A Man and His Cat Volume 1 (おじさまと猫) by Umi Sakurai is a shōnen, slice of life, comedy manga series about an elderly gentleman named Kanda who visits a local pet shop one day and adopts a round, one-year-old kitty that no one else seems interested in. Feeling that the older, bigger kitty has quite a loveable appeal to him, he brings it home and together they build a hilarious bond of affection and companionship.
This manga had been on my radar since the very first time I saw it at the local bookshop. I picked it up in March during a really neat Buy One Get One sale, and this past weekend while I was feeling a little blue about my own kitty (he’s sick), I decided to read it. I’m honestly not sure if reading this while I was feeling incredibly emotional about my cat’s future was a good thing or a bad thing because even though it’s a comedy, it made me tear up with such heart-warming, fond memories quite often.
The bulk of the volume consists of short two to three page chapters, of which there are sixteen total spanning the first half of the volume. The second half consists of anecdotes about Kanda’s and Fukumaru’s (the cat) lives, mostly prior to them becoming a family. We learn about some of the Kanda’s co-workers, a little bit about his life with his wife, and his love of piano. For Fukumaru, we see him as a kitten and discover why he goes so very long without getting adopted. While I adored the short chapters because they make it effortless to read through the volume in a short session, I’m also disappointed that only one-half had consistent of plot-centric chapters with the rest being what are essentially fillers.
Aside from that small little qualm, I liked the rest of the shenanigans that occur between Kanda and Fukumaru. My favourite moments consisted of the affection that Fukumaru felt once he finally had a human to love him with all of their heart. I have visited the shelter enough times to see how hopeless and lonely older kitties look as they remain locked in their tiny glass-boxed homes quite possibly for the rest of their lives. It’s excruciatingly heart-breaking. Reading about the awful sense of longing that Fukumaru had prior to getting adopted made me extremely emotional as it reminded me of three of my cats right before I adopted them. Seeing unwanted pets is such a painful and maddening feeling, and even though there is a good sprinkling of light-hearted comedic elements in A Man and His Cat, these scenes are still difficult to stomach for animal lovers.
Watching an old man become so smitten with his cat that he starts to take photos and selfies with his cat, wakes up in the middle of the night to make sure the cat is warm under the blankets, doesn’t mind giving virtually all the bed space to the kitty, or even sharing his piano and workspace with the kitty was whimsically enlivening and so beautifully wholesome. There wasn’t a single second of their time together where I didn’t feel a great sense of joy smack dab in the centre of my chest.
The artwork is appealing and filled with cutesy elements such as exaggeratedly round animals and expressions of happiness, anxiety, and more as the cat tries to adapt to living in a home. The lines are thicker, and scenery is very neatly detailed where it needs to be. The panels are drawn in such a way as to really emphasise Fukumaru and Kanda as the focal points, so the attention is almost always drawn towards them as individuals or to elements of their developing bond. There is a bit more dialogue and text in this manga than others I’ve read like it, so if you’re not too fond of heavy uses of text, you may find this mildly irritating.
Overall, if you’re a fan of feel-good, short-chaptered manga (think of anime shorts such as Poyopoyo or With a Dog and a Cat, Every Day is Fun for narrative reference) and if you enjoy reading about found family dynamics between humans and animals (especially kitties), then I think you will truly enjoy this gem of a manga. My recommendation is to save it for when you’re having a tough day. It will brighten whatever is weighing you down and instil some hope and happiness into your heart.
Genre: Slice-of-Life, Comedy
Publisher: Square Enix Manga (English)
Total Volumes: 6 +
Content Warnings: Traumatic unwanted feelings towards an animal. Brief depiction of funeral.
AniList: Ojisama to Neko
GoodReads: A Man and His Cat by Umi Sakurai