She and Her Cat: Everything Flows
Junior college student Miyu lives alone with Daru, her kitty. She's had him since childhood, 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. I love that dogs are so generous with their affection, but when you find that one cat that you can tell likes you and you in particular, there's something special about that. Not to mention, I'm a grad student who's rarely 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 cute little show. It's a simple 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.
Now, you might've noticed that I'm not the biggest Makoto Shinkai fan. In one of the first reviews I wrote for this site, for Voices of a Distant Star, I drooled over the art but couldn't shake the fact that the thin characterization bugged me, and by the time I reached 5 Centimeters Per Second I'd started to feel that Shinkai desperately needed to branch out. I haven't seen anything he's put out since then, and I've basically let Allen handle all the reviews of his newer movies. In general, though, his output is simple, nostalgic, and atmospherically beautiful, but his characters and their relationships are simplistic, to the point where I can start feeling like they'e come out of a dating sim scenario (which is, in fact, how Shinkai first started his career). But one of my favorite pieces of his was a 5-minute short in which the only plot, basically, was a cat comforting his owner as her love life was unravelling, and given that this series basically expands upon the premise of that short, I'm not surprised that I liked it just as much. Shinkai tends to write stories that try to sound universal in their simplicity; I think that my problem with his movies, by and large, has been that it's difficult for me to fully embrace anything that treats anything as complex, painful, wonderful, and confusing as romantic love in such simple terms. On the other hand, I think that relationships between humans and pets make for pretty simple, straightforward affection, even if dogs and cats express that affection differently, and whether or not that's true, this series worked for me in a way that most of his other stuff hasn't.
This 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 reviewers have pointed out is how much Daru, in his movements and mannerisms, looks, sounds, and feels like a real kitty; he's something of an adorably chubby old tomcat, albeit one whose cat-thoughts the audience gets to hear pretty regularly. It's overall a really pretty 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 little world. 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 recently-graduated friends are going through, now (I'm one of the lucky ones). 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. The second episode touches on the time he first came into Miyu's life, back before she warmed to him; it's strongly implied that her mother first got Daru for them as form of consolation after her father died, and the bitterness and despair that kids who've lost parents feel is on display as 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 work wonders. 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. There are several scenes of Daru doing exactly this for Miyu, and they made me cry pretty intensely.
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, I've gotten to the point in my life where Makoto Shinkai's romance feels paper-thin to me, but he and his staff's "girl-and-her-kitty" stories still do it for me. 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 seen.
Once in a while Daru's monologues can fall flat, but I really liked this show overall: the bittersweet simplicity works really well. Although...if you hate cats then you probably shouldn't bother. ^^; — Nicoletta Christina Browne
Recommended Audience: Nothing objectionable.
Version(s) Viewed: Stream courtesy of 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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