A beautifully illustrated tale of a cat and its troubled owner.
She and Her Cat Vol. 1 collects the manga adaptation of Makoto Shinkai’s anime short of the same name. The manga version features artwork by Tsubasa Yamaguchi, and differs somewhat from the anime but still adheres largely to the original premise. Is it good?
I’ll start by addressing this manga’s strongest feature: its artwork. Yamaguchi’s work is spectacular. The characters’ world is rendered in stunning and intricate detail, and I can’t recall a single panel ever feeling flat or underdrawn. The texture work in particular is wonderful. Hard surfaces appear hard, fur looks soft, and wet surfaces look believably slick. Light sources and shadows are also depicted in a very realistic fashion. Yamaguchi’s style isn’t hyperrealistic per se, but the art has strong internal consistency and backgrounds feel like actual surroundings that the characters interact with. The characters themselves are also drawn emotively, and the artwork carries a lot of the volume’s emotional weight in general.
Unfortunately, this volume’s writing isn’t as strong as its artwork. That isn’t to say that the writing is ever poor or cringe-inducing, but there are certain limitations to the format that aren’t effectively compensated for. The story is narrated by Chobi (the cat half of She and Her Cat) and consists largely of statements to the effect of “I don’t know why Miyu [Chobi’s owner] does what she does.” Given that this isn’t a fantastical series, Chobi and Miyu aren’t capable of clear verbal communication. As a result, much of the reading experiences frames Miyu more as an object for observance than as a central character in her own right.
Much of what the reader learns about Miyu’s life and emotions comes in the forms of dialogue bubbles, frequently from Miyu’s phone conversations with family and friends. Chobi can’t understand what Miyu says, and because only a narrow portion of Miyu’s life is depicted on the page, it’s a bit difficult to feel emotionally invested in the character. It’s clear that Miyu struggles with not feeling content with her adult life, as well as navigating her various social circles (keeping up with friends, deciding how to respond to potential suitors’ advances, etc.). There are some moments where Miyu’s personal struggles are made emotionally affecting, but for the most part the narration’s distance from her is a bit off-putting. With that said, her bond with Chobi is handled fairly well throughout, and there are a number of touching moments. As I said before, the writing is never blatantly bad, it just doesn’t quite live up to the artwork.
Overall, She and Her Cat Vol. 1 is an enjoyable depiction of the emotional lives of a cat and its owner. The way the narrative is structured isn’t entirely ideal, as readers only get fragments of the circumstances affecting Miyu’s emotional state. With that said, there is still a good amount of poetic language and the artwork throughout is simply spectacular. It may not be perfect, but I would still recommend this series to anyone interested in cat-centric manga.