Page 45 Review by Stephen
"What even...?" you may be asking.
And after you've read this, you may well be asking yet again.
From the manga master of horror as nasty as it is compelling - the queasy, curdling and claustrophobic UZUMAKI and GYO - we are now presented with a cute, autobiographical cat book.
Or are we? Take a closer look at that cover!
On the right sits Mu, a Norwegian forest cat which I concede is quite cute: long fur, attractive markings, dark, glossy eyes. Awww. But if you don't pick up intimations of stormy seas from the screw-you eyes of Yon to the left, then you are no Doctor Dolittle. Ito's exuberant fiancée we will address later on, but Ito below is hardly looking a picture of relaxed mental health, is he? They do say that pets can be perfect for reducing blood pressure, but Junji's is about to go right through the roof.
He does it to himself, you know, imagining all sorts of nightmares where there are none - which is an occupational hazard of horror, I guess - but he positively invites it all on himself.
Page one, and all is idyllic. Ito has bought himself a brand-new home with "fresh white wallpaper, sparkling clean floors, the pleasant scent of new construction..." and then his beloved fiancée appears. She does nothing worse than ask him the simple question of whether he considers himself a cat person or a dog person, but he manages to work himself up into such a frenzy of second-guessing what he's supposed to stay that by the bottom of page two his eyes are two sore, stressed out balls of burst blood vessels.
Imagine his reaction, then, when this highly strung dog person is presented with not one but two cats. After which he is persuaded by fiancée A-Ko into lining all the nice new walls and wooden banisters with protective plastic sheets. He doesn't like it.
"I DON'T LIKE THIS AT ALL!!"
A sane reaction, to be sure: what could possibly induce you to live in a plastic, padded cell? Insanely, however, he acquiesces.
What follows is one long meltdown of overreaction, competition for affection, hallucination and practical jokes gone awry. You've seldom seen such sweat-soaked foreheads and floods of tears. In addition, Ito's beloved fiancée is presented throughout as a creepily demonic succubus with blank, white eyeballs - no irises or pupils at all. I can see where that's coming from: it's Ito admitting that the stress is all self-induced, figments of his overactive imagination.
All of which work beautifully in Ito's horror stories but here I'm left cold because although the stories start off well enough, they almost immediately meander into the mundane before simply stopping. They commit the cardinal sin of being dull.
Jeffrey Brown manages more meaningful, recognisable and so affecting presentations of feline behaviour on almost every single page of both CAT GETTING OUT OF A BAG AND OTHER OBSERVATIONS and CATS ARE WEIRD AND MORE OBSERVATIONS than this misconceived project does during the entire book.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses. I would be rubbish reviewing the latest biological or technological discoveries in New Scientist; I'm afraid that Ito is equally inept at autobiography which is trickier than you think, requiring a great deal of carefully considered structural discipline and an internal editor to prune the excesses to show off the successes.
No, Junji's forte is horror, at which he is virtually unparalleled in Japanese comics. Although please do try Inio Asano's NIJIGAHARA HOLOGRAPH because brrrrr...