Master of Japanese horror manga Junji Ito presents a series of hissterical tales chronicling his real-life trials and tribulations of becoming a cat owner. Junji Ito, as J-kun, has recently built a new house and has invited his financée, A-ko, to live with him. Little did he know … his blushing bride-to-be has some unexpected company in tow—Yon, a ghastly-looking family cat, and Mu, an adorable Norwegian forest cat. Despite being a dog person, J-kun finds himself purrsuaded by their odd cuteness and thus begins his comedic struggle to gain the affection of his new feline friends.
In the last year I’ve become quite familiar with Junji Ito’s body of work, as far as English releases go, but this is the first time I’ve read anything that he’s created outside of the horror genre. Cat Diary: Yon & Mu is a short and sweet read, each chapter a vignette chronicling the mishaps he faces becoming a cat owner. There really isn’t a plot to follow throughout the book, though J-kun (Ito) does have a sort of arc that he undergoes throughout. I’ve lauded him in the past for his ability as a horror writer, but this book taught me something new: Junji Ito can be really funny.
There’s little difference between the art style of his horror stories and this book. Taken out of context many images are quite creepy or even frightening. It’s the context of the story—J-kun’s simple discomfort with cats—that makes these images and situations hilarious. Having once lived with cats for a couple of years myself, it was easy to be reminded of the weird idiosyncrasies they can bring into your home. Their behaviours in the story are realistic, even mundane for those familiar. For all of the antics of the story, the cats never stop behaving like real cats. Only through the lens of J-kun do they become more unsettling or bizarre. The contrast between these elements worked really well.
The only characters that take on truly abstract appearances are J-kun and A-ko themselves. A-ko often looks impish and a little sinister, typically drawn with no pupils and a rictus grin. She is the reason the cats are there, after all, and so her appearance reflects J-kun’s feelings on that, whether it’s mischievous for insisting upon bringing home the felines or more teasing for winning their affection so easily. J-kun frequently becomes warped with expressions of revulsion, dejection, or extreme affection depending on the affect the cats are having on him. His moments of extreme affection are especially evocative. In my experience an adorable little furball can sometimes inspire inexplicably intense feelings. J-kun’s cartoonishly exaggerated expressions capture those perfectly.
There really isn’t that much to say about this book. It’s short and sweet, telling legitimately funny, hectic, and even heartwarming stories of pet ownership through the mind of a prolific horror artist and storyteller. It has a simple premise and executes upon it near perfectly. If you’ve got any love for cats, or even just like animals, it’s definitely a comic book worth reading.
My rating: 5 out of 5