I’m late to the game on this series, or at least writing about it, but I just finished watching My Roommate is a Cat
(Dōkyonin wa Hiza, Tokidoki, Atama no Ue) for a second time and I was really struck by the show’s message. Now It is a cute, adorable slice of life that I recommend if you are looking for a fun 12 episode series-or if you are a cat owner.
This is definitely a story told by someone who has lived with cats and all their crazy vagaries. Each episode is divided into two parts with the first half presented from the human protagonists, Mikazuki Subaru, point of view, and the second half of each episode is told from the point of view of the cat, Haru. This alternate point of view method of story-telling is one I personally find very enjoyable and it lets you see the world from both character’s perspectives of course. It also really highlights the bonds that develop among all the characters in the series and how the plot and story really revolve around Haru.
If this was all that there was to the story this would be a cute but overall, unremarkable, series. Several summaries I have seen remark on how Haru teaches Subaru the meaning of love. What I was struck by was the social commentary in this anime (It is also present in the manga if you are curious). As you are probably aware, Japan is having continued problems with social isolation, as well as a cultural glorification of work to your personal detriment at times. I may have been more aware because we spent part of the time that I was viewing this in Japan (humble brag :-P). These are incredibly well represented in the book with diverse implications. The human protagonist, Subaru, is almost a caricature of the socially isolated Japanese person.
He refuses to travel and appears to shun others, has few social contacts since his parents passed away, and as an author, works at home with limited interaction. At times he is presented as borderline agoraphobic. What’s interesting is that once he adopts Haru his social circle expands. Through this new interest, he meets people at the pet store he frequents, socializes more and becomes friends with his editor, creates ties with his neighbor, and becomes close with his best friend’s family all because of little Haru. So, while this is heartwarming and clearly speaks to the idea of social isolation, why does it matter according to the show?
Because he does his job better and becomes a better son! Before he meets Haru he regularly works himself into exhaustion and has zero interactions with his fans.
As he slowly increases his social contacts through Haru and realizes their importance he develops into a professional that realizes the importance of interacting with his fans. He is able to go to a meet and greet fan event for the first time. He also finds the courage to spend a night away from home for research purposes. Likewise, he stops regularly working himself into exhaustion and forgetting to eat for long periods of time. Early in the story, this leads to some negative side effects As I mentioned earlier, Subaru’s parents have passed away and he is coming to terms with their deaths. In fact, he meets Haru at his family’s gravesite. Subaru’s parents pushed him to travel and be more social, and with their loss, he has also lost the largest social influence in his life. As he explores the world through Haru’s eyes and increases contact with his and his parents’ long-time neighbor, he comes to realize how much his parents care for him, and also accepted him. This drives him to understand them better and more completely honor their memory.
There is, of course, a dramatic finale that brings all of these things together. In the finally, Subaru realizes that because of Haru his life has become even richer. That the additional people in his life have helped him to become a better person and have led to increased success and will continue to do so. Clearly a moral to this anime is that having social connects and a strong network outside of family members is part of a foundation for self-improvement. According to the story, while you can have strengths as an individual connecting to others only enhances them. This anime was particularly poignant to me because 1) CATS, 2) there are a variety of themes not fully explored here, such as overcoming loss, 3)it provided not just the negative ramifications of Subaru’s isolation, but also warm encouragement to reach out to others.
Okay, even soapboxing for now. Go watch My Roommate is a Cat subbed on Crunchyroll or dubbed on Funimation if any of this interest you. 🙂