A Man & His Cat
Story & Art: Umi Sakurai
Translation: Taylor Engel
Lettering: Lys Blakeslee
Cover Design: Tania Biswas, Patrick Crotty
Editor: Tania Biswas
Pets are a beloved part of a family, reliant on their people but also unconditional in their affections. Because cats often seem more independent or aloof than their canine counterparts, people often wonder if they are as loving as they are lovable. Umi Sakurai’s A Man & His Cat posits that they are, at least in the case of a so-ugly-he’s-cute kitty named Fukumaru.
Fukumaru was born in the pet shop where we find him at the opening of this story, after a year of being rejected by potential adopters. He is convinced that because of his strange looks, he is doomed to live out the rest of his meager days in the pet shop, alone and unloved. When an older gentleman comes in and requests to take him, the homely feline hardly believes it can be true.
The gentleman, whose name readers learn more than halfway through the book is Kanda, is all alone after the death of his wife. The couple had discussed getting a cat once their children had all left the nest, but never did get around to it. Now in his loneliness, Kanda finally decides it is time to make good on that promise. He names Fukumaru, using the Japanese word “koufuku,” meaning “joy,” to emphasize his happiness at finding a new companion.
Much of the first volume of the manga is spent observing how Kanda and Fukumaru learn to live with each other, and those who share their home with a cat will recognize many of Fukumaru’s behaviors. As the story unfolds, readers learn more about Kanda and his job as a music teacher, as well as his relationships with his coworkers and his childhood best friend. Even with a plot, however, this manga is about atmosphere more than anything else. It is a gentle, peaceful story tinged with melancholy — ultimately a low-stakes, feel-good comic about finding a new normal on the other side of grief.
Sakurai’s artwork is modern and clean, with Fukumaru’s adorable chubbiness offsetting Kanda’s handsome angles. Indeed, Kanda is a stereotypical handsome older gentleman, and it will be interesting to see how his relationships with his young, energetic coworkers pan out in future volumes. Segments of the story that are told from Fukumaru’s point of view utilize a cutesy mode of narration which could seem overly saccharine if they weren’t balanced out with alternating viewpoints. As it is, this childish patter serves to characterize Fukumaru and establish him as Kanda’s new “child.”
A Man & His Cat is one of video game company Square Enix’s first releases as a North American manga publisher, and it shows that they are aware of the market. Cats are an eternal favorite in the manga world, but there has been an increase in iyashikei, or “healing,” manga in English, as well. Add into the mix the dire need for older adult characters, and A Man & His Cat has a lot to offer. Cat lovers who are seeking some solace from the harshness of the world can find more information about A Man & His Cat, including a substantial free preview, through Square Enix’s website.