The Great TOH Junji Ito Read-Off: Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu
Why did my fiancée have to bring cats into this beautiful new house? She knows I’m a dog person. And why does this strange-faced cat stare at me all day?
I’m pretty sure Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu was written in that interim period before he had released Fragments of Horror. It’s not the least bit frightening, being quite literally a diary in the form of a comic where he lampoons himself as a horror writer and artist.
All of Ito’s usual flair for the dramatic when it comes to gut-wrenching splash pages and the exaggeration of various neuroses and behaviors are on full display, but rather than blazing forward to terror-filled discomfort, Yon & Mu twists all these Ito tropes around to relatable and hilarious results.
First, a little music to set the mood:
I dunno what it is with horror writers and looking like massive nerds
Yon & Mu has Ito documenting a transitory period in his life—he’s moved into a newly-built home, he’s engaged, and, despite all his ranting and raving to the contrary, he is now the owner of two cats.
note that manga is read from right to left
With all this change comes conflict. He puts up plastic sheeting along the walls so the cats don’t scratch up the new wallpaper, there’s a huge cat tree he built to put in the house, and the biggest part is that it’s not just Junji living on his own anymore. With these new changes comes the slow realization that his fiancée is going to have her own wants and needs, which will need to be respected and considered as much as his own.
The first bit of the book has Ito dealing with these new events, and ends with him learning that cats tend to be the kind of pet who will only do their own thing, in this case tending to be most affectionate toward his fiancée. Throughout the book other parts of engaged/married and cat owning life are explored, always through the self-lampooning lens of the horror mangaka. There’s Yon escaping and eventually being brought back, there’s Mu getting turds trapped in his long fur, Ito figuring out how to work when the cats seem to always want to sleep on the floor near his rolling chair, and plenty of other little bits of daily life that will seem immediately familiar to any pet owner.
Yon & Mu is a charming little book, running only around 100 pages but if you’ve been intrigued by Ito’s work at all, it also offers a great little glimpse into what his daily life is like.
While I was writing this, my old cat Misty finally gave in to kidney disease and went into kidney failure. I think this is as good a place as any to give her a little sendoff. You were a sweet little pain in the ass and I hope your 17 years with us were good ones. Goodbye, Misty.
Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu is available through Kodansha Comics
Banner image by Anton Oxenuk.