cover image I Am a Cat: The Manga Edition

I Am a Cat: The Manga Edition

Sōseki Natsume and Chiroru Kobato, trans. from the Japanese by Zack Davisson. Tuttle, $14.99 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-4-8053-1657-3

Mangaka Chiroru makes his American debut in this adaptation of Sōseki’s classic novel from Meiji-period Japan. Narrated by a nameless cat living in the home of a middle-class teacher, Kushami, the plot centers on Kushami’s relationship with his rich, manipulative neighbors the Kanedas, particularly the courtship between one of Kushami’s students and the Kanedas’ shallow daughter Tomiko. Though shot-through with sly, absurd comedy, the set pieces are primarily vehicles for Sōseki’s thesis that humanity is incapable of self-understanding. After Kushami spends an evening contemplating the madness that seems baked into “civilization,” the cat remarks “by tomorrow morning, he will have forgotten everything.” Unfortunately, many of Sōseki’s most biting observations (and arguably best lines from the cat) are cut from Chiroru’s heavily abridged rendering, which features the human characters over the feline commentary. While no substitute for the original, Chiroru’s adorable cats and lively character designs make this an excellent companion volume, or introduction to those unfamiliar with Japan’s satirical classic. (Sept.)