Many people that follow me either on this blog space or on other social platforms probably already know this fact, but I love cats. Cats just make my whole life so much brighter and happier, and they are also one of the main things that consistently help me with conquering my depression. Because of this, I gravitate heavily towards any stories that revolve around cats, whether they are novels, manga, anime, or other forms of media. My favourites are the bittersweet tales that focus on the difficult parts of being alive, such as dealing with grief, or learning to become independent. The emotional factor packs a potent punch for my feels, yet I’m always immensely grateful for having experienced those narratives.
Today, I wanted to share with you all fur stand-alone cat-centric manga that I think are absolutely beautiful. They each have tales that are worth reading with stunning artwork, and plenty of wise words to help instil self-love, faith, or gratitude—things that I believe are vital for staying strong and moving forward during this difficult time of quarantine and uncertainty.
She and Her Cat (彼女と彼女の猫) by Makoto Shinkai & Tsubasa Yamaguchi (illustrator): A seinen, coming-of-age story that is the manga adaptation of the original video animation project by the brilliant Shinkai (before he became the renown filmmaker he is today), it follows Miyu, a young lady struggling with impending adulthood, and her faithful kitty, Chobi. Spanning approximately a year, it shows us Chobi spending his life with Miyu. When Chobi meet a female feline, he declines running off with her because he loves Miyu dearly and wants to stay by her side.
The anime was my first introduction to this story. I watched it in one sitting and then sobbed properly for about an hour or so after it was over. While the story is extremely bittersweet, it shows what the breath-taking comforts of long-term companionship can mean for a person, especially a cat. The manga has exquisite artwork and drives home the fact that life must go on, even when we’re not ready for it, but it doesn’t have to be as daunting or hopeless as it can feel. One of my favourite cat-related stories of all-time.
Junji Itō’s Cat Diary: Yon and Mu (伊藤潤二の猫日記よん&むー) by Junji Itō: This seinen, comedy, memoir shares the exploits of how Itō’s life changed when he became a cat-owner after his wife moved in with him post-marriage.
This was actually my very first Junji Itō manga ever and I practically died laughing at some of the parts. The genuine representation of how frustrating, entertaining, and even terrifying life can be with a cat or two (or three or four in my case) was pretty awesome. The Itō-familiar horrific drawings and exaggerated expression of the mangaka’s realisation at recognising the learning curve of cat-care is just too hilarious. Although, the epilogue does end this stand-alone on a somewhat sad note, the bulk of it is quite endearing and adorable, and definitely recommend for cat-lovers, especially if you’ve experienced that exhausting (yet adoring) feline life.
Cats of the Louvre (ルーヴルの猫) by Taiyō Matsumoto: A seinen, surrealist manga about a family of cats that reside in the attic of the Louvre (France’s most famous museum) and the surrealist sights that come to life when night-time falls.
When I first picked this up, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had flipped through it and the panels looked like they were packed with some strange happenings. However, after reading through it, I fell completely in love with the surrealist element of the narrative. It’s beautifully imaginative and occasionally creepy, depending on the paintings being depicted. What makes this manga so great is it unexpectedness, as well as the depth of it as we watch the behind-the-scenes happenings at the museum. The story, similarly, to all the other kitty manga, can be sad. Even so, the whimsy and magic really makes up for it. The ending wasn’t the greatest when compared to the rest, but it’s a super minor quirk overall. This is definitely the most unique cat-related manga I’ve read so far.
Baron: The Cat Returns (バロン猫の男爵) by Aoi Hīragi: A shōjo, magical realism, coming-of-age story about a young girl named Haru who rescues a kitty one day. When the feline royal family shows up and want her to become the Cat Princess, Haru gets caught up in a world of magic and talking kitties. Her only hope of returning home comes from the cat named Baron, and his mates: a chubby kitty and a crow.
I feel the manga is so underrated because everyone is obsessed with the film. When they hear this title that’s what they remember for the most part. However, I really disliked the film because of all the liberties it took, thus transforming the true essence of the story told herein. The original story is about the process of dealing with loss and coming to terms with losing a loved one. But the film turned it into a typical Ghibli story about learning to believe in yourself and that stripped away the depth and meaning behind the original narrative. The duality of inner and outer, reality and ethereal settings are basically an allegory for the inner and outer feelings of grief and loss, amid a few other complex concepts and I adored it to bits. I love magical realism and it’s used fantastically here in the manga to tell such an impactful story. Plus, the artwork is fricking gorgeous.
Those are four stand-alone manga that my cat-loving soul just devoured delightfully (and occasionally with eyes brimming full of tears) and I feel have excellent stories to share about companionship, growing up, and learning to accept that life isn’t always going to be peachy iced-tea sweet and refreshing, but that’s okay because we are far more resilient than we give ourselves credit for.
If you’re in the market for some new manga, but don’t want to invest in a long serial, definitely consider checking out some of the titles on this list.