Makoto Shinkai’s first short is a brief, elegiac piece about the way a happy young cat views his apparently troubled master. There are three versions of the short – one at five minutes, one at three minutes, and one at 1.2 minutes (a digest version) – all of which contain the same material edited down. The major difference between “3” and “5” is the inclusion of a section about the cat’s girlfriend…who apparently asks him to get married. But no, he loves his master too much.
There isn’t much of a story here. Chobi, the cat, is picked up by She, the unnamed owner, on a rainy day, and he falls in love with her. The narrative is told through the cat’s perspective (though the film is subtitled “Their Standing Points,” the owner never lets us know what she thinks of the cat). The film’s rhythm is interesting. There is very little actual animation, except for a few movements of She. Early on, though, the still images flash by so quickly they look like they’re moving on their own.
The cat’s narration is all about love or nature – how he feels the passage of time. However, the images are almost never of nature. She (we never see her face) and the apartment are most of the cat’s environment, and in his time with Mimi he is out in the world, but on a bench. There isn’t a single image solely of nature. Instead – electrical wires, TV screens. When the cat discusses nature, there is snow or wind blowing through things that man has built.
Which would imply that for the cat, he has no notion of “nature” as a human being might consider it. Wherever the cat is, he is comfortable, because he has love. He was brought home in a cardboard box, and that for him is as much nature as any other environment.
IF a real story can be found in all of this, it is that the cat’s love and comfort have nothing to do with who She really is, but rather how he sees her. His perception is all he needs, and the objective reality (he’s a cat, she’s far less catly) will not stand in the way of his devotion. He smiles when she goes to work, knowing she’ll be back. He smiles when she’s miserable, knowing it isn’t the true her.
Nothing about it makes me see cats any differently. It does not contain revelations – the intent, I think, was the creation of a sustained mood. The artwork (and like I said, there is very little animation) is quite good. There’s the great Cerebus-style juxtaposition between the highly observed, very realistic backgrounds and the blank, typical anime character designs. Weirdly, this makes the caricatures more identifiable. It makes them easier to empathize with.