Fukumaru – the exotic shorthair cat who’s the apple of retired pianist Fuyuki Kanda’s eye – is feeling more than a little bemused. His house is full of kittens (five, rescued and adopted by Mr. Kanda’s concert pianist friend Geoffroy) and humans, including two young people who remind him of his ‘Daddy’: Mr. Kanda’s daughter, insect-obsessed Sorako, and Hoshinari, Mr. Kanda’s rebellious son who seems to have something of an aversion to cats. But… kittens… everyone loves kittens and in all the kerfuffle of looking after them (while the humans bicker about human concerns) Fukumaru feels overlooked, even ignored.
But there’s worse in store… a visit to the vet’s! Although, a chance encounter in the waiting room with an elderly man and his dog Mugiro calms the terrified cat. The man confides that he has a cat who is also a ‘crybaby kitty’ and so he and his dog are no strangers to this kind of cat behaviour. (It’s a little difficult to tell but I wonder if we’re meant to recognize him as another of Fukumaru’s kitten siblings, like Marin, as he appears with the two of them on the final colour page.)
As if Mr. Kanda didn’t have enough to do, he’s soon off to help out at the local cat café (with assistance from his friends, even a rather bemused Hibino, just home from a concert tour). But working there leads to an unexpected encounter with a young aspiring pianist, Teruaki Kuju. Teruaki – something of a child prodigy when very young – has had a difficult time trying to make his name in the music profession, coming from a family where his aspirational parents have worked hard to find the money to fund his training. He’s also a contemporary of Hoshinari (another troubled young musician who’s still trying to find his own distinct identity apart from his father) but he’s always longed to study with Mr. Kanda. The trouble is he’s carrying considerable guilt around about the way he behaved to Hoshinari when they were children – and he’s currently struggling to make ends meet by working in a bar so that he can go abroad to study.
Another very readable volume in this likable, good-natured manga by Umi Sakuri, translated as usual by Taylor Engel who makes light work of rendering all the cat mewsings in English, comes from Square Enix Manga with the next volume (#10) due in February 2024 because we’ve almost caught up with Japan (11 volumes at the time of writing). And Lys Blakeslee’s varied choices for the lettering really helps to bring the different characters (including the pets) to life.
Teruaki and his complicated feelings toward his father, combined with Hoshinari Kanda’s equally complicated feelings toward his father lead to some interesting and thought-provoking observations about the education of musically gifted children. (Geoffroy Lambert is another with famous musical father issues). However, there’s also more about Hibino and the influence of his extravagant, globe-trotting mother (the one who left Marin with him). Apart from the hi-jinks with Fukumaru and the kittens, this is a volume about parents and the influence they wield over their children, for good or for ill.
This volume has more pages than usual, as well as four colour pages at the beginning and two at the end, mostly featuring the chibi versions of the characters which feature in Man and Cat Puzzle the smartphone game (so, not just a live-action drama series as a spin-off!)
Read a free preview at the publisher’s website here.
Our review copy from Square Enix Manga was supplied by Turnaround Comics (Turnaround Publisher Services).