Review

by Rebecca Silverman,

My Roommate is a Cat

BD + Digital

Synopsis:
My Roommate is a Cat BD + Digital
Subaru Mikazuki is an anxious introvert who'd rather be reading at home than traveling around. His anxiety has only gotten worse since his parents died while on a trip, and now he spends his days writing his mystery novels and reading, only going out if he needs to. All of that begins to change when he meets a stray cat by his parents' grave and brings her home as an inspiration for his next novel, only to find that Haru (as he names her) provides both the link to the world he's been missing and the comfort and safety of the family he lost.
Review:

On the surface, My Roommate is a Cat (based on the manga of the same name) is a story about a shy young man adopting a stray cat who needs him as much as he needs her. That's absolutely true, but also just the window dressing for a series that's about love, family, and anxiety in equal measures as both Subaru and Haru are changed for the better by their new circumstances, leading to both man and cat becoming more comfortable in their own skins as they come to see themselves as the family that both lost before the show began. It's by turns touching and adorable, and shows the power that having a companion (animal or otherwise) can have when it comes to learning how to cope with what life throws at you.

When we first meet Subaru, he comes off as the ultimate misanthropic introvert. He actively resents having people come into his personal space (whether that's his house or just too close to him outside) and would rather stay alone indoors and just do his own thing. It quickly becomes clear, however, that there's more going on – the deaths of his parents several years prior to the series' opening point is revealed to have been due to an accident on a trip he was supposed to have gone on with them, and much of what comes off as misanthropy is actually survivor's guilt mixed with his natural anxiety and agoraphobia. It's not that he doesn't like people; he's afraid of getting close to them and then losing them, a worry that has melded with his already present social anxiety, and which in turn has exacerbated his agoraphobia to the point where leaving the house at all has become an emotionally taxing burden. If he does go out, he tries not to interact with people, something his new editor Kawase has trouble understanding. That he can leave the house at all is a triumph, although of course Subaru can't see it that way.

Into this situation comes Haru, a young tuxedo cat. Haru, starving on the streets as a semi-feral stray, finds Subaru at the graveyard, where he's leaving an offering of tuna sashimi for his parents. The cat pounces on the meal, and Subaru convinces himself that he needs to live with a cat to fully realize the plot of his next book, which features a feline antagonist. Viewers can infer, however, that seeing Haru inhaling the food touches a chord in him – he perhaps recognizes that she's also been beaten down by the events of her life, and that makes him want to help her. Having never had a cat, he's completely ignorant about what “helping her” entails, but as the show goes on, we see him growing more and more attached to Haru, giving him a reason to want to smile or talk to people again.

The same is true for Haru, and with each episode divided into segments for their shared narration, we get to see her come to trust that things will get better, even if she never quite believes that there will always be enough food. That's pretty typical of a formerly starving feral cat, and just one of the ways that My Roommate is a Cat gets felines right – Haru's need to take care of Subaru in return (in part because she sees him as incompetent) is also very true of many rescue cats, and although plenty of people refer to their pets as their children, it's clear that “roommate” really is the right word to describe how Haru and Subaru's relationship functions, although we could also frame it as Subaru is Mr. Haru or she's Mrs. Subaru in the emotional give and take sense. What's particularly nice about their relationship's progression is that we can see the healing process while still understanding that it is a process – Subaru's grief and guilt over his parents is still raw at the end of the show, but it's starting to scab over, and the same goes for Haru's similar emotions about her cat family. (She calls them her siblings, but given how much bigger she is than them in the flashbacks, there's a much greater chance that she had a litter of kittens at six months or so and didn't quite grasp what happened.) They're better off together than they were alone, but there's still no magic fix for what they've been through.

It's this sort of emotional honesty that makes this more than just a cute cat show. While the flashbacks can be a bit heavy-handed in their depiction of how difficult their lives were before, the depiction of Subaru's very real anxiety and agoraphobia is spot-on and very relatable. (As one of the voice actors in the commentary puts it, if you're the kind of person who needs an exit strategy for going to the grocery store, you will relate to Subaru.) From the dilemma of how to recommend a book to someone to the fact that neither Kawase nor his childhood friend Hiroto understand that surprises, especially involving new people, are bad, My Roommate is a Cat really understands Subaru's issues and treats them with respect. He's a person, not a punchline, and that's both nice and important to see.

Both vocal casts do a good job of conveying this, and the aforementioned commentary (for episode twelve) makes it clear that the main English cast appreciated the series for it. (It also provides information on how to see pictures of Austin Tindle's cat, for the curious.) Other on-disc extras are limited to clean songs, but since the music is pleasant and the visuals interesting for both, that's quite nice. The set also comes with a collection of shaped stickers of Haru and the series logo, which are a nice size for putting on your laptop cover or someplace similar.

My Roommate is a Cat is definitely a cat person show, but it's also one for anybody who's anxious or understands the comfort of having an animal to make the world less scary. It has its heavy moments, but that just means that when things get lighter, we can really feel like maybe it'll all be okay.

Grade:
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : A-
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B+

+ Good body language and understanding of cats, respectful of what both Subaru and Haru are coping with. Stickers are a nice extra.
Haru increasingly off-model as the series progresses in both art and animation, a little heavy-handed with the darker bits.

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Production Info:
Director: Kaoru Suzuki
Series Composition: Deko Akao
Episode Director:
Ryōsuke Azuma
Daiji Iwanaga
Kana Kawana
Toru Kitahata
Kenichiro Komaya
Ryōichi Kuraya
Kenta Onishi
Kaoru Suzuki
Masahiro Takata
Masanori Utsunomiya
Music: Kotoringo
Original creator:
Minatsuki
As Futatsuya
Character Design: Masaru Kitao
Chief Animation Director:
Masaru Kitao
Kiyotaka Nakahara
Animation Director:
Masayuki Fujita
Seiji Hagiwara
Kanna Hirayama
Sōichi Honda
Mamoru Hoshino
Yoko Iizuka
Yukie Ishibashi
Atsushi Kashiwa
Mutsuki Kawanishi
Gi Nam Kim
Akio Kitahara
Tomoyuki Kitamura
Masaru Kitao
Yoshinori Kitayama
Saki Kondo
Hisaya Kuwabara
Kaoru Miura
Yoshitaka Nagata
Kiyotaka Nakahara
Masae Nakayama
Misaki Nishino
Masaaki Sakurai
Takurō Sakurai
Kei Sato
Zearath Sato
Kentaro Tokiwa
Takuya Tokuda
Yumenosuke Tokuda
Fuyumi Toriyama
Hiroki Tsuji
Yurika Tsushima
Yuji Ushijima
Mitsunori Yamaguchi
Toshinari Yamashita
Miyako Yatsu
Kazuhiko Yokota
Kyoko Yufu
Producer:
Gouta Aijima
Yoko Baba
Ryō Hino
Aya Iizuka
Daisuke Nobuchi
Tomoyuki Ohwada
Yoshiyuki Shiotani
Ryohei Suzuki
Kazuaki Takahashi
Kazusa Umeda

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