Madara (斑), also known as Nyanko-sensei (ニャンコ先生) is one of the main protagonists of Natsume's Book of Friends.
He is a powerful beast youkai and commonly takes the form of a maneki-neko (招き猫, "beckoning cat"). He acts as Natsume's bodyguard on the condition that when Natsume dies, he will inherit the Book of Friends, thus giving him control over a vast number of youkai.
Despite his continuous complaints about Natsume being too kind for his own good, Madara has grown fond of him and helps Natsume return names to youkai throughout the series even though it will diminish the power of the book by the time it is in his hands.
He takes the form of a maneki neko (lucky cat) that is round and cute (at least according to him, however, this is also confirmed by Taki & disagreed upon by rest of Takashi's friends). Other characters such as Tanuma, have noted that his head in this form is unusually large.
His maneki neko form is white, with an orange and grey marking on the top of his head and back, black eyes and wears a red cat collar with a gold bell on his neck and has small red markings on his face. 
In his original form, he is a colossal wolf-like youkai with white fur, with red markings on his face, and gold eyes. He is extremely large that he can cover Takashi underneath a single paw and a single eye is larger than Takashi's head. Also, in his original form, Madara's voice becomes a lot deeper.
Like most youkai, his original form cannot be seen by people with little or no spiritual energy.
He has a somewhat condescending personality. At first, he only protects Takashi for the Book of Friends but as the series progresses, he becomes friendlier with not only Takashi, but Natori, Tanuma, and Taki.
His attitude throughout the series can be described as selfish, prideful, and comedic, the way he acts and his attitude becomes the usual "gag" of the series.
He does have an immature and playful side; Madara often drinks himself silly by consuming a lot of sake and loves to eat dango (a Japanese snack) and other sweets, making him heavier and rounder. He enjoys eating in general, often eating fish in the river or stealing Natsume's food at times. When he smells something delicious or hears of a place with good food, he insists that Natsume goes with him so they can eat there. In addition, he is particularly fond of Touko's home cooking.
Despite his protests that he is not a cat, he acts exactly like one, for example, getting excited about cat toys and chasing small animals. He also likes to bully dogs and throws the occasional tantrum.
He has a more caring side to him, which he tries to deny or explain away, but as the series progresses, it becomes obvious that he is attached to Takashi and is extremely protective of him.
Evidence of this is when he went into a rage when Takashi was wounded by trying to protect him in Chapter 26 but Takashi managed to calm him down.
He has also shown to care for Shigeru and Touko as well but yet again tries to explain it away. This is evident is when an angered Kayatsubo began charging towards their home to steal something Takashi treasures, as punishment for failure of returning her doll, Madara immediately transformed into his youkai form and quickly charged back home to stop her, knowing that the Fujiwaras would be home. He remained stationed atop of their home, protectively guarding it until Takashi returned.
He is shown to be acquainted with several youkai, like Tsuyukami, Hinoe, and Benio. His strength and rank as a youkai are evident in his interaction with other youkai who are obviously afraid of him, even in his cat form which was seen in Episode 11 of the anime where he overheard the Dog's Circle talk about him and complain about how he was a fat, tone-deaf, drunk and old cat. Madara got his revenge by summoning lighting which left them stunned and the entire forest around them destroyed.
Long ago, Madara had been sealed inside a maneki-neko statue within a forest shrine by a powerful exorcist whose identity has yet to be revealed. He remained imprisoned for decades until Natsume Takashi accidentally broke the seal.
When Takashi Natsume running away from a youkai one day, he tripped over a sealing rope that had sealed away Madara for decades and ripped it, thus freeing him. Madara mysteriously avoids speaking much about his past but has revealed that he knew Reiko, Natsume's grandmother, very well before she died. However, he denies having his name in the Book of Friends, arguing that he is too powerful to have been defeated by the likes of Reiko.
After being freed, like many other youkai, Madara initially attacks Natsume with the intention of stealing the Book of Friends from him but ultimately has a change of heart when Natsume tells him that he wants to cherish the book which is one of the few connections he has left with his grandmother. Madara agrees to help Natsume protect the book, under the condition that he will inherit the Book of Friends once Natsume is deceased.
Madara then moves into the Fujiwara household as Natsume's pet cat, although he argues that he is actually the master. Madara, from then on accompanies Natsume on his business involving youkai and in his daily life, advising and protecting him when needed.
- Main article: Takashi Natsume
The two initially did not get along. Madara was willing to murder Natsume in order to receive the book of friends. However, Natsume made a deal to teach him how to return the names and be his bodyguard and when he died he could receive the book of friends. Madara later adds onto that promise that Natsume also promised to allow him to eat him, something Natsume denies. Natsume, in the beginning, did not treat Madara with much respect, often treating him like a cat and punching him on the head when he is annoyed. Madara in turn didn't save Natsume at times even when he was in trouble (though often Natsume proved he could escape with his own strength), causing Natsume to angrily beat him in response. Over time, the two grew deeply fond of each other and began to protect each other proactively. Natsume even protected an injured Madara when Matoba tried to hurt him. Similarly, when Madara fell into a deep slumber, Natsume grew to realize how fundamental Madara was to maintaining his peaceful life, as he protected him from dangerous yokai and was able to help Takashi distinguish who was demon and who was human. Madara has even from the beginning acted as a sort of mentor for Takashi, often teaching him about yokai and explaining to him about the yokai world. He eventually grows to care so much for Natsume that he once stated it was a shame that Natsume didnt' drink the yokai mermaid blood and become immortal, with Takashi responding that doing so meant Natsume would never die and Madara would never get the book of friends, leaving Madara stunned speechless. He has also shown genuine worry whenever Natsume is in serious danger and taken care of him when he was ill. Though the two continue to act gruff and fight with each other, it is evident the two have grown fond of and care for each other like family.
- Main article: Kaname Tanuma
- Main article: Tooru Taki
- Main article: Shuuichi Natori
- Main article: Seiji Matoba
- Main article: Reiko Natsume
Not much of their relationship is known, but it’s revealed as intimate, as Nyanko Sensei can shape shift into her and mimic her personality.
Madara is deeply fond of her cooking, and mentions that one of the reasons he protects the Fujiwara household is because he enjoys eating there. She in turn is shown to treat him very nicely, allowing Natsume to take him in as pet, making sure he is well fed, and worrying when he doesn't come home. She affectionately calls him Nyankichi.
Though the two don't have much of a relationship, Shigeru treats Madara amiably, often referring to him as Nyangoro and also wondering where he runs off to.
Powers & Abilities
Despite his cute and harmless appearance as a cat, Madara is a very high-leveled youkai in his beast form, and is equally respected and feared by many lower-level ayakashi. Demonstrating his power throughout the series, Madara claims to be the most powerful youkai of them all, and this may very well be true.
- Strength: Already packing quite a punch in his pint-sized cat form, Madara's strength is tens of times greater when he is in his beast form.
- Blinding Light: Madara can shine a bright light from his forehead that destroys and scares away most youkai. In the later episodes, this light was shown to come from the forehead marking usually seen in his beast form. In the OVA, Madara could project an image and presence of his beast form to scare away the surrounding youkai using his forehead marking, which glowed and hovered above his head.
- Flight: Though this does not apply to all the powerful Youkai, Madara has the ability to fly, even though he does not have any features that would seem to be used for flight. This shows that he has immense Youkai power that can make him fly.
- Shapeshifting: Madara is able to transform between his cat form and his wolf-like form. He can also take human forms, but only as Takashi or Reiko Natsume, stating that they are the only two humans that he has observed carefully. When disguised as either Takashi or Reiko, Madara shows bad table manners and a bullying nature, much like the latter. Madara has also stated that he has an old man form, though it has yet to be shown.
- Kazuhiko Inoue changed his voice for Madara's cat form in order to fit his form. However, when Madara is in his true form, Inoue reverts back to his original deep voice.
- In Madara's cat form, he gets fatter as the story progresses.
- Madara has the knowledge of knowing how to return names (instructing Natsume during the first episode), however, the source of this knowledge is unknown.
- Madara gets several different nicknames from other characters over the course of the series.
- He is called Nyankichi-kun by Touko, Nyangoro by Shigeru, Ponta by Tanuma, and Nyan-Nyan-Sensei by Nishimura, Shiny-Fluffy Sensei by Taki.
- Yuki Midorikawa wanted Natsume Yuujinchou to centre around a boy and his non-human teacher, choosing between a bird or a cat. She eventually settled on a maneki-neko, which became Madara.
- Yuki Midorikawa based Madara off of a ceramic maneki-neko statue that was given to her when she was young by an elderly couple who took care of her a lot. She loved it due to its charming face, but accidentally broke it one day. Sobbing, she glued it back together with modelling clay, and it is still sitting at her parents' house today. Midorikawa first drew Madara while trying to remember her maneki-neko's face.