June 7th, 2020

Firechick's Anime Reviews: She and Her Cat Everything Flows


I give this cute, short anime about a girl and her cat...an 89/100!

One of the things that put Makoto Shinkai on the map is a short film he made called She and Her Cat, which is basically about a woman and her cat. A lot of people liked it for its simplicity and could relate to the premise. Years later, the short would be adapted into a much longer manga, and someone else had the idea of expanding on the story in an anime format, called She and Her Cat: Everything Flows. I actually did see this show when it first came out, but during that time, I was hit with severe burnout and couldn't bring myself to watch more than one anime a month. Now that I've finally managed to dig myself out of said burnout, I decided to revisit this one again because Discotek Media announced they licensed it and recently released it on Blu-Ray with an English dub. That was reason enough for me to go back to it, and I'm glad to say that it's a very cute, heartwarming series that deserves more love.

When Miyu was a young girl, her father died, and after moving to a new town, she's lonely and miserable. One day, her mother brings home a cute little black cat she named Daru, hoping he'd be a good friend to her. At first, Miu doesn't like the cat and wants nothing to do with him. But after some trial and error, they eventually become friends, and Daru spends his life with Miu, watching over her, seeing her grow, and spending every day by her side. Years later, both have grown up, and Miyu has moved out of her house to live on her own, though her decision has caused some friction between her and her mother. Now an adult, Miyu finds herself looking for a job, but it hasn't quite gone well so far. But Daru remains by her side, always supporting her and being there for her when she needs comfort.

If you're looking for a short anime to watch, this only has four episodes, all of which are seven minutes long. But it has a relaxing atmosphere and is slow paced, making it perfect for it you want to take a few short minutes to wind down and have a cup of tea. The animation adds to this effect, with realistic character designs, a soft color palette, detailed backgrounds, and minimal movement, but just enough fluidity that the characters' actions, expressions, and gestures say a lot more than words do. The music is very nice as well, with gentle piano tunes that convey the slow monotony of Daru's days in his apartment, whether he's just putzing around the house or laying in his kitty bed, reminiscing about his life. The opening song by Kana Hanazawa (Which is only on the Blu-Ray version, not the TV version) is also very well done and well sung, very much like a lullaby. I'm a bit mixed about the ending song, as I think the vocals are a little too strong for my liking, but that's just nitpicking on my part.

The cast for the show is extremely small, with only four named characters taking center stage, and all of them are pretty nicely fleshed out in the short amount of time they have. The animation also adds to the characterization, conveying the character's personalities, motivations, and worries without relying too much on dialogue or exposition, letting the characters express themselves by their own actions and their interactions with others. The show is mostly told from Daru's point of view, and being a cat, he doesn't quite understand what goes on around him, only seeing Miyu and the changes she undergoes every day, from coming home exhausted after a hard day, or when she's at a low point and needing a good cry. Having grown up with animals myself, I can say for sure that the creators did a great job in depicting Daru as just a regular cat, from the way he moves around to how he gives Miyu comfort even though he doesn't know what's going on or why she's sad. I do think some of his monologues tend to be a little too self-aware for a cat or more like a romantic admirer than...well, an animal. I can see what the anime was trying to do, and his monologues are nice to listen to, but some parts were a little much. But again, I'm probably nitpicking, and Daru himself is a well done character. Plus, it's easy to relate to Miyu and her struggles with both job hunting and her anxiety about becoming more independent, and she, her mother, and friend actually behave and talk like people rather than overexaggerated anime archetypes.

This is a sweet, charming anime about a girl and her kitty that's gentle, heartwarming, and bittersweet at times, but it's the kind of anime I'm sure lots of people can relate to. I know I sure did! I had three cats growing up. Two of them died from old age, the most recent one being two years ago, and the other my family had to give away because she had health problems we weren't able to handle (Something I'm still sad about to this day), but I cherished all three of them throughout my life, and still do. I currently have a dog and she's proven to be just as sweet, loving, and nauseatingly cute as all the other pets I've had throughout my life. The anime does a perfect job of capturing the simple affection pets can offer us, and while the ending may not be to some peoples' personal taste, I personally thought it tied the show up perfectly.

Bottom line, whether you've seen Shinkai's original short or not, this is a cute, sweet show that's sure to give you the warm fuzzies. Also, remember to cherish your pets!

Firechick's Manga Reviews: Monster Tamer Girls

I give this short manga about cute girls befriending giant monsters...a 71/100.

Some anime/manga creators think slapping cute girls in their works will automatically make it popular. That's not entirely true. Cute girls alone can't carry an entire story, and any writer that tried it wound up meeting the business end of failure. That's why the moe genre tends to be universally hated in various places. But in recent years, some works have actually made efforts to put out moe anime/manga that actually do have genuinely good stories and characters. Girls Last Tour made a premise of two blobby girls exploring the end of the world and contemplating the nature of life and their own existence work really well. Non Non Biyori told a series of slice-of-life vignettes about a group of friends living in the countryside, and it got wildly popular to the point where it has a third season confirmed. Laid-Back Camp had a very intense focus on camping and teaching the audience the wonders of the great outdoors, and A Place Further Than The Universe cared much more about characterization and really exploring what an actual trip to Antarctica would actually be like, both of which received high praise. So, yeah, moe alone isn't going to make a story work. As such, others have tried to follow in their footsteps, one of them being a manga I discovered recently, Monster Tamer Girls.

Monster Tamer Girls first got serialized in the magazine Manga Time Kirara, which generally focuses on moe manga and was the origin point for a lot of works such as K-On!, Kiniro Mosaic, Is The Order a Rabbit, Sansha Sanyou, and many others. The story takes place in a modern world where humans have learned to coexist alongside large monsters, which can apparently be tamed when a young girl sings to one. A young girl, Ion Hidaka, was chosen by her school to help take care of a large, Godzilla-like monster alongside her friend Sora, even though she's scared of monsters. But she is genuinely curious about Tamers, as when she was younger, an older girl saved her from a rampaging monster by singing to it. While not the ideal situation, Ion does the best she can in her new situation, and hopes to maybe find the girl who helped her out...who may be closer than she thinks.

As much as I want to like this manga more than I do, there's a lot holding it back, one of which is its worldbuilding. It's established that monsters originally threatened humanity, but SOMEHOW, voices of young girls are able to subdue them and make them tame by way of singing, so young girls are trained to tame monsters. This raises so many questions that really don't get answered: How the hell would this even work? Do monsters just respond better to women in general? Do young girls have a special set of vocal chords that have properties that can resonate with the monster? (Say what you will about Symphogear, which I hate as a show, but it at least went to the trouble to establish an actual explanation for why singing helps to fight against and defeat the monsters of the week!) Why do only young middle school girls have to be tamers? The latter especially doesn't have much of an answer, though I can only presume this is so the mangaka can have some kind of excuse to shove cute girls into the plot, completely unaware of all the plot holes and questions they raised with the premise alone. I mean, don't get me wrong, the premise is interesting to me, seeing as I'm a fan of shows such as Pokemon, Digimon, and any kind of show that features kids befriending monsters, and some parts of the show's setting are very intriguing and well set up. But often times it feels like the author just shoved cute girls into this setting instead of trying to work towards making it work and flesh out other parts of the story and setting.

For the art, it's about as typical moe as one can get. The girls all look cute and adorable, even the adults, though the men look relatively realistic. But for the girls, it kind of suffers from everybody looking the same, to the point where if you swapped their hair and eye colors around, you wouldn't be able to tell the characters apart, which is something that, unfortunately, many moe manga are notorious for. Furthermore, the manga uses a lot of very thin lines and gray color schemes, without a whole lot of prominent whites or blacks, which makes everything feel rather muted, reinforcing just how indistinguishable the girls are if you switched their hair and eyes around. Even the background art is very simple, with thin pencil lines and gray shadows, There's not much about the art that really pops, other than the monster designs, which are much more detailed and distinct, but not overpoweringly so.

Adding onto the characters, the girls do have one or two basic traits, so they're not exactly the most well-rounded or fleshed out. Ion's the shy, scared girl who learns to like monsters and has a special gift because the protag absolutely HAS to have one, Sora is a tomboyish girl who loves to eat, Kotomi is the snarker who likes getting on her friend's nerves, so on and so forth. They're not bad or anything, but they don't really stand out, so they're rather bland. I liked them all okay, but personally, I feel the Committee Chair girl, Tsukiko, is the most interesting and the best character. She starts off as a serious, stoic girl who oversees Sora and Ion's activities and isn't kind of indifferent to monsters, but actually really, really likes monsters to the point where she wishes she could be a Tamer and goes googly squeally over them. Plus, she and her friend Kotomi bounce off each other pretty well and have good chemistry.

The manga is only two volumes long, so it's a fairly short read. I kind of wish there were more volumes, because not only are there still a lot of unanswered questions about the story and the world these girls live in, I actually do want to read more of this story and learn more. But we only get a small portion of what feels like a much bigger story, and there was one subplot that seemed like needless filler to me. A few chapters involve Ion meeting this little girl named Nonoka, who it turns out is an astral projection only she can see. The real Nonoka is in a coma because of some really rare disease with no name, and there's no explanation for why she's a spirit and why only Ion can see her. Later, she wakes up from her coma and nothing about her storyline is ever given any resolution or explanation whatsoever. What was even the point of this, and what purpose did it serve? To me, this subplot added nothing to the story, and the author could have used these chapters to further flesh out the already present cast of characters and the world they live in.

I feel kind of bad for dunking on this manga, because for what it has to offer, I actually did like it. It's nothing special or noteworthy, but it's a cute little time killer for if you want to read something short, sweet, and harmless.