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Cartoon Friday Watercooler: Cat Soup


It’s Cartoon Friday, again!

A tiny kitten in a much larger blue plastic mixing bowl

“Don’t get any bright ideas, buster!”

Cat Soup is a short animated film from Japan directed by Tatsuo Sat?, a director better known for his work on the series Martian Successor Nadesico. It’s inspired by the work of Japanese comics artist Nekojiru, whose name is made up of the Japanese words for ‘cat’ and ‘soup.’ Nekojiru drew most of her main characters — and often herself, too — as cats. Reportedly, this anime is more inspired by her work than based on any one particular comic.

This is the official synopsis of this film offered by its American distributors:

When little kitten Nyaako’s soul is stolen by Death, she and her brother Nyaata embark on a bizarre journey to get it back. In the surreal dreamscape of the Other Side, they encounter many fantastic characters and remarkable, often disturbing adventures.

You won’t find subtitled dialogue in Cat Soup because, much like our recent selection Aeon FluxCat Soup unfolds mostly without words. As the pair of cats wander from one bizarre experience to the next, the viewer is left largely on their own.

What does it all mean? Maybe nothing. Writing for animefringe, Patrick King shares some thoughts from the DVD commentary:

Scene after scene, image after image, you might find yourself pondering the meaning of what you just saw. When an old man – apparently representing God – hacks apart a woman in a circus tent and then magically reassembles her in midair, it’s not hard to guess that every little detail was added to convey some message, or some point. Why is God a circus performer, anyway?

The neat thing is, most of the images of the story were not purposely designed with a point in mind. In the commentary, I was expecting to hear explanations concerning some of the more unusual scenes. Mr. Sato did often say, ‘This is a scene that a lot of people ask me about.’ Yet, instead of explaining it, he’d admit that he really didn’t have anything in mind when putting certain images in. With Cat Soup, we’re not expected to find some obscure hidden meaning. Search all you want — the writers didn’t put it there. Rather, it’s our job to come up with our own meaning, our own message, if we want to make some sense of this.

[…] Each twisted character can represent something different to each person that watches this short film. When asked why the filmmakers kept Cat Soup at only about a half-hour, Mr. Sato’s answer is easy to agree with. If it were any longer, the person watching it might go insane.

THEM Anime Reviews commented on the dreamlike qualities of the film:

What it is truly about is communicating a dreamlike state … and that, it does quite well.

As I said, a fairly simple plot – and that’s good, since there is next to no dialogue, and the few sentences that are said are communicated through word bubbles, contributing to the dreamlike feel. Where the true value of this anime comes in is in its animation. The surroundings and creatures that the two kittens meet on their journey are beautifully portrayed. The dialogue that does exist is barely needed: everything that you need to know is communicated by the graphics.

[…] All in all, Cat Soup seems to have been more designed as an experiment in animation more than a form of mass entertainment. Its combination of surreal settings and vivid graphics make for an interesting experience. In the end, it owes more of its lineage to dreams than to anime.

Though short, this is an interesting little surreal ride for anybody looking for vivid graphics or wanting to have their mind played with for half an hour. — Jed Stevens

Grab a glass of wine (or your inebriant of choice) and end your week with a weird feline journey to the Other Side.

Seen any good cartoons lately? What are you watching on TV these days?

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Photo by Eirik Newth released under a Creative Commons license.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and