As someone who’s suffered a lifetime of embarrassment over my tendency to cry at movies and books about animals—even ones with happy outcomes—I realize that that my reaction to A Man and His Cat may not, in fact, be warranted by the quality of the storytelling or artwork. I should also disclose that I’m almost 50, so I’m hungry for stories about people old enough to have a few grey hairs and wrinkles. And I should probably mention that I live with two cats, one of whom is contentedly snoozing by my feet as I type.
Reader, I loved it.
There’s no real plot to speak of; the most dramatic event unfolds in the opening pages, when Fukumaru, a grumpy-faced cat, is adopted from the pet store where he’s spent a lonely year waiting for an owner. His knight in shining armor is Mr. Kanda, a middle-aged music teacher and empty nester who exudes an aura of sadness, despite his outward composure. Though Fukumaru frets that Kanda might suffer buyer’s remorse, Kanda is thoroughly smitten with Fukumaru, throwing himself into cat ownership with abandon, buying toys and collars, and taking selfies with Fukumaru. These scenes are engineered to elicit a strong, uncomplicated emotional response from the reader; Umi Sakurai doesn’t pluck or tug at the heartstrings so much as tear and rend them, giving Fukumaru a running interior monologue about his fears and hopes. And if seeing a cat worry about being returned to the pet store isn’t enough to make your lip tremble even a little, Fukumaru’s speech is peppered with feline-specific pronouns that underscore his plight in a shamelessly sentimental fashion: who but the most jaded reader could laugh at a chubby cat who worries that he might “go meowy whole life without a name?”
Fukumaru’s vulnerability is further amplified by Sakurai’s depiction of him as round and awkwardly proportioned, with an enormous face and stumpy legs. (One character helpfully describes him as “ugly-cute.”) Though Fukumaru’s penchant for tearing up is chalked up to his breed—the pet shop labels him a “short-haired exotic”—almost every kind gesture, separation, reunion, and potential setback makes Fukumaru’s eyes glisten with great, beady tears. Kanda, on the other hand, is drawn in a somewhat stiff, bland fashion with a few perfunctory laugh lines to suggest his age. The contrast between Fukumaru—who looks like the kind of off-brand stuffed animal you might win at a carnival—and his slim, be-suited owner is an interesting artistic choice, as it makes it easier for the reader to understand why Fukumaru initially feels such trepidation about Kanda. (It’s also a pretty amusing visual gag, too.)
By now, reader, you’re probably wondering, but would I like it? That’s a question I can’t really answer, since this manga’s wholesome sentimentality appealed to me against my better judgment. But if there’s a cat in your lap as you read this review, or you share your house with a pet you rescued from a shelter, I think you might appreciate the warm dynamic between Kanda and Fukumaru, as watching these two wounded souls revel in each other’s company is a genuinely heartwarming experience. Recommended.
Square Enix provided a review copy.
A MAN & HIS CAT, VOL. 1 • BY UMI SAKURAI • TRANSLATED BY TAYLOR ENGEL • SQUARE ENIX MANGA & BOOKS • 146 pp.
4 thoughts on “A Man & His Cat, Vol. 1”
Manga Worth Reading says:
I keep seeing this pop up on my Twitter feed. I’ve been a little curious but didn’t want to just jump on the bandwagon for the sake of it. Sounds like a fun read but not for me personally. I think Silver Spoon is taking up the “chilled out manga” spot for me right now (with Flying Witch in reserve). The main humans face is absolutely great though! I hope there is many more volumes for you all to enjoy.
Katherine Dacey says:
Square Enix is giving A Man and His Cat a big push, as it’s one of their debut manga titles in the US market; I think several manga Tweeps were helping to promote the book with giveaways, which probably is why everyone seems to be talking about it! It’s definitely not for everyone, especially folks who run at the first hint of sentimentality.
Oh man, manga in which a cat character with Resting Grumpy Face worries about being returned to the pet store? I must read this. I hadn’t even heard of it before.
Katherine Dacey says:
This just arrived in my local comic store last week, so it’s new to the market.
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