She and her cat – the feline fable by Makoto Shinkai

An anonymous narrator takes shelter from the rain. He thinks of his mother and wonders how his life came to this. The first strong indication that this narrator is not human is the distance a passerby has to lean to look at him. “His hair and my fur were heavy from the rain, filling our surroundings with a pleasant smell.”

Makoto Shinkai’s Novel Perspective Her and her cat, a bestseller in Japan, an exchange between humans and the cats that bond with them; or rather between cats and their humans.

Miyu, a college administrator, struggles to speak up, and her inability to ask for clarification on a casual relationship leaves her feeling lonely – until she finds Chobi, abandoned. Reina is a talented student at Miyu University who makes the mistake of believing that gifts are all she needs to succeed. She is supported by Mimi, a little wanderer who projects confidence but is aware of her fragility. Cookie, Mimi’s kitten, helps a manga artist named Aoi deal with the death of a friend. And Kuro, the dominant savage of the neighborhood, comforts Shino, a woman who has grown old giving herself to others. There’s a larger supporting cast in their Tokyo suburbs, both human and feline. (As well as the dog.)

Her and her cat is a light and melancholic novel. It’s good to portray the small lives its cat-related human protagonists lead and the sense of alienation and disappointment they carry. The topics of cats and humans are also thematically linked. Pet Cookie longs to get out, but she finds reality as intimidating as her agoraphobic owner.

The finer descriptive passages are seen through the eyes of cats: a depressed human “spent most of his time in bed with his eyes closed and slept as much as we cats.” It’s a quirk of this world that cats understand human language and rituals, but cats remain as inscrutable to people as they’ve always been.

The Japanese original of this 2013 book, written with novelist Naruki Nagakawa, is based on a five-minute Shinkai anime film from 1999; its black and white palette accentuates everyday urban details while adding a dreamlike wash. Shinkai’s work broke records. His 2016 movie your name is one of the most successful anime of all time.

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But regardless of the balance of creativity between him and Nagakawa when turning the story into continued prose, their collaboration – or Ginny Tapley Takemori’s translation – hasn’t quite succeeded in bringing the story to life. richness and delicacy of Shinkai’s original short or the other. works available in the UK. Events are reported before they occur. The characters bluntly announce the lessons they learn and other revelations. “It would be an incredible coincidence,” they remark of the storylines. The dialogue is often stuffy, except when it comes to animals.

The cats themselves remain magical. Like cats do. But it’s all heavy, where Shinkai’s work in other media feels more – for lack of a better word – feline.

Her and her cat by Makoto Shinkai and Naruki Nagakawa, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori, Doubleday £10, 160 pages

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