Velvet-pawed main characters have been booming in the manga series that are newly appearing in this country for some time. Be it the cozy house cat Fukumaru in the cozy series “A Man and his Cat”, the comforting Chobi in the melancholic single volume “She and her Cat” based on a short film by anime hit director Makoto Shinkai or the cheeky cat from the extensive Miezen -Cosmos of “Little Cat Chi”.
Nanao has been living on the streets for some time, but is still considered an inexperienced youngster by the street cats due to his young age. It doesn’t help that he still wears the impractical bell collar his owner once made for him, out of nostalgia.
Luckily he has the proud and more experienced Machi at his side. When the feeding places in the neighborhood become fewer and winter is approaching, the strays are worried. Ironically, at the unfriendly bathhouse owner Yoshino, a new feeding place is created at this time. Nanao is skeptical, but he has more in common with the young woman than he suspects.
In the three-volume manga series, the cats are the first to have their say. Stray Nanao and his companion Machi are inseparable and suspicious of humans. Gin Shirakawa lets her audience explore the neighborhood where the manga series is set in the footsteps of these two homeless fellows.
From the perspective of the four-legged friend, the joy and suffering of the street cats can best be described. But the manga-ka soon switches steadily between the point of view of the animal protagonists, the point of view of some important people in their neighborhood, which is famous for its street cats, and a neutral point of view.
Incidentally, this erratic narrative style is not that rare in Japanese manga. A continuous perspective is used just as often and as a matter of course as this kind of narrative change model. In “A Man and his Cat”, for example, in addition to the tomcat and his master, various other people such as the saleswoman in the pet shop or the dog lover and best friend of the main character have their say.
What sounds a bit exhausting and confusing at first, thanks to the film-like nature of the manga, reads quite fluently and clearly, so that the corresponding person (or cat) can be assigned unequivocally.
In “A Story of Seven Lives” funny, sentimental and tragic moments go paw in paw. Gin Shirakawa sensitively puts down on paper the daily fight for food, the strange behavior of the two-legged friends, the trauma and the constant danger to which street cats are exposed.
She gives her four-legged protagonists individual character traits and sometimes pushes the humanization in the dialogues to the extreme in order to create a strong contrast to the thoughtless to heartless behavior of the people.
The sensitive, quite predictable narrative comes up with touching and thoughtful moments, whereby many thoughts about the street cats are only touched upon, be it to give the reader space for their own ideas or out of fear of invading their personal comfort zone too intensively not to jeopardize the feel-good atmosphere.
The drawings also speak a homely language and, not least thanks to illustrations in watercolor style and detailed backdrops, ensure cosiness. While the human figures come in a classic manga everyday style, Gin Shirakawa has dealt intensively with the animal facial expressions and the smooth movements for the design of the cats. In the appendix, cat lovers will also find information on how the Japanese treat street cats.