A Man and His Cat has been making the rounds on social media recently, especially Twitter, which is where I saw it for the first time. I think it’s really captured the hearts of the people who finally read it. It certainly captured mine. The cover of the first volume really starts to thaw your heart with the main character, a middle-aged man, holding his chubby, smooshed-face cat and staring lovingly at it. For cat-owners especially, I think it became a must read because there is so much to relate to throughout the volume and because the cat is given so much room to become a distinct character in his own right.
There have been two volumes published of the series so far. Square Enix’s new manga publishing department actually picked up this series for the English release in February of this year. In Japan, the series was voted as one of the Top 10 Manga by bookstore employees in 2018. Since then, it has received a ton of positive reviews, and I must say after reading through the first two volumes, I have to say they are right.
The story of A Man and His Cat centers around a cat that has been languishing in the pet store for a long time. No one has wanted to adopt him because he’s exotic and many consider him to be ugly. Even as his price drops with each passing day, no one stops to consider him for adoption. Then one fateful day, a middle-aged man comes into the store and falls in love with him and wants to take him home! Over time, they find comfort in one another and form a life-long bond.
The story is split between narratives that are from the man’s point of view and from the cat’s point of view. In this way we get multiple perspectives on how meaningful an animal-human bond is for those involved. Seeing through the cat’s (Fukumaru) eyes at the beginning makes us sympathetic to his situation of having been stuck at the pet store for most of his life. We get to experience his disbelief at finally being adopted and the slow process of him opening up to his new owner. If you’re a cat owner like me, these parts will definitely melt your heart. We get to see so many things through Fukumaru’s eyes, and after a while it becomes a way to view the man’s (Kanda) life and grief through a different lens.
On Kanda’s side of the story, it becomes a tale of overcoming grief through new connections. His wife recently passed away, and one of her dreams for the future was to adopt a cat at some point. Kanda has no experience with pets due to his strict upbringing, but for the sake of his wife’s memory, he adopts Fukumaru and takes the first step to becoming a Cat Dad. I love watching his journey to better understand cats and learn how to take care of them. Each new thing is exciting to him and we see him get adorably obsessed with his cat as the series progresses. I’m sure all cat owners will understand the feeling of taking a million pictures of every little thing your cat does or just wanting to touch their feet while they sleep. The adoption of Fukumaru becomes a turning point in his life of solitude and I think it begins to give him more opportunities to not only open up emotionally but interpersonally as well. Kanda now has new experiences he can share with friends and colleagues.
As a cat parent myself, I really enjoyed the short comics about cat behavior. There’s a part of one chapter where Fukumaru decides he likes the box his new bed came in more than his new bed which is a classic cat problem. There’s also a couple of chapters on Fukumaru and his litter box. I literally have to sweep my floors every morning just to get all the cat litter off of it from our cat’s digging and tracking it through the apartment, so it was definitely funny seeing Kanda try and deal with Fukumaru’s litter problems. There’s also Fukumaru laying on the laundry, Kanda taking selfies with him, having to sleep in weird positions. I really do think everything in this manga is very relatable and true to what it’s like to own a cat.
If you’re also like me and see the art as an essential part of any manga, I think you’ll be satisfied with A Man and His Cat. Umi Sakurai has a nice style in the line work, character designs, and page layouts that gives this series a nice visual appeal. I love how Sakurai created this contrast of styles between Kanda and Fukumaru. Where Kanda is drawn as this very handsome man, with his slicked back hair and neat suit, Fukumaru is this chubby, smooshed nose cat who I think most people wouldn’t see as conventionally cute. Seeing them together, side-by-side, creates this comedy of contrast out of the expectation that a man this stylish and put together would choose a cat that goofy looking. It becomes one of the backbones of the series, with side characters often wondering why he chose Fukumaru as well.
Sakurai is also very good at creating meaningful panel designs throughout the series. The passage of time and emotional moments are called out in a clear way and get the emphasis that they need in order to get the message and mood of the chapter across. I also love how the design changes for the more comedic chapter to a four-panel or 4-koma set-up, creating an expectation that this is a separate, more light-hearted moment. It makes the comedic moments light and easy to follow, inserted within the more emotional and touching moments of the series.
Because of Sakurai’s art, Fukumaru becomes the more expressive out of the pair. It’s really adorable to see him react to things with his variety of overblown expressions. His love for Kanda is right there out in the open, shining through his expression, and you really begin to root for them to be happy together. Fukumaru’s innocence paired with Kanda’s middle-aged experience is really the best combination that helps this series shine.
Let me know in the comments if you have picked up this series yet and your favorite moment. If you have recommendations for my next Caturday Special, feel free to leave those down there as well. Cat Tax below.
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
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