By Makoto Shinkai and Tsubasa Yamaguchi. Released in Japan as “Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko” by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Afternoon. Released in North America by Vertical Comics. Translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian.
The first thing that occurred to me after I finished She and Her Cat was that I felt that it would have been a much better book without the cat. I later changed my mind, but it has to be said that those who pick this up thinking it’s another cute animal book like Chi’s Sweet Home will be brutally disappointed. The cat exhibits some signs of cleverness in it, but is pretty much just a cat in the end, and the relationship with a kitten is the weakest part of the volume. That said, the volume is still absolutely worth getting because of the titular She, an office lady named Miyu who lives in her apartment with her cat and her regrets, possibly not in that order. Her life is laid out for us by Makoto Shinkai, who apparently created this in 1999 as a 5-minute animation and then expanded on it with both this manga and another anime series.
The reason I came to appreciate the cat is the way that the cat is also serving as the eyes of the reader… but because it’s a cat, doesn’t really understand much from Miyu other than surface emotions such as depression, exhaustion, or happiness. We understand more as a reader, having lived through similar moments in our lives, but the empathy comes from seeing Miyu’s life in miniature, rather than through any monologue that she has. There are a few scenes we see without the cat, and they are conveyed normally through dialogue – the only way we see into Miyu’s head is via either the words she says or the cat’s thoughts. She starts off cheery if harried, then suffers through a deep depression as things at work go sour and she’s reminded that her other friends have married by now.
Because this was written by Makoto Shinkai, I was uncertain if it was going to have a happy ending or not. But he specializes more in bittersweet than anything else, so though Miyu may entertain suicidal thoughts while under the bridge towards the end, things mostly work out thanks to a Neko Ex Machina. I like the fact that we end with her life swinging back up again, doing a lot better at work, and rejecting the proposal of a co-worker because she doesn’t love him, rather than because getting married is what she has to do now. Miyu finds being an adult as hard as the rest of us do, but she’s muddling through with the help of her cat, and I think it’s very inspiring to those who deal with feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. And of course there are also scenes of Miyu playing with her cat, rest assured.
For fans of Makoto Shinkai, this is an obvious buy. I’d also recommend it for those who find themselves muddling through the day somehow, and wondering if it’s OK to be living like this. Even if the reader doesn’t have a cat, they may find an answer here anyway. (Also, why don’t you have a cat? Cats are awesome!)