Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu (Manga)
Written by Junji Ito
Illustrated by Junji Ito
Published by Kodansha Comics
Suitable for ages 13+
It’s safe to say the world is crazy about cats. These days, no social media account is complete without at least a handful of photos, gifs, or videos of the fuzzy creatures. Even here at Dread Central we’ve got the cat crazies. Co-founder Steve Barton has three fine felines, and I’ve got one myself. Mr. Bojangles, my constant writing companion. His fluffy tabby self sits next to me as I type this, twitching away while he dreams of catching who knows what. Bojangles is but one reason why I have such an affinity to this next manga title I’m reviewing. The other is because of the mind behind it.
Junji Ito is the creator behind such manga as Tomie, Uzumaki, and Gyo. His style is very distinct, and rooted deeply in horror. So it came as a surprise when I learned he had penned a title called, Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu. I guess even hardcore horror artists need to take a break and do something fun and quirky once in awhile.
Cat Diary: Yon & Mu is about a time in Ito’s life when he moved into a new house with his new wife, and was introduced to two new members of his family rather suddenly. His wife (referred to as A-ko in the manga) brings a young cat from her parents’ house to live with her and Ito (or J-kun in the manga). Before that can even happen however, she adopts another small kitten. Suddenly the self-described dog person, J-kun, is forced to live with two cats. It becomes very apparent very quickly that the cats are converting him, and all he wants is to be loved by these felines.
Needless to say, the plot of Cat Diary: Yon & Mu is fairly lighthearted. There is a bonus story, and letter from A-ko at the end of the manga that is a little sad. But it stays true to the rest of the manga, with a silly/cute tone. By now I’m sure everyone is wondering why this manga is being reviewed on Dread Central if it’s all just about cats and cute moments. Well, it’s decidedly not all cute. Junji Ito is a horror manga artist after all, and his style rings clear even in Cat Diary. He has a distinct talent for making even the simplest things look creepy.
There are a few incredibly memorable moments in Cat Diary: Yon & Mu that remind you immediately of who this was created by. But really, it’s the little things throughout that show Ito’s mind at work. The way he illustrates his wife for one, who is visible even on the cover of the manga. Ito draws his wife with eyes that are usually solid white. Sometimes he adds only a tiny dot for a pupil. A-ko’s smile is equally creepy, often swapping between either being a black gaping maw, or a row of eerie teeth similar to the titans in Attack on Titan. He also illustrates himself in a horrific way, with bulging eyes, a mouth held wide open with saliva dripping from his teeth. The cats are similarly eerily, especially Yon. The older cat Yon has a marking on his back that looks like the openings in a skull. Ito takes advantage of this greatly, along with the cat’s sullen eyes. He also refers to himself in the third person a lot as “the horror artist,” making it very clear what the subject of his work usually is.
An example of a particularly memorable moment in Cat Diary is right at the very beginning. In the very first chapter, while simultaneously freaking out over the imminent arrival of Yon, Ito meets Mu. While he initially tries to be complacent about the adorable kitten, Ito quickly succumbs when he sees how content the cat is. He leaps from across the room, eyes wide with reckless abandon, and screams, “G-gimme! Why, you little… I’m going to gobble you up!” His eyes are practically bulging out of their sockets, and his unearthly elongated jaw looks ready to swallow Mu whole. But, as it turns out, Ito simply kisses the cat on the nose and flails around with it on the floor. It’s incredibly simple moments like these, illustrated so dramatically that really make Cat Diary: Yon & Mu.
From face value, Cat Diary seems to have been made for an incredibly niche market. There’s those that love Junji Ito’s horror work that will want to read this. There are those who love cats who will want to read this. And there are those that are both. Whether you’re a die-hard Ito fan, a cat lover, or both, you will absolutely adore this manga. There are the creepy elements that make Ito’s art style great. There are the simple moments that make cat ownership both abhorrent, and fantastic at the same time. For those of you who are neither an Ito fan, or a cat lover, Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu might just make you a convert. But is that really such a bad thing?