In his 2006 book, Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture is Making Us Smarter, writer Steven Johnson asserts that the act of watching television has shifted from simple passive escapism to an undertaking that is more involving. As such, the medium now requires a bit more cognitive effort from its viewers. For support, the author points to the abandonment of the ‘flashing arrow’- a metaphorical cue used in media to either foreshadow or draw attention to an event. Some might argue that anime has followed a similar trajectory- with an upsurge in plot complexity and character depth being customary in contemporary works.
Undoubtedly, The Everyday Tales of a Cat God (released in Japan as Nekogami Yaoyorozu) recalls a largely bygone era in anime, providing frothy plotlines sprinkled with bits of whimsical humor. NIS America’s recently released twelve episode compilation demonstrates plenty of ‘flashing arrows’. Beyond the typical anime iconography of sweat drops, cruciform popping veins, and chibi transformations, other signifiers abound, making Cat God a very easy series to digest. That said, contemporary devices do keep the anime from feeling too dated. From the protagonist popping up in the corner of the screen to explain proceedings to an episode where a manga artist assigns tasks based on the appearance of each character- the breaking of the fourth wall is quite common.
In keeping with the anime’s modest narrative ambitions, Cat God doesn’t dwell on character development. The first installment provides a skeletal backstory for lead Mayu- as the feline deity is caught in a gambling den by her mother. As punishment for her actions, the twin-tailed protagonist is exiled from Takamagahara, stripped of most of her powers, and subsequently sent to earth. Here, Mayu befriends Yuzu- a human owner of an antiques shop. A significant amount of the humor in the series stems from the protagonist’s cat-like qualities. Mayu is lazy, alternatively devious and devoted, as well as fanatical about video games. Most episodes revolve around these attributes being a catalyst for a dilemma, with Mayu’s genial side trying to make things right. The series’ best element is when Yuzu receives a poignant backstory; it’s a shame that this method isn’t offered for more of Cat God’s numerous side characters. As such, the anime is enjoyable romp, but does little to generate any kind of enduring impact.
NIS America’s series anthology includes the dozen episodes of the series, OVA episode “Cherry Blossom Viewing Ghost Busters”, seven installments of “Cyber Wanderers”, along with clean opening and closing sequences. Set after the twelfth episode of the series, “Cherry Blossom” offers a pleasant coda for the compilation, while the “Cyber Wanderers” shorts delve more into Mayu adoration for video games, placing the character inside a number of familiar-looking amusements. Although the animation for the latter is rather stilted, the assembly of ancillaries is a pleasing gesture.
Forsaking the customary dual-media release, The Everyday Tales of a Cat God is published on two Blu-ray disks. Although the 1080p, 1.78:1 anamorphic output reveals no artifacts or other visual blemishes, image quality is a bit on the soft side, while animation can be a bit stiff at times. Sonically, the anime is presented in lossless LPCM stereo with dialog, sound effects, and music offers commendable fidelity. Following NISA’s characteristic translation style, Cat God’s subtitles capture the mischievous nuances of the source material, but forgo some of the cultural clarifications found in other localization efforts. Still, those who favor a minimalistic, faithful translation should appreciate NIS’s technique.
Housed inside the oversized, artwork-adorned collector’s box buyers will also find “The Everyday Tales of Antiques Unlimited”, a supplementary hardcover book. Within, purchasers will find episode synopses, portraits, and concept art. Cleverly, each character introduces their own section, offering a handwritten note to viewers. Both cute and well-written, it’s an idea that I wouldn’t mind seeing used in future releases.
Although The Everyday Tales of a Cat God doesn’t instigate the uproarious laughs that a series like Ghastly Prince Enma Burning Up produced, the anime is persistently amusing. For those who enjoy watching the screwball antics and interactions of a quirky ensemble of characters, I’d encourage watching at least two episodes before committing on the fifty-two dollar premium edition. Although NISA has accomplished another laudable localization, the source material is merely satisfactory.