My Roommate is a Cat
Episode 6

by Rose Bridges,

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My Roommate is a Cat ?

Happy Valentine's Day! It's the perfect day to talk about all kinds of love—and for My Roommate is a Cat, that means the love of family, as we start out with an introduction to a new family member. When we first saw Yugo last week after the credits, with his gruff demeanor and questions about who Subaru was to Nana, I thought he would be a jealous boyfriend. Instead, he's Nana's protective younger brother. Somehow, despite towering over all the other grown-ups in the cast, he's still in high school. But hidden beneath that tough physique is a heart of gold.

There's a stereotype that only women are cat lovers, or "crazy cat ladies," but I've known many men who love kitties just as much or more. While both of my parents love cats, my stepdad is the one who keeps bringing more of them home and spends most of his day playing with them. So Yugo being such a cat magnet was no surprise to me. As soon as Hachi sees him, he bounds over to jump on his back and demand pets. While Haru is initially alarmed by this big guy, Roku quickly shows her that she has nothing to fear by climbing onto Yugo's lap, rolling around and meowing.

I was expecting more Roku this week, at least from the cat-centric portion of the episode, but we only get a brief introduction to Roku, after Haru worries that she's infringing on another cat's territory. She quickly learns that it doesn't work that way with domesticated cats after Roku welcomes her. Then it's not too long before Subaru is fleeing with Haru in tow, but Roku is there to remind the forlorn Hachi that he'll see his sister again. This parting between the siblings is heartwarming rather than heart-wrenching, because we know it's not the last time they'll get to play together.

The main development on the "human" side of things comes when Subaru sees an issue of Polaris poking out of Yugo's bag. This is the literary magazine that publishes Subaru's novel, which means Yugo has probably read his work—and so has Nana! How could they resist the story of a cat detective? Of course, poor Subaru has no idea how to deal with this. As an awkward and introverted person myself, I would have gladly jumped at the opportunity to talk up my own book (as I do at the end of all these reviews), but Subaru is just too awkward to handle it. Even at the beginning of this episode, he's still muttering about the mysteries of human relationships. So as much as he loves getting and giving book recommendations, he still becomes so overwhelmed he rushes out the door with Haru in tow. Oh well! I'm sure you'll get there eventually, Subaru!

If you prefer Haru's perspective to her human's, you're in luck, because the bulk of this episode is taken up with her feline perspective. Since I've already covered what happens in the Nana and Hachi visit, I'll just jump right into the meat of her story, with the extended Haru-and-Hachi backstory. We learn about where they came from, how they grew to be so tough, and where their paths diverged. It started with them breaking out of a cardboard box full of similar-looking kittens, so perhaps Haru and Hachi are from the same litter after all, but Haru is by far the biggest. She quickly takes on the responsibility of nurturing her smaller siblings, especially after another cat, "Miz Tora," takes them under her wing.

Miz Tora is a scruffy adult cat who looks like an orange or brown tabby. If she's orange, that would be uncommon but not impossible, as the majority of orange cats are male. However, orange female cats are genetically possible, unlike male calicos or tortoiseshell cats, which are only possible through genetic abnormalities. (The reason for this is that the orange gene lies on the X-chromosome in cats. Cats need both orange and not-orange to be a calico or a tortie, which means they need to have two X's.) I'm a little biased toward her being brown myself, because of my own feisty brown tabby, Ollie. Either way, Tora is an important mentor to these tuxedo kittens, along with the mysterious but kind one-eyed black cat Kuro. They teach them how to hunt and how to stay away from predators like crows.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and when a flock of crows attack the kittens, Tora and Kuro take it upon themselves to fight off the birds to save the kids. I expect that the two adult cats survived; they should be more than a match for a bunch of birds, and the last we see is a bunch of scattered feathers. But we're left uncertain, because the kittens don't see them again. We also get more on the importance of "family," as Haru and Hachi watch two of their brave siblings approach picnicking humans. When the family picks them up, it seems that they have found their "people." Tora tells them that meeting a human can "change your fate," and this is where Haru first hears the word "family."

In the wild, her family is her litter, even if she doesn't quite know it yet. Unfortunately, she loses what remaining family she has after she takes it upon herself to find them food all by herself. She finds a dead fish, but Hachi disappears, and her remaining sibling was killed by a crow. Haru says she never saw Hachi again, until she came to Nana's house. Their reunion begins to give her a greater idea of what "family" might mean. Hachi is her family, but so is Subaru—and maybe all these new humans and cats she's meeting count as family too.

It's not just Haru who's learning about family. Subaru also lost his genetic family at a young age, and that tragedy has shaped him into a man who has trouble getting close to people. But so many of his new social bonds seem to come from having Haru in his life. It might be a while before he gets up the courage to tell Nana and Yugo about his literary ambitions, but he is getting closer to them little by little. And as he gets out of his shell, he becomes more likable to the audience too. It's this theme of "family" that makes My Roommate is a Cat such an adorable and encouraging watch from week to week. Our bonds with our animals can bring us as humans closer together—helping us learn how to build our own found families.

Rating: A-

My Roommate is a Cat is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Rose is a Ph.D. student in musicology, who recently released a book about the music of Cowboy Bebop. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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