nyanko-sensei and tanuma
specifically, nyanko taking tanuma under his wing. nyanko often intervenes in natsume’s relationships and takes action when he won’t or gives out information natsume thinks should be kept secret. he also encourages natsume, and other characters, under the guise of being mean-spirited or dismissive. he’s always observant about natsume and the characters around him but very loathe to admit it’s because he cares about him lol. but he’s very hands-on with tanuma in particular!
on tanuma’s side, he and natsume do have a lot of direct and open communication, but it’s usually ... still awkward. meanwhile, he gets more comfortable and casual with nyanko than i think any other character? and without much of the usual initial stage of nyanko berating/beating up on him lol. so: nyanko as a proxy for easier and less overwhelming interactions with natsume.
lots of screencaps under the cut:
examples of nyanko involving tanuma when natsume won’t:
(possession arc and natsume’s photo of his parents arc)
(my reading that nyanko tips tanuma off on purpose in omibashira, because tanuma is also extremely observant [about natsume in particular], plus showing a lot of confidence throughout in his ability to handle the situation without any help while natsume and natori both assume he won’t be able to do anything)
(debatable how justified nyanko is to tell tanuma any of these things when it really should be natsume’s place lol, but he DOES lie to not give tanuma any hints about ito-san)
nyanko: *immediately convinces sasame* and showing respect for both natsume and tanuma’s preferences/agency. tanuma might not remember nyanko saying [misuzu/natsume] having an exciting life doesn’t necessarily mean they’re satisfied in the next panel, but it’s neat that in this tiny section he’s considering both of their interests.
similarly to not telling tanuma about ito-san, despite how much nyanko supports him in omibashira, it stands out that reiko is the line. there are some things natsume and tanuma have to handle themselves. when natsume opens up about reiko later after tanuma overhears his conversation with a relative, nyanko is there between them, but silent.
nyanko telling tanuma he’s a yokai in the first place in tanuma’s special (natsume: i wasn’t trying to hide it exactly... no, i was trying to hide it ): ) and about baby natsume in days eater are other examples i didn’t screencap.
tanuma also pushes to stay involved when he can, too. at taki’s house, he tells natsume he’s glad he didn’t tell him to wait behind, ignores natsume saying he was actually just about to, and says “we have to do whatever we can.” in the arc with shibata, he says its scarier to be treated like an outsider than to be in danger, and being kept in the loop makes him feel like natsume trusts and depends on him. how could natsume possibly turn him down after hearing that, lol. deftly maneuvered! him and nyanko are basically always trying to get in front of natsume shutting him out. for example:
(four mask hill) and he thinks so quickly he even surprises nyanko! in a perfect example of realizing its easier to get something out of natsume if he aims it at nyanko instead.
i described the bottom two before as “if i had a nickel for every side illustration where natsume is Not Quite Present and tanuma is just vibing and petting nyanko instead...” they are what made me pay attention to nyanko as a proxy between them. :0 the top two panels are both from early on, right after they meet.
photo of his parents is before omibashira, but the second/third time nyanko shared important information about natsume with tanuma. the rest are post-omibashira - tanuma starts holding nyanko, which i Think we’ve only seen taki and natori do. in fact, every time taki glomps onto nyanko, tanuma side-eyes her like he’s thinking Wow who acts like that 🙄 lol. there are SO many panels of it in man upstairs.
nyanko and natsume mirror each other a lot bc natsume’s a cat boy but tanuma gets in on it too. i already have a post somewhere deep in my liveblog tag about all the nyanko-tanuma interactions in the arc where they visit his aunt’s inn bc there were so many
tanuma is never phased by nyanko being demanding, and even starts proactively indulging him. the panels before from the inn arc with natsume and nyanko mirroring each other - natsume would never be pushy or teasing on his own, but nyanko can bring it out of him, and tanuma is only amused by it. the proxy goes the other way! nyanko can hopefully show natsume that they’re both welcome to get comfortable and familiar with tanuma, and they’re not imposing on him
in the more recent arcs, though, nyanko kind of hilariously becomes background noise
but still a way to connect with natsume!
i also, in the process of getting these screencaps and getting to this one, which is directly after suspicious visitor and their struggle over “scenery they can’t share,” started wondering if maybe the thing tanuma needs with natsume and feels so restless about is actually sharing more about himself?
i skipped most of the manga and read all the exorcist chapters first lol so i thought it was unusual here that natsume tells tanuma immediately about his fears that nyanko got hurt, but that’s actually normal for him by now! yay! what IS strange is that tanuma still doesn’t talk about himself or his childhood much :0 he seems willing to downplay his own hardships and experiences and focus on how hard natsume has it, and i can imagine they’d be on a lot more even and secure footing if tanuma ... validated himself more? idk, but natsume would obviously love to hear anything tanuma wanted to tell him
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