My Roommate is a Cat (同居人はひざ、時々、頭のうえ。) is a shōjo, slice-of-life, comedy series that was originally a manga written by Minatsuki and illustrated by As Futatsuya. Zero-G picked it up and adapted it into an anime for the Winter 2019 simulcast season with direction from Kaoru Suzuki. The story follows a man named Subaru Mikazuki who is an anti-social, introverted author struggling to find inspiration for his next book. One morning while visiting his parents’ grave at the local cemetery, he is ambushed by a hungry cat who steals the offerings. As he watches this kitty eat the sashimi, he feels inspired to write a novel about a cat. Riding the high of this random mental stimulation, he brings the feline back home with him, thus kicking-off the shenanigans of a lifetime.
Somewhere within my brain and deep within my heart I knew that I was going to love My Roommate is a Cat. You can blame it on my mushy-gushy obsession for the feline species, or my intense relatability to Subaru’s anti-social and incapacitating social anxiety, or maybe just the cutesy and energetic opening. I finished the first episode and thought to myself, “Oh yeah, this is going to be my weakness.” Initially, my only concern was the humour, which had felt forced in some situations. However, overall, I was immediately taken by the premise and characters. After finishing it, I can safely say that this is one of the best slice-of-life anime that I’ve seen in years. Even with how carefree it can feel with Subaru learning what it means to live with a cat, it centres on sentimental subjects like the profound comfort of companionship and finding family values in the most surprising ways possible.
I remember the very first time I brought home Kheb and Azizi. They were brothers and only two-months old. Being a first-time cat human, I had no idea what to expect. In my mind, I pictured fluffy little beings cuddling beside me while I slept and read. But in actuality they were tiny terrors with their rambunctious playfulness and deathly kitten-claws. There was an adjustment period that I never saw coming. We see this with Subaru—who has been living entirely alone since his parents passing—as he learns to care for someone else. He sucks at feeding himself on time, to the point where he faints from exertion, so him recognising that his callous behaviour affects the livelihood of another was quite endearing. It forced him to crawl out of his small shelter. Subaru had to learn about proper feeding portions, recognising what a hiss, or purr, or meow meant, discovering that his absence can cause kitties to throw tantrums, and much more. Out of everything he learned, the best parts were recognising the emptiness that filled his home and heart upon his tragic loss.
Companionship can be a tricky thing for introverts. As much as we love being on our own and being independent, it can cause us to fool ourselves into believing that we don’t need social interactions because of how self-sufficient we are (mostly on an emotional level), which is total crap. Due to Subaru’s supreme awkwardness with engaging with people, and some bad experiences as a child (e.g.: being bullied or made fun of), he had always kept to himself, even with his parents. They’d go on trips to different cities, but the kid would stay home and read or study. So, when his parents’ died, it didn’t hit him, the things that he had lost, right away. Sure he felt grief and sadness, but the lack of their presence didn’t fully compute within his brain until he got Haru the kitty-san.
Along with a terror that can tear up a house, Haru gave Subaru a partner. They began to share meals. Subaru had someone waiting at home who would then greet him as he walked through the front door. He wasn’t saying tadaima (ただいまー) to an empty box any longer. When Haru did get into mischief, particularly in parts of the house he shouldn’t have been nosing around in, causing Subaru to get emotionally startled, the young man had someone whom he could turn to for support immediately; someone who showed him he wasn’t alone any more, and most importantly, that family isn’t an annoyance or something to take for granted.
Throughout My Roommate is a Cat and all of its comedic moments, Subaru’s grief simmers beneath the surface. He works so much that it’s easy for him to shove aside the guilt and the giant black hole of longing that he has for his mum, whether she’s gardening or cooking meals. He is forced to confront this grief when people he has encounters with on a semi-weekly/daily basis begin to show up at his house. Everyone wants to see the cat, or they use the cat as an excuse to check-in on an otherwise grumpy old author. Because of the bond that Subaru builds with Haru and because of a key climactic moment where he faces his loss head-on, Subaru learns the value of these people who take time to embrace him in their lives and their worries. A few of them include his editor, who is a weirdo with a stronger “I love cats, I shall chase them to the ends of the world” aura than I have; Subaru’s best friend from childhood who comes over to steal Subaru’s snacks as well as to provide the fool with food he doesn’t realise he needs; a couple people who have helped him regularly with raising Haru, whom he met at the pet store. Every one of these individuals, and another couple of folks, are all a part of Subaru’s family in one form another. They are companions in his life, and they bring value to his existence as well as value to himself as a person. Additionally, he never would have understood any of this if he didn’t meet or bring home Haru. Haru taught him the value of family and what it means to be loved and cared for, as well as to understand how comforting it is to have someone to cherish and care for yourself.
I’m a sucker for stories like this one; ones that seem so light-hearted and one-dimensional on the surface but have deeper and more meaningful motifs within all of the mirth and merriment, motifs that can move you to tears when you absolutely never expect them to. The fact that it includes kitties definitely didn’t hurt it either. Yet even if you loathe cats, I believe there is something here for you to find pleasure in if you enjoy slice-of-life stories.
Other things that makes My Roommate is a Cat a delightful and worthy investment are the perspectives and the episode set-ups, and the animation. Each episode starts off from Subaru’s or another human’s perspective (uncommon) and then the second half to the last one-fourth is shown via Haru’s point-of-view. What surprised me about this structure was the lack of repetitiveness. Even though we go through some of the same details, it doesn’t recount each scene minute-by-minute and Haru’s POVs are so different than Subaru’s that it’s a bit like watching a separate, shorter episode. They are so precious, especially when Haru is angry and yelling at her human. The animation is quite good with a clean and simple allure to it. It utilises softer coloured character outlines and vibrant uses of yellows, greens, and blues, to highlight the Spring-time aura of the setting, which contributes to that whimsical spirit of it. There is nothing too complicated or far-reaching here; just a basic, classical presentation.
All-in-all, I positively adored My Roommate is a Cat. I cannot recommend this enough to people who like stories about individuals that have to face some harsh realities while evolving beyond their miniature-world to see a bigger picture in order to find friendships, laughter, and gratitude.
8.5 pieces of sashimi outta 10!