She and Her Cat: Everything Flows
Junior college student Miyu lives alone with Daru, her kitty. She's had him since she was a little girl, and so he's now approaching the end of his life. Miyu is constantly stressed out from job-hunting and from the general feeling of loneliness she's had since her roommate moved out. Although Daru can't express the affection he feels for her in words, they still cherish each other in the ways that a young woman and her kitty might.
For the longest time, I thought I was "a dog person" who could never see herself living with a kitty, but I've realized that I appreciate cats in a different way, and there's a good chance I'm going to end up being a cat lady one of these days. I love that dogs are so generous with their affection, but when you find that one kitty that you can tell likes you and you in particular, there's something special about that. Not to mention, work and grad school have made it that I'm often not home, and I worry that if I did ever get a dog, I'd neglect it, given how much attention they need. So if I ever did get a cat instead, I'd hope that they and I were a bit like how Daru and Miyu are in this sweet little show. It's a cute little series of vignettes about a girl, her kitty, and the life they have together, and I'd say it's basically a must-see for cat lovers, and maybe for pet owners in general, because of how relatable it is.
Now, you might've noticed that I'm not the biggest Makoto Shinkai fangirl out there, though my opinion's been warming a lot, lately. In one of the first reviews I wrote for this site, a 2nd OP of Voices of a Distant Star, I drooled over the art, but I felt that the characterization was a little too thin for me to get that emotionally invested, and I ended up having the same problem with The Place Promised in Our Early Days and 5 Centimeters Per Second. With that last movie in particular, I started to feel like he was reusing the same basic story over and over again, and I pretty much left it up to Allen to handle his later movies. Makoto Shinkai's output is, for better or worse, drenched in nostalgia and beautiful atmospherics, but up until recently his characters have felt way too simplistic and underdeveloped to me. Part of this, I think, might be that he started his career working on dating sim VNs, and a lot of his characters have honestly had about as much depth as your average harem VN protagonist, to be honest; I was lucky enough to see Your Name in theaters (literally the day before my local theater stopped showing it!), and somewhere along the line, he's gotten a lot better with that aspect. But way before that, one of the Shinkai pieces I actually liked most was one of his earliest: a 5-minute short about a cat comforting his owner as her life was unravelling. Back when I saw the She and Her Cat one-shot, which I found after I'd reviewed Voices and 5 Centimeters, I was struck that while it was simple, I was much less frustrated this time, because, ultimately, I think that his simple style worked far better with the relationship between a girl and her kitty than with something as complicated and confusing as romantic love. So, that short ended up working for me in a way that nothing else he'd done did, at least until Your Name was released.
Now, this expanded series isn't strictly a Shinkai-directed piece, so it lacks some of his characteristics: the starscapes and sunsets of 5 Centimeters Per Second and Voices of a Distant Star aren't here, for example. But it looks and sounds lovely, all the same. One thing that a number of other reviewers have pointed out is how much Daru, in his movements and mannerisms, looks, sounds, and feels like a real kitty, and I'd agree with them, having spent enough time with my own roommates' cats at different points; he's something of an adorably chubby old tomcat, but we get to hear his cat-thoughts pretty regularly. It's overall a really beautifully-drawn series, and while it doesn't have the fantasy or outdoorsy setting where Shinkai or his successors would really let the landscape art fly, the detail taken with Daru and Miyu's apartment is special in its own way, given that this, in itself, is Daru's own special little world that he shares with his owner. In fact, a lot of what this series has going for it is detail: though Daru himself can't exactly understand what's going on, Miyu's agonizing in front of the mirror while trying to sound passionate about boring jobs reminds me all too much of what a lot of my friends are going through, and as I write this, I'm also starting to get to that point. The music, including the soft nostalgia of the ending theme, also fits perfectly: it's gentle, soft, and bittersweet, like the tone of the show itself.
The four episodes of She and Her Cat: Everything Flows show us an old kitty cherishing what time he has left with his beloved companion and remembering his life with her, and while it's a lovely series, it's also often heartbreaking. The second episode is especially bittersweet; it touches on the time he first came into Miyu's life, back before she warmed to him. It's really heavily implied that her mother first got Daru for them as form of consolation after her father died, and this show really captures the bitterness and despair that kids who've lost parents feel: she ignores him, depressed and resentful, until she takes her bitterness too far and starts to feel protective of him in the aftermath of it. It's absolutely adorable to see how attached she is to him in some of the flashbacks, like when she finally moves out; by that point, he's nothing besides her cat and her cat alone, and while he's not exactly mean to either her mother or her housemate, he's just not attached to them in the same way. And this ties back to what I mentioned in the introduction about certain human-cat relationships being affectionate in a more private and one-on-one way than most human-dog relationships, which, I suppose, ties back to Daru's dialogue sometimes sounding a bit too much like that of a romantic admirer (one of the few things that annoyed me about this show). Still, Daru doesn't exactly understand the human world; he can verbalize his thoughts, but it's more a plot device than anything, and just as in the original 5-minute short, where he could see her heartbreak but not understand the reason for it, he can only see her stress, her fear, and her circular, fruitless back-and-forths with her mother and not understand the job insecurity or loneliness underlying it. But if there's something I like about She and Her Cat, it's that it drives home that animals maybe don't need to understand this for their affection to be something beautiful and wonderful. I still have strong memories of one of the dogs I grew up with, Karla, coming over to nuzzle me when she heard me crying myself to sleep, years ago, or of the time a friend's cat, who was indifferent to most people but seemed unusually attached to me, coming to cuddle with me just when I was having a near-mental breakdown from work-related stress and anxiety about my post-college life. They didn't know what I was going through, but they gave me exactly what I needed; in this show, there're several scenes of Daru doing exactly this for Miyu, and it made me cry, thinking about it.
And I'll admit, I do cry at a lot of anime (I was teary through most of the Utena movie and lost control of myself about a half hour before the end), but I also think that I've gotten pretty good at smelling the crap when I see it. And, well.... this "girl-and-her-kitty" story really made me lose my composure. Be prepared for the ending of this show; it's probably not too difficult to predict, but given all the pets I've had, and the fact that we'll always be cursed with the fact that dogs and cats just don't live that long, it definitely struck me in a vulnerable spot. I think that if you've ever owned and loved a cat, or a pet in general, this show is something you ought to watch. It captures the simple affection of pets better than almost anything I've ever seen.
Once in a while Daru's monologues can feel flat, but I really liked this show overall: the bittersweet simplicity works really well, and it's heartbreaking at times. I'd say don't bother if you don't like cats. — Nicoletta Christina Browne
Recommended Audience: Nothing objectionable.
Version(s) Viewed: Streaming on crunchyroll (Japanese with English subtitles)
Review Status: Full (4/4)
She and Her Cat: Everything Flows © 2016 Makoto Shinkai/CWF•S&HC EF FILM PARTNERS
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