Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu’s story is utterly different than Ito’s other work, yet that’s what makes it unique.
Back in 2009, Ito published a few short stories based on his real-life cats. It wasn’t until 2015 that Kodansha Comics translated and released it in America. Nonetheless, at its core, Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu (hereafter, Yon & Mu) is the polar opposite of Ito’s usual horror. Instead of being a horror story focused on walking fish (GYO) or a manga adaption of a novel (Frankenstein), Yon & Mu focuses on real accounts of his two beloved cats. Ito puts a fun spin on his usual modus operandi by retelling the story of how he and his (at the time) fiancee came to own the two cats.
Ito is well known for his immensely creepy horror Manga, that’s loved for the art and storytelling. Yet, as Yon & Mu revolves more around his real-life cats and him, the storytelling is vastly different. Instead, Ito includes usual struggles new cat owners have while keeping humor involved. The stories range from their first meeting, the cats ruining the house, Ito trying to get the cats affections, and trying to play with them. Each story is short and fun, reminding some cat owners of their own stories. Nevertheless, he does include his famous horror roots, which makes the stories even more interesting.
THE HORROR OF YON & MU
Ito does include horror, although the horror shows more in a visual manner. By taking something as simple as giving a cat raspberries and smoochies, Ito turns it into something terrifying. Yet, one of the best examples happens during an all-nighter before his character’s deadline, after rushing to get work done J-Kun steps out to wash his face. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees a terrifying slug, but it’s just Yon. As the day carries on, each time he sees a cat, they’re horrible creatures. Nonetheless, he is just sleep-deprived.
As overdramatic as those hallucination scenes seem, owners of cats and have probably been in the same situation. Of course, those aren’t the only terror-inducing moments. Ito has always been amazing with drawing horrifying faces, Yon & Mu continues that trend. He includes inhumanly faces that terrify you, yet he does it in humorous ways. To a degree, you may think this is to represent the cat’s perception of us. If you’re a small cat and a human held you screaming “kiss, kiss” you’d find it scary as hell.
Yon & Mu’s English translation is handled by Stephen Paul, with lettering by Evan Hayden. Having not read the original Japanese edition, it’s hard to compare the translations. But, when a translation is terrible you can tell with words and sentences reading awkwardly. Luckily, that doesn’t transpire anywhere. Hayden’s lettering works amazingly as well.
In some cases, lettering in Manga seems off if the bubble is bigger than the words placed in them, leaving a lot of space. Nonetheless, one of the coolest moments is the original Japanese sound effects staying in. In some older Mangas, they are taken out and replaced, yet here they are kept, with a note of what they say.
THE CATS IN THE CRADLE
In the last five years, Ito’s name has become more famous, while being known by many. That, and he has seen more translations of his work over in America. This is nice, as he is a master at his horror craft. That’s what makes Yon & Mu so unique in his Manga creating history. As great as the stories of his cats are, they aren’t horror like his others, only the visuals are. Nonetheless, Yon & Mu is a fantastic story of Ito falling in love with his cats. Now, it would be nice if it was mentioned more when people speak of his skills.