Junji Ito’s Cat Diary is unique within the world of horror manga, at least as far as I know. It is the story about the manga’s artist himself, his family and their adorable cats Yon and Mu.
Put simply, this manga is an autobiographical piece about Ito himself who, alongside his wife, get two pet cats - Yon and Mu. We follow the happy couple through their adventures with these beautiful felines.
A lot of what happens is pretty standard for regular cat owners. They take care and feed the cats on a daily basis; They play with them using cat wand toys; There are even moments when the cats are just playing around with each other, as cats do.
Although this follows a pretty grounded narrative with no source of horror in the traditional sense, Ito manages to filter his experiences through his very unique lense - capturing something both entertaining and, at times, unnerving.
Nothing in Junji Ito’s Cat Diary is very much out of the ordinary. However, what Junji Ito has managed to create, is an unsettling view that is created from the exaggeration of his own perspective. Allow me to explain what I mean.
When people see pets that they find cute, they tend to give them a cuddle or stroke them and speak in an almost baby-talk manner. What you’ll notice in the panel above, is how he’s managed to create something visually jarring that injects the otherwise-innocent scene with a shot of Itoesque horror.
Not only are there plenty of scary moments like this, but there are also some almost-disturbing moments littered throughout too. Again from seemingly-innocent interactions between an owner and their cats. Take this next example where Ito’s wife, A-ko, discovers that the cat enjoys suckling on her little finger. Pretty innocent right? Well look at what he managed to turn it into, when he tries to get Yon to suckle on his finger too.
One of the most peculiar aspects in this manga, is how he decided to depict his wife. Ito has drawn her otherwise-normally, if not for her eyes. He has given her empty, white, dead-like eyes. I’m not sure why he chose to draw her in this way, but I think it must stem from his dark sense of humour. Interestingly, he mentioned his Wife’s reaction to this in one of the book’s interview questions to him. He simply said “She got mad at me.”.
For all of it’s added horror and creepiness, Junji Ito’s Cat Diary has a lot of heart to it. It is obvious from this story that he and his wife have a great affection for them both. In the U.K. release of the book at least, there is an added chapter at the very end, along with an accompanying letter written by his wife. This put the heart behind the whole story into focus for me. I’m not ashamed to admit that I almost teared up in the closing remarks of the book.
This is a special story, not only for fans of Junji Ito, but also for anyone who knows what it means to be a loving pet-owner.