First Impressions – Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko: Everything Flows

Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko - 01 -6 Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko - 01 -10 Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko - 01 -15

The Japanese get cats.

Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko - 01 -1There’s an interesting history behind this short anime.  It’s an evolution of a five-minute independently produced OVA by the great Shinkai Makoto – the first time Shinkai really got noticed by the Japanese audience.  Of course he’s gone on to have a superb career, establishing himself as one of the greatest visual artists in anime history, though by no means a commercial powerhouse.  It’s that which no doubt caused a revival of interest in She and Her Cat, and allowed this 4-episode mini-series from LIDENFILMS to be produced.

Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko - 01 -2As far as I can tell Shinkai has no direct involvement in this version of the story apart from licensing it – Director Sakamoto Kazuya is a Kyoto Animation guy, having worked in lesser roles on many of their works, and Animation Director Umishma Senbon is a talented young animator who’s never filled the role on a series before.  And to be blunt, you’d never mistake this for an animation drawn by Shinkai himself – but that’s a standard too high for anyone to be held to, and not how this version should be judged.

Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko - 01 -3My take?  Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko works because it doesn’t overreach, and that was the key to Shinkai’s OVA (indeed, his writing always seems best when it’s simplest).  This is a very elemental story of the love between a cat and a graduating college student, told from the cat’s perspective (and very effectively too). Asanuma Shintarou provides the voice of Daru the cat (why the name change I don’t know), who in turn provides the narrative voice for the series, and Kana Hanzawa provides the voice of the girl.  Daru sees the world from a cat’s perspective, which is different from a human’s – we see what’s happening, but it’s Daru’s voice that provides the interpretation.

Kanojo to Kanojo no Neko - 01 -4I always laugh when I hear people say that cats are “independent” and don’t really care about their owners.  It’s something you never hear in Japan, where there seems to be a fundamental understanding of cats that’s often missing in the dog-obsessed West.  From my perspective as a cat person, it seems to me that She and Her Cat is a series that would appeal primarily to viewers who love cats – but hey, what do I know?  In any event this isn’t an especially complicated story, but if you understand the dynamics involved (which you do if you’ve shared your life with cats) it’s quite a powerful one.  Perhaps the most salient point is that this series in no ways betrays the spirit of Shinkai’s – if anything it’s a more fleshed-out version of the original.  As a fan of anime, cats and Shinkai, it works a treat for me.

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7 comments

  1. I think the most striking thing for me about this episode was not the cat’s role—I’m not much of a cat person myself, in part due to my mild allergies—but the resonance of the girl’s character. Being a recent college grad myself, it’s a pretty neat thing to see an anime (I feel I have to add “of all things!”) that gets that experience so well. I dunno if you ever saw “tomorrow from there.” out of the Animator Expo shorts, but it runs in a very similar thematic wheelhouse to She and Her Cat.

    In any case, this was an extremely pleasant surprise and I’m glad it got picked up for streaming in the West.

  2. Y

    I just thought for the whole time: the poor cat, all day alone, looking out of the window to the nature it’s not allwoed to expierence. When you only life with animals that have the chance to go out into their natural environment you can’t fully enjoy such a series.

  3. Don’t feel bad for house cats. The average lifespan of a feral “domesticated” cat is less than two years. There is evidence that cats “self-domesticated” themselves not long after humans began stationary agriculture.

  4. Y

    I don’t feel bad for all housecats, only for those who are left alone all day and also live alone without a fellow cat-friend ^^;

  5. D

    Yeah, having recently rewatched the original short I thought it was very true to the spirit of the original, and the feline narration hit exactly the right tone for that.
    It was everything I’d been expecting for the series, and more.

  6. e

    Well, this definitely – if gently – struck a few chords :,3. Well done.

  7. I

    I love cats! I’ll make sure to get you a cat for Christmas this year, Enzo!

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