Inspired by his 1999 mini anime of the same name, Makoto Shinkai’s She and Her Cat is set on the outskirts of Toyko and follows the interconnected lives of local cats and the women who look after them. As the cats navigate their suburban neighbourhood, experiencing the intrigues and trials of territory, friendship and death, their owners similarly traverse the difficulties of human life, drawing differences and parallels between them all.
Amongst these curious felines and struggling humans is a devoted cat named Chobi who wills his young owner to end a faltering relationship that’s causing her pain. Then there’s a spirited young cat who matures under the protection of a gifted artist who misunderstands her boss’ enthusiasm for her paintings, and a kitten called Cookie who hatches a plan to persuade her reclusive owner to venture outside after the death of her friend. Finally there’s a woman who has dedicated her life to caring for others, who learns a lesson in independence from the feral cat who replaces her wise old dog.
Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori, She and her Cat is a series of short stories about connection – the connection between people and their pets, as well as people themselves. It doesn’t delve particularly deeply into any of the tales, briefly exploring moments in time before passing along to the next cat and woman. Readers aren’t given an opportunity to live with these characters or their lonely lives, making this more of a commentary on the mundanities and woes of everyday life than an absorbing novella where you come to care for the women at the centre of it.
Partly told from the perspective of the cats, these vignettes say more about actual cats than they do humans. Whilst the collection of cats’ internal thoughts can veer towards the downright bizarre, the book astutely captures their mannerisms and habits; what makes them such good companions, as well as how they can be so independent. It can be amusing, perceptive and oddly charming too, particularly as it delves into life and death through the eyes of a sage dog called Jon who all the cats look up to.
She and her Cat is a gentle and undemanding book that anyone with a cat will be able to relate to. Despite its brevity, there’s a wisdom and warmth to these tales if you look for it. A comforting read for a rainy autumnal day.
She and her Cat is published by Doubleday on 6 October 2022