Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
She and Her Cat
Office worker Miyu one day adopts Chobi, a young white cat, and brings him home. Chobi watches his new mistress' life through its highs and lows over the course of a year, chronicling events as her one constant companion.
Have you ever seen the bumper sticker shaped like a pawprint that reads, “Who Saved Who?” That is the essence of Makoto Shinkai and Tsubasa Yamaguchi's manga version of Shinkai's short anime She and Her Cat. The story is told from the perspective of Chobi, a young white cat adopted off the street by Miyu, an ordinary office worker. As her sole companion through thick and thin, Chobi strives to understand his new companion, his mere presence helping her to cope with the trials and tribulations of her everyday life.
The story takes place over the course of one year, with the manga volume divided up into four chapters, one per season. The conceit of having Chobi narrate the story is an interesting one, as it forces the readers to extrapolate from background details that he notices to figure out what is truly going on in Miyu's life. While there are a couple of scenes that take place outside of the house when Chobi is not present, most of the actual story is seen from what he can determine – phone calls, vague images, and who walks Miyu home. From this we can put together the fact that Miyu is bothered by people trying to force her into a romantic relationship (or what she perceives as forcing her), possibly because her mother is about to remarry. While we don't know what happened to Miyu's father or for how long he's been out of the picture, her reaction to her mother's repeated phone calls, including Miyu's reluctance to answer them in the first place, suggests that she is still very bothered by his potential replacement in her mother's life. That Miyu is not living at home is irrelevant – she's young enough (and human enough) not to want what she thinks of as her safe space to change.
Chobi, of course, can't vocalize any of this. He notices how she smells, what expression is on her face, and how much he loves her. Like many cats, he doesn't see Miyu as a parental figure, but rather as a person who belongs to him – somewhere between a girlfriend and a pet. To this end, he doesn't like it when other (human) males walk her home or when she comes home smelling like alcohol. Miyu is a major focus of Chobi's world, and he relies on her in a completely different way than she does on him. This is why, ultimately, Chobi is able to anticipate her needs, and in the end there's a definite feeling that she has accepted his presence in her life as more than “just a cat.” He is her support, even though it takes her almost a full year to truly realize it.
She and Her Cat is, ultimately, a story about the solace an animal can bring, as well as a look at the positive impact adoption can have on a stray. Granted, my work in animal rescue may be coloring this interpretation of the plot, but it is easy to see this reading even without firsthand knowledge of both. It also does a remarkable job of capturing feline identity – we rarely see cats who are just cats in manga, and despite his human-language narration, Chobi is unapologetically feline. He has a cat's urge to wander – and the secret escape from the apartment that he uses to do it. He has his own kitty life outside of his existence with Miyu, and it is this that allows him to be such a good companion to her – he isn't humanized or made to resemble a precocious child, but rather it is because he's a cat that he's able to help her through her troubles. A human wouldn't be able to just listen or to simply be present without offering words, which is not what Miyu needs; we see this through her interactions with her mother and her old friend. Chobi offers love without verbal judgement, which is what ultimately helps Miyu get through.
While the story is understated and lovely, this is a case where the art really needs to back it up in order for the whole thing to come together. That mostly works – Yamaguchi draws a credible cat and is able to use background details to fill in the story we aren't fully told. The only real complaint is the disproportionate people, who are mostly stretchy limbs and awkward sitting angles. While this could be explained as being part of the cat's eye point of view of the story, it still is distracting from an otherwise beautiful piece, and does bring things down a bit.
She and Her Cat is a quiet story that does a charming job of detailing one difficult year in a young woman's life and the support her cat gives her. It's a book you need to think about afterwards to fully appreciate, deceptively simple on its first reading. Even if you aren't a cat person, this is an interesting take on the basic slice-of-life story and Miyu's attempts to get by when life seems too hard. If you are an animal person, however, the symbiotic quality of Miyu's and Chobi's relationship just makes this tale all the sweeter.
Overall : B+
Story : A-
Art : B
+ Heartwarming and interesting story, appealing even if you aren't a cat person
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