Here’s another book that was suggested by my older daughter, Frankie, and her husband, Alec. They know I’m a fan of Junji Ito (I have a hard time shutting up about Museum of Terror, which is one of my favorite, freaky, Japanese, horror comics,) but I don’t know if I would have bought Yon & Mu if Frankie hadn’t loaned it to me. Junji Ito is most well known for his horror stories, like Tomie and Uzumaki, but THIS book is just about his cats. How interesting could THAT possibly be???
[This is a photograph that I took of the actual book that I read. The image is included for review purposes only!]
Junji Ito – Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu (2009/2015) [Trans. by Stephen Paul]
First off, this book is a very quick read, although it is presented in the “right to left” style that a lot of manga artists prefer when their books are translated for an English-speaking audience. As I’ve mentioned before, reading from right to left seems odd at first, but I got used to it after just a few pages (which I read 15 or more years ago), and it doesn’t bother me at all anymore.
Next, this book isn’t (strictly speaking) a horror story---it’s humor---although in this case the humor comes from a very dark, horrific place in Ito’s head. He is a horror author, and he can make even the most innocent and silly thing SEEM horrific---and making things that aren't horrific SEEM like they are can be VERY funny. (And, at times, it's also kind of gross---if you live with cats, you’ll know the disgusting things that can sometimes be part of a life with felines…)
The premise of the story is that J-Kun, a manga creator, is about to marry A-Ko, and they are planning to move into a house together. However, before the wedding, A-Ko (whose eyes are drawn completely white, without pupils---making her look somewhat demonic) asks J if he is a dog person or a cat person. He says he prefers hamsters, although he thinks to himself that he is actually a dog person---but A-Ko loves cats---and eventually she brings two little, furry darlings into their home. These new arrivals are "Mu" (a long haired “Norwegian something-or-other”) and "Yon"---whose marking make it look like he has a skull on his back… From this point, the story gets a bit weird...
Ito’s mastery of exaggerated facial features and overly-dramatic interpretations of even the most banal occurrence are hilarious. Certain images from this book, taken out of the otherwise humorous context, could easily be from a terrifying horror comic. Here is his depiction of Yon’s first steps out of his cat carrier into J-Kun’s house:
The majority of the story involves Ito coming to terms with living with cats, and eventually vying for their affections. A strange, jealous rivalry develops between J-Kun and A-Ko, as the two compete to see which one the cats love best. Again, between Ito’s drawing style and his characters’ manic reactions, the entire book is hilarious, though (as I said), it can also be kind of yucky at times. There isn’t any foul language or overt sexual content, nor is there too much violence (a bit---because there is always violence when cats are involved.) This book is probably going to be okay for middle-school kiddies and up. (It’s rated “T” for Teen---13+ on the back of the book.) Much of the imagery is nightmarish, of course, even when things are going well---but that’s part of what makes the book so much fun. So----if you’re looking for a quick read that mixes humor and horror and cats, and you don’t mind reading from right to left (it’s pretty dang easy once you get the hang of it), this is definitely going to be the book for you!
Thanks to Frankie and Alec Hanson for letting me read their copy!!!!
---Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Holy Fool)
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