For as long as he can remember, Takashi Natsume has been chased by spirits, but recently he discovered that the reason was because his deceased grandmother had passed on to him her “Book of Friends,” a book containing all the spirits she had brought under her control. Now Natsume realizes that these spirits haunt him in hopes of gaining freedom. With few friends, no loving home, and constantly hunted by malicious spirits, Natsume looks for a place where he belongs.
While it had the potential to be your cookie-cutter supernatural anime fodder, Natsume’s Book of Friends turned out to be a powerful and thought-provoking show that it is as relaxed as it is fun. If you are looking for a similar anime that both warms your heart and relaxes you, try these anime recommendations on for size.
For Fans of Spiritual Problem Solvers
In this world, there exist Mushi, spirits that often exist with no purpose. However, these Mushi can affect the physical world in countless forms from diseases to more pleasant phenomenon. Why do these Mushi exist? That is the question that Ginko the Mushi-shi, a researcher on the phenomenon, asks himself as he travels the land investigating Mushi-related incidents.
Mushishi is easily one of the most similar shows to Natsume’s Book of Friends in terms of plot. Both shows feature men interacting with spirits and trying to reign in their occasionally detrimental interaction with humans. However, while Natsume is more light-hearted and often comedic, Mushishi walks a more serious philosophical line.
The Morose Mononokean
After spending his first few days of school in the infirmary after a spirit attached itself to him, Ashiya asks for the help from the owner of a small tea shop called the Mononokean. Though morose, this tea shop owner helps spirits wander from this world to the next.
Both Natsume’s Book of Friends and The Morose Mononokean feature high school boys that just wanted to be normal, but for one reason or another, end up helping spirits solve their problems. However, unlike Mushishi above, they both maintain the same atmosphere, but Natsume is a bit more thoughtful in its storylines.
Gintarou is a fox spirit that has protected the same small temple since the Edo era. The owners of the temple have always possessed the ability to see him, but only one family member at a time can have it. After her mother passed away, Saeki Makoto inherited the ability and using the fox spirit’s power, she tries to help her community.
Unlike Natsume’s Book of Friends where a boy is helping spirits, Gingitsune is about a girl using a spirit to help other people. However, you still get the same oddball interactions and meaningful dialogue that makes both shows feel so serene.
For Fans of Heart-Warming Stories
You and Me
To four high school boys, school life is nothing but repetitive classes, arguments, and orientations that are constantly preparing them for careers too distant in the future. However, after realizing the right group of friends can help brighten things up, they seek to bring excitement to their dull school days.
If you removed all the spirits and supernatural elements, and just focused on Natsume’s struggles as a person, I’d imagine you would end up with an anime series similar to You and Me. Both shows feature heartwarming stories about friendship with a very easy going sort of atmosphere.
Honey and Clover
Three college boys share a small, low-rent apartment that is perfect for their poor college student lifestyle. While each has their own life events going on, they can always count on each other to be there, even if girls start to get caught in the mix.
While Honey and Clover is often more about romantic struggles, it does feature a great story, like Natsume’s Book of Friends, about growing emotionally and being more attuned to the world around you. It is all about confronting and understanding your struggles.
The Goddess is a Middle School Student (Kamichu!)
Yurie Hitotsubashi is a middle school student who spends her days studying and trying to get Kenji, the clueless boy she likes, to notice her. One day she playfully tells a friend that the night before she had become a goddess, which attracts the attention of another classmate, Matsuri. With her family’s Shinto shrine in financial trouble, Matsuri asks her to become their new goddess. Now Yurie must balance school life with granting the wishes of those that seek her help.
While Natsume’s Book of Friends often has a light-hearted tone, it can also get very bittersweet. Kamichu can be the same way as is examines both delicate and sometimes strange relationships that the characters forge. However, unlike Natsume, this river doesn’t travel too deep into the relationships.
For Fans of Self Improvement
Kimi no Todoke
Due to her quiet nature and long black hair, Sawako Kuronuma’s kind deeds are often mistaken as malicious by her classmates. With the nickname of Sadako, like The Ring girl, people avoid her, but she still wants to make friends. When the popular Shouta Kazehaya begins to take notice of her, her fortunes might begin to change.
While Kimi ni Todoke is much more oriented towards its slow burn romance at times, it, like Natsume’s Book of Friends, is about a person that wants to find their place in life with friends that make them feel like they belong.
Seishuu Handa is an up-and-coming calligrapher, but when a critic called his work textbook and unoriginal, he flew off the handle and punched him. After the event, his father, another famous artist, exiled him to Goto Island to get his temper under control. Seishuu tries to use it to focus on his art, but with old men and children constantly pestering him, he finds it hard to get much done.
Barakamon when on the island almost mirrors Natsume’s Book of friends in laid-back, slice of life atmosphere. While Barakamon has an overall plot line, like Natsume’s “monster of the week” story, Barakamon features a “adventure of the day” sort of story.
Welcome to the NHK
Twenty-two-year-old college dropout Tatsuhiro Satou has been living as a hikikomori for four years. In his isolation, he has come to believe in many conspiracy theories that keep him inside. However, he has great desire to return to society, but his hikikomori may be too powerful to overcome.
While in no way related to Natsume’s Book of Friends in term of plot, Welcome to the NHK does feature an almost painfully shy guy trying to improve his lot in life.
Did we miss some of your favorite anime recommendations for Natsume’s Book of Friends? Tell us all about them in the comments section below!