Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Man and His Cat
Mr. Kanda and Fukumaru continue to bond, bringing warmth to both of their lives and hearts. For Mr. Kanda, this also means finally coming to terms with and moving past his wife's death. It won't be easy, as his enthusiastic young colleague's invitation to a piano concert shows, but when you have someone to love as much as he loves his cat, even the insurmountable begins to look like it might not be so bad after all.
If there is a category for “feel-good manga of the year” in any book award, I would nominate A Man and His Cat immediately. The third volume of this heartfelt series is every bit as good as the two that came before it, managing to exude warmth and charm without ever coming off as corny or insincere. A large part of that is due to series creator Umi Sakurai not allowing the story to focus solely on the joys of cat ownership (or cat “ownership” if you've ever lived with a cat); instead the plot combines that with the ongoing story of Kanda's grief and Fukumaru's past as an unwanted kitten, making it function as a study of how they help each other to overcome their sadness rather than something more maudlin.
As with the previous two volumes, the narrative is split between several perspectives. Mr. Kanda and Fukumaru both get to tell their own stories (albeit in third-person, not first-person, narration), and later we begin the tale of one of Fukumaru's littermates, Marin, and the man who ends up taking her in after she's abandoned by her first owner. Their story is interesting because it covers a totally different aspect of what can happen to pets; Fukumaru was never adopted (or bought, to be more precise) because he wasn't a stereotypically cute cat, but Marin was purchased as a kitten only to be discarded by her owner when she was no longer a tiny baby. Horribly this is something that happens far too often, and while we may more typically hear about it pertaining to bunnies given as Easter gifts and rejected when they grow up to be rabbits, it's a terrible factor all across the rescue community. That Marin was purchased as a purebred didn't make a difference to the wealthy woman who owned her – the cat has become a less-cute encumbrance in her eyes, and so she dumps her.
Fortunately for Marin, the woman does so with her son rather than on the street. He's a concert pianist like Mr. Kanda, and in fact considers himself Kanda's rival, although Kanda doesn't seem to know or care about it. He's a gruff, hot-headed fellow who is furious with his mother, among other things, but grudgingly decides that he'll keep Marin, possibly indicating that underneath it all he's not so bad. As a marker of how little his mother cares, however, she just gives him the cat in her carrier – no food, litterbox, nothing.
That Marin knows that she's being abandoned is very clear. Like Fukumaru, she understands the people around her when they talk, and she's depressed and frightened when she arrives at her new home. Her potential new dad's outbursts make her think that she's not going to get to stay here, either, especially when he makes less-than-flattering comments about her face (she's also an Exotic, and so has the characteristic “pushed in” look). Her behavior once again is very real and in line with cats adopted from difficult situations, and it's fortunate for her (and us readers) that when her new dad goes to buy what he needs for her, he bumps into none other than Kanda at the pet store.
The two storylines come together at that point, but prior to that we learn a bit more about Kanda and how his wife's death affected him. We do know that he hasn't given a concert since she died, and this volume sheds more light on that, revealing that his concert schedule prevented him from being with her during her illness as much as he wanted to. Because of this, he has developed a traumatic association with concert halls, and when his younger coworker at the music school invites him to a concert, he tries – but has a panic attack almost immediately and has to leave. (That this leads to the younger man bringing him home and falling for Fukumaru balances things nicely.) The concert, of course, was by the man who fancies himself Kanda's rival, but in the immediate aftermath of his panic attack, Kanda reveals that he's still willing to try to go places, even if he's not sure it will work. Fukumaru has given him an emotional support system which allows him to feel safe trying new things and even asking for help from his human friends, something he never did before. It's a visible sign of how his relationship with his cat is a positive force in his life, and it's frankly beautiful.
Of course the whole book isn't just heartwarming moments with deeper meanings. There are plenty of silly cat antics as well, which keeps the volume from feeling too emotionally punishing. From Fukumaru's insistence on sleeping on top of what his dad's reading (I type this with two cats poised to get on the keyboard if I let my guard down) to Kanda's increasingly speedy picture taking so that he can capture every adorable thing, or just thing, that Fukumaru does, there's a lot of recognizable cat and owner behavior here that's spot-on. Sakurai also has a deft hand with humor, as we can see in Kanda and Fukumaru's game of hide-and-seek, which involves the two of them and a box. The art continues to maintain its juxtaposition between the more realistic people and the round and cartoony cats, and with its move to a different format, Sakurai's art and stories both have more time and development to shine.
A Man and His Cat remains a lovely, heartwarming story. It may be nominally about a guy and a cat, but really it's an ode to how humans and animals can bond, making both of their lives richer.
Overall : A
Story : A
Art : A-
+ Heartwarming and funny but balanced out with some sadness. Story and art have more room for development in this volume.
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