A Man And His Cat (Ojisama To Neko) started its life as a self-published webcomic by Umi Sakurai who first released it on her Twitter and Pixiv accounts. It was quickly picked up and serialized by Square Enix, thus becoming one of the top selling physical comics in Japan during its 2018 debut. Fast forward a little less than two years and the English version has arrived in the US, coming in both paperback and Kindle formats. Meanwhile a live-action TV series adaptation also starts its run on Tokyo TV in January 2021, cementing it as a hot property that will likely be very popular in much of the English speaking world as well in the near future.

Keep reading for our spoiler-free review of the manga below!

This comic is in the slice-of-life genre and is literally about a man and his cat. Fukumaru (the cat) grows up in a pet shop and is constantly passed over by potential owners for being ugly. Of course, his chances of finding a loving home diminish even more as he ages. Then, one day his fortunes change forever when he is purchased by an older gentleman who lives alone and has had no experience in taking care of cats.

The story explores their new shared life together, full of fun, love and bittersweet experiences that many of us take for granted. Those who own cats will not be surprised and already understand the many quirks of living with a cat. As the story unfolds, we gradually find out more about Fukumaru’s new owner, such as why he is alone and what he does for a living. It is told in instalments via plenty of flashbacks and also alternates between man and cat’s perspectives, which does keep the narration fresh.

Overall, it is a simple story, that is at times both poignant and heartwarming. Sakurai deals well with the overarching theme of loneliness and melancholy without being depressing. I couldn’t help reminiscing on the similarities with Pixar’s Up when reading Volume 1. Personally. as a cat owner who has lost a few cats, the first time Fukumaru remembers his mother and then thinks of his new owner really gave me the feels. Fukumaru’s insecurities after his early life in the pet shop are also very touching. The story has a broad enough appeal that it will resonate with non-pet owners as well.

Sakurai’s art is simple with clean lines. While Fukumaru is drawn a little cartoony (like Garfield), his owner is depicted as a tall, handsome older gentleman in standard modern manga style. It’s hard to believe that most people find Fukumaru ugly though, because he looks cute as hell.

The individual chapters are very short as they are essentially imported from the webcomic style. And the translation is decent and formal, which I feel maintains its Japanese flavor. There were certain instances where I feel like there is something extra for Japanese readers that the English translation doesn’t (or can’t) access, such as early on when Fukumaru makes some purring noises, but of course that is expected as no translation can capture every nuance of the original language completely.

A Man And His Cat is considered as falling under the Iyashikei (healing) category, which is a sub-genre of slice-of-life. This is very apt: it is peaceful, meditative and very family friendly, although its themes of loneliness are better suited to adult understanding. It also fills a gap in the market for healing manga in English that also features older protagonists.

We recommend the paperback editions over digital as the way to go, and they make a great gift as well for all cat lovers. It is a 4 volume set and volumes #1-3 are currently available on Amazon for US$ 11.49 each. Volume #4 is also on Amazon for pre-order with a launch set for the 14th of September 2021.

For more info, also head to Square Enix’s official website on the US launch here.

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