Junji Ito, acclaimed horror manga-ka and creator of the popular Uzumaki series, always considered himself to be a dog person. Combining elements of horror and humor, Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu is a graphic memoir that explores how J-kun’s life changed forever when his wife-to-be, A-ko, brought not one, but two cats into their brand-new house.
The first cat to enter their pristine home is Yon, one of A-ko’s childhood cats, so named because he is the fourth family cat (yon means four in Japanese). J-kun has always thought that Yon has a cursed face, and he freaks out when he realizes that the three black spots on Yon’s white back resemble the face of a skull. Almost every time J-kun looks at Yon, he transforms into something evil, if only for a moment, before turning back into his regular cat self.
A-ko then proceeds to drag J-kun to a cat show where they pick out their second cat, a Norwegian Forest Cat named Mu (the sixth family cat). Mu is adorable and J-kun can’t help but fall in love with his adorable, fluffy face. Mu and Yon, however, are far more interested in snuggling and playing with A-ko than with J-kun. There is a hilarious panel sequence where A-ko is waving around the cat wand quickly and elegantly; when J-kun tries it, he looks ridiculous. He takes no time to make the wand still first, and of course, the cats do not respond. At another point, J-kun tries to bribe the cats to sleep with him instead of A-ko. He puts food on the comforter and they jump over, but as soon as they finish their snack, they are back with A-ko.
The cat anecdotes will appeal to anyone who likes cats. Both humor and horror rely on timing, and in sequential storytelling, it is not just the timing of the dialog that matters, but the art and panel layout as well. It is Junji Ito’s background as a horror storyteller and his history creating gag manga that make this story stand out from the many cat comics out there. When A-ko tells J-kun that they are getting a cat, her face is drawn in almost a demonic way with no pupils and a scary smile. Readers of Uzumaki will notice a similar artistic style for some of the scenes, including heavy shading and cross-hatching. When J-kun decides that he loves Mu, his eyes are shown close up and he gets a crazed look on his face with his mouth wide open as he exclaims that he wants to gobble Mu up. Readers may half-expect him to actually eat Mu, when instead he grabs him and cuddles with him on the floor.
Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu will make a great addition to teen manga collections, and it will appeal to both teens and adults. The volume’s end matter includes two bonus yonkoma—four-panel shorts usually used for gag manga—as well as a mini comic entitled “Yon Went to Heaven” that takes place years later, one month before the 2011 earthquake.
Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu
by Junji Ito
Publisher Age Rating: T