By Leah McDonald / February 14th, 2019
Loving someone can have a profound impact on your life, and it’s rarely better expressed than through the unconditional love for a pet.
Mikazuki Subaru and Haru-chan aren’t what I’d call an anime power couple. (They aren’t in a relationship, for one.) But for me, they’re one of the most wholesome and uplifting depictions of the power of love I’ve seen in a long time, and it all comes down to the ways each of them saves the other — both figuratively and literally.
The premise of My Roommate is a Cat (Dōkyonin wa Hiza, Tokidoki, Atama no Ue) is simple enough. A bookworm recluse, novelist Subaru has difficulty connecting with other people, a hangup that’s only exacerbated by the death of his parents. Humans are annoying, flawed, loud and destructive, whereas his books offer an escape he could never find in the real world.
One day while visiting his parents’ grave, Subaru meets Haru-chan, a stray who steals the fish he’s brought with him. On a whim, Subaru brings her home, hoping she’ll be the spark of inspiration he needs for his newest novel.
And she is! His newest novel stars his feline companion, and it’s a smash hit as readers fall in love with Haru. But more than that, caring for another creature helps Subaru find his own humanity, connect with others in his life he’d always kept at a football field’s length, and even find closure with the loss of his mother and father.
I don’t think there’s anyone reading this who hasn’t dealt with loss in some way, and coping with grief can take many different forms. We can compartmentalize it, we can deny it, we can lash out, or we can come to terms with it head on. For me, my cats have always had a calming presence in times of sorrow, an unconditional warmth that isn’t concerned with why I’m sad, but that keeps me company through it. It’s like an anchor.
For Subaru, Haru’s antics force him to confront the things he’s locked away. She brings chaos into a world he’s so meticulously ordered that nothing else is allowed inside. Her very presence requires him to see beyond his inanimate books and deadlines to ensure she’s well cared for, and that in turn requires him to interact with the people he’s so long told himself don’t matter.
For Haru, Subaru offers protection from a world that has been nothing but cruel to her and her siblings. She’s built a wall around herself, determined never to let her guard down or else lose someone else she cares about. She rationalizes staying with Subaru under the guise of protecting him the way she did her younger brothers, only to discover a family she didn’t know could exist.
Going into this show, I expected a fun romp with a guy and his cat and the misadventures that can bring. Cats are, after all, notoriously independent and aloof. What I got instead was an incredibly accurate depiction of the bond between a cat owner and their pet, complete with seeing the world from Haru’s eyes, and how that bond can save someone from emotional despair. Subaru and Haru’s relationship is an uplifting and positive depiction of love and I for one am happily along for the ride.
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