by Nick Creamer,

She and Her Cat -Everything Flows- [Episodes 1-4 Streaming]

She and Her Cat -Everything Flows-
The girl works hard, but can't seem to find what she's looking for. The cat stays at home, and helps her when he can. This is the story of a girl on the edge of adulthood, and of the cat who's been with her all along the way. Together they live in a home that feels strangely empty now, as the days pass by and time moves slowly on.

She and Her Cat -Everything Flows- is a fairly unusual production. It's ostensibly an adaptation of one of Makoto Shinkai's very early films, but frankly, the Shinkai version doesn't offer much to adapt - it's five minutes of altered-photography backgrounds and minimalist animation, more a pre-Voices of a Distant Star sketch than a finished production. In contrast, this new four-episode series is beautifully composed, so polished and fully realized that it seems surprising it comes from the fairly unknown Liden Films. Liden are more known for production disasters than polish, with their resume including the ignominious Terra Formars and Heroic Legend of Arslan. Of course, if you look closer at the production credits, you note that the director is Kazuya Sakamoto - an ex-Kyoto Animation veteran responsible for directing several episodes of Hyouka, K-On!, and other polished marvels of atmosphere. And then this show's excellence starts to make sense.

She and Her Cat is a simple story. It's framed as a collection of small moments in the life of a woman on the brink of adulthood, managing an apartment that's suddenly become too big for her and a future that seems out of her control. It's a coming of age story, but we don't witness it directly; instead, we follow the perspective of her cat Daru, who only inconsistently sees the fallout of her daily life, and who can't understand the conversations she shares with her worried mother.

By framing its story from the perspective of the cat, She and Her Cat ultimately reveals how few touchstones a story needs to create narrative and resonance. The first episode conveys the unexpected and frightening turn her life has taken through one incidental conversation with the friend who's moving out; the second reveals her insecurities about not having a father in her life through the ways she slowly grows closer to a younger Daru. The storytelling all emerges naturally through scenes that focus mainly on Daru lounging around and observing his owner, building towards small moments of fear or catharsis that feel entirely relatable.

Part of the show's strength comes in its choices of well-observed details. One particularly great moment captures the young woman rehearsing for job interviews, staring in the mirror and attempting to convey passion about one after another possible career (“I've always been a fan of… homes”). Another lets us listen in on her friend's voice on the answering machine, expressing regret that she “won't be able to make it” to her wedding. Small fragments of the women's life convey a much larger picture, and are stronger for the show's commitment to understatement.

The rest of the show's power is likely held in its absolute mastery of atmosphere. Sakamoto's strengths as a director are on full display in this series; the show's cinematography is top-notch, demonstrating the same eye for charged framing that makes shows like Hyouka and K-On! such resonant productions. The show is quite beautiful, but also feels absolutely naturalistic, fitting for a story focused on appreciating the dignified passing of average days. Careful management of lighting and color palettes alternately create a sense of warmth and alienation in the woman's apartment, and shots framed from diverse angles help to position the viewer in Daru's perspective. The show's observational strengths are consistently reflected in the ways it creates a variety of tones within the woman's single apartment.

The show's music is pleasant but mostly just unobtrusive; an array of gentle piano keys that fit but don't elevate. The animation is quite strong, though, with Daru's very well-realized movements deserving particular notice. Daru is one of the most believably animated animals I've seen in anime - his movements never verge into caricature, but still convey clear personality at all times. He not only feels like a cat, he feels specifically like an affectionate but elderly cat. Like with everything else in the show, much is conveyed through a fairly minimal economy of motions.

Overall, She and Her Cat is a very successful exercise in dramatic minimalism. It tells a core human story through a small scattering of vignettes, and creates a great sense of atmosphere and a real affection for its characters. It's a small but polished and eminently successful production.

Production Info:
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : B+
Animation : A-
Art : A
Music : B

+ Tells a universal story of growing up with great restraint; direction and animation are excellent, and Daru feels like a real cat.
The music isn't quite as noteworthy as the rest of the production.

Director: Kazuya Sakamoto
Series Composition: Naruki Nagakawa
Masumi Itou
Yohei Matsui
Original creator: Makoto Shinkai
Character Design: Senbon Umishima
Chief Animation Director: Senbon Umishima

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Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko: Everything Flows (TV)

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