When My Roommate is a Cat, or Doukyonin wa Hiza, Tokidoki, Atama no Ue (what a mouthful) premiered, reactions were clearly split. The first episode by its very nature turned part of the audience away which is kind of a shame given this story ends up being one with a lot of heart and a dramatic climax that feels earned.
My trepidation going into My Roommate is a Cat was the slice of life label on it. I’m not the biggest fan. Couple that with the bright yet bland promotional image of all the happy smiling characters and the jumping cat and basically I thought I was going in to something that was going to bore me to tears before I’d just stop watching and walk away.
However, the thing that was annoying a lot of first episode viewers was actually the thing that caught my attention and dragged me into the story.
And that was Subaru.
My Roommate is a Cat is more than just a cute cat, it is also Subaru.
As a central character I kind of understand why a lot of viewers didn’t like him and even why a few outright hated him. Another anime character with dead parents. Starting with a funeral sequence to garner sympathy for a character we don’t know or have any reason to care for. And then there was his general attitude. He was rude to his editor and really to everyone in the first episode. So yes, I get why a lot of viewers didn’t like him.
I didn’t like him either. But I understood him and felt a bit of a connection. Subaru is socially awkward and anxious. He doesn’t like interacting with others and when forced out of his comfort zone his defences are up. That comes across as rudeness but is really a self-defence.
I actually blamed the editor in the first episode more than Subaru. When he should know his writer well enough to know that meeting him in a public place was just going to set him on edge. For me the sequence established Subaru’s character beautifully and the underlying issue he was going to need to face and so while I agree that Subaru wasn’t a nice character, I was intrigued from episode one.
Then there was the cat.
While Subaru may have been the repellent for a lot of potential viewers, the as yet unnamed stray cat was the lure. Adorable and standing in for every cat everywhere in mannerisms, the eventually named Haru stole the show.
Interestingly enough, when Haru was rude or cagey or defensive people found it adorable and yet Haru and Subaru are literally two of a kind. That’s why the two form such a strong bond as they both grow over the course of the series.
However, most slice of life anime know these days that you do in fact need some kind of gimmick to keep people watching and clearly My Roommate is a Cat isn’t relying on the cute girl factor, although Nana is kind of cute. No, the gimmick in My Roommate is a Cat is that each episode tells the events twice. Once from the human point of view and then from the view of the cat. Mostly the cat view is a brief few minutes at the end of the episode but some episodes give more time to Haru’s perspective particularly toward the end of the season.
Yes, Haru isn’t just a plot device to inspire Subaru’s character growth. Haru is a fully fledged character in her own right going through her own healing character arc alongside Subaru. While I’ll admit that some of the cat sections added little in some episodes, they were always cute, and at times they did offer some interesting insight and certainly allowed Haru the growth she deserved within the story.
There’s little more to say about the plot given each episode is just another day for the man and the cat who are now sharing a house. Various events occur, the characters react, learn something and we move on. It is slice of life and it does that well providing some very calm and occasionally amusing viewing.
What sets this one apart from so many slice of life anime though is that it did offer a climax that I felt was emotionally rewarding. I’m not going into detail here, but it brings the story of Subaru and dealing with the loss of his parents as well as moving forward to a satisfying conclusion and really consolidates the relationship that has grown between Subaru and Haru throughout the series. I couldn’t have asked for more from the final couple of episodes and just loved it.
Visually it works well enough. I’m not really into the colour scheme being used and it is all just a little bit bland really, but given the subject matter and tone the visuals work well enough for that. The animation for Haru is perfect and I’m sure if you are a cat lover you will see your own cat in her at various points, but there’s a lot of sitting and talking in this anime and a lot of very still sequences with little movement so while the animation works it isn’t exactly awe inspiring.
However, I do have to mention the OP. Unknown World is an incredibly infectious song and I found myself happily bobbing along to it most weeks and occasionally even replaying it just because it made me smile. I also really enjoyed the imagery used during the opening as it fit the tone of the show perfectly even if it wasn’t the most exciting ever. I definitely recommend giving the OP a listen to even if you have no interest in My Roommate is a Cat.
Still, for cat lovers this is a must watch. For people who enjoy slice of life anime, this one works well enough. If you are looking for a character who is slowly opening himself up to new experiences and working through issues of social awkwardness and anxiety, there’s plenty to enjoy here. While My Roommate is a Cat is a far from perfect anime, it was a delightful intrusion into the season and ended up being one I looked forward to each week.
Images from: My Roommate is a Cat. Dir. K Suzuki. Zero-G. 2019.
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