Junji Ito is slowly becoming a big name within the anime community. While he’s not a household name quite yet, the recent anime adaptation of his short stories and the viral nature of The Enigma of Amigara Vault have done much to spread the man’s name around. And if you dabbled a bit in his works, read a few of those short stories or maybe went out to read Uzumaki, Gyo, or Tomie, then perhaps it’s time that you also read Junji Ito’s Cat Diary.
While the Junji Ito Collection anime left me very disappointed, it was the final push that I needed to check out this single-volume manga that I had been postponing for a while now. It felt wrong to just shove it into a Quick Manga Reviews selection, so this seemed the perfect time to bring it up.
It’s an autobiographical manga starring thinly-veiled, fictional versions of Ito and his wife. The story is about the two of them moving into a new house and Ito enjoying the newness and cleanliness of the place, until his wife coerces him into letting her bring in a cat… and then another. The household is soon joined by the somewhat-frightening Yon and the Norwegian forest cat Muu, and from there the story is a series of anecdotes about Ito learning to live together with these cats after never having owned one before.
What makes this particularly hilarious is that his style hasn’t changed to better fit such an innocent, funny story. Chapters might be about Ito getting jealous of the cats only wanting to sleep or play with his wife while he goes ignored, but the manga expresses that with the deranged expressions and inhuman poses that are more suitable to Ito’s horror works. And while the cats aren’t monstrous, they are given a hyper-realistic look and eerie expressions. Yon even has a skull pattern on his back that instills fear and Ito sometimes likens him to monsters seen in some of his works.
It’s amazing to see how the manga can still have these horror influences, liken these cats to frightening abominations, yet still tell sweet and relatable stories with them. One chapter in particular was just a short bit that mocked how dumb Yon looks when he falls asleep. With that said, you do need to have an appreciation for the author’s works to get the appeal of this manga. The cat stories themselves are fun, but many of them are the kind of tales any cat owner could tell you. It’s the style that makes it uniquely fun, but it can easily seem strange and nonsensical if you haven’t read the works that it references and parodies.
So yes, if you are a fan of Junji Ito, you really should take the time to check out Cat Diary. It’s only 1 volume counting 10 brief chapters, so it’s a short read. It also comes with little Q&A bits if you were interested in learning more about the man and how he manages to create such bizarre tales.