t want to alarm his guardians and sought to find out what or who is scattering the petals in his room.
Lol @ Nyanko-sensei for believing that fairies did it and getting thumped for trying to eat the culprit. So, it was a youkai’s doing after all. The flower petals were meant for Yasaka-sama, the spirit of a human who lives in the painting. This shocked Natsume as he hadn’t noticed the little shadow before. Miya, the youkai is trying to get back the painting. They tried to get it off the wall but it wouldn’t come off. Miya told Natsume that she will come everyday until the painting can be taken off.
Like she promised, Miya came the next day and for days onwards. She told Natsume of how she met and befriended Yasaka, a frail young man who was an heir to a wealthy family. She often found him sitting beneath one of the Sakura trees reading away and cheerfully talked to him. He never suspected that she was a youkai and Miya revealed that she was always afraid that he’d find out her secret. This surprised Natsume. But one day, Yasaka stopped coming to the Sakura grove. She waited for him each Spring but to no avail. For a long time, Miya had searched everywhere until she found the painting of barren Sakura trees and Yasaka’s spirit residing in it. She thought that maybe he was weary of his own world and escaped there. Eversince then, Miya had travelled with the painting in the hope of making him happy.
Whilst out walking by a field of flowers, Natsume who felt a little unwell, met a fortune telling youkai. He foretold that a foul shadow surrounds Natsume and a tree can be seen emerging from his corpse before disappearing. A distressed Natsume calls out to the youkai wanting to know more. Unfortunately, Toko-san came by and saw him shouting by himself. If there’s an uh oh moment…then this is it. The ‘should I tell her’ or ‘should I not’ struggle is quite telling here.
Nyanko figures out what’s causing Natsume to fall sick and tries to destroy the painting for absorbing Natsume’s life energy. But Natsume stopped him and got knocked out in the process. This is one scene where Natsume has gone beyond himself just to save a painting. He’s practically dying and isn’t even concern with it. Seriously, Takashi-kun needs to get his head examined. Surely his life is more important than that. Perhaps he’s trying to escape from the human world and become like the spirit. Honestly, how sad would the Fujiwaras be if they found Natsume’s lifeless body in his room?! At least, Miya has the right resolve of burning the painting before it harms Natsume any further. All she wanted was just to see Yasaka and talk to him like they used to back in the day and for him to see her as who she really was without fear.
Miya decided to burn the painting after all but before that, she wanted to make the barren Sakura branches bloom by painting them on…it reminds her of the day she first met Yasaka. Natsume and Nyanko helped out. Natsume collapsed soon afterwards. But when he woke up in the following morning, the branches on the wall and the painted sakura blooms were gone. Yasaka’s shadow has disappeared from the painting too. Was he dreaming all that has happened the night before? He found that the painting can be taken off again. That day onwards, he never saw Miya again. He wondered if Miya had gotten her wish and is finally together with her beloved Yasaka and whether Miya had told him her secret. We, like Natsume, is left to ponder as well. Me thinks, Miya did reveal her true self in the end when her mask came off as seen in Natsume’s dream.