3 out of 5
I mean, cat people – you get it. If you own an animal (children included), you’re in that club, and so stories about the dumb / cute / gross things such animals do are exchanged as currency in that club. Just riffing on this thought, I suppose you could extend that to any concept – like, we all have conversations, right, so movies / comics / shows featuring conversations are just trading on the currency of shared conversational experience – and fair enough, there are plenty of examples of media that do just that: providing an example of something you recognize and going no further with it. But, y’know, come on, if I talk about cat people, or dog people, or baby people, we get it. We know what that means. My X is so cute because (insert story that has zero context for those not in the same club). At an abstracted level in which we know what X looks and smells and behaves like, these behaviors are cute – or whatever – but it’s like hearing about dreams, or getting shown family photos: to paraphrase Always Sunny, if I’m not in them, who cares?
So that’s a wonderful intro to Junji Ito’s “cat diary,” which is a manga about Junji and his wife, A-Ko, who are, essentially cat people. And all of the obnoxiousness (to us non-cat people) does apply to reading these “Yon & Mu are so cute because…” tales. I imagine it’s a lot more fun if you, too, have a fussy cat who likes to alternate between being pet and biting, or a cat who’s kept you up all night whilst hidden in some unreachable hidey hole. But: there is something of a narrative here beyond cat tale exchanges, in which Junji – not initially a fan of cats – comes to covet the attention and appreciate the presence of the two cats his wife brings in to the family (while grousing about their smells and furniture-damaging behaviors, of course), and he that through to a conclusion of one of the cats’ passing; this does the extra work of grounding things a bit, making them more than solely “cute,” and exposing some of the very human, relatable personality (and dumb sense of humor) of a famous horror manga artist. Also to that horror manga artist bit: that sensibility persists, so things err toward weird or gross; another dash of uniqueness here, although Ito’s comic timing can be a bit stiff.
Overall, though, it’s still a cute kitty manga. You’ve heard your cat friend tell these stories. It’s more amusing thanks to the off-kilter method Ito has, but… yeah. Cat people.