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Manga / Cat Street

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There's a school called El Liston. It's different than other institutions, since it's a free school: where students in special circumstances (due to their characteristics or their family circumstances) make friends and follow their dreams. Students are free to come and go, just like stray cats.

Keito Aoyama, a former child actress who's lived as a recluse since she blacked out during the performance of a musical, is offered by a mysterious man to attend this school. Although reluctant at first, she joins El Liston and starts making friends, knowing love and progressing in her path towards discovering her purpose in life.

Cat Street is a shoujo manga by Yoko Kamio (of Boys over Flowers fame), serialized in Betsuma Margaret from 2004 to 2007 and compiled in eight volumes. It sets apart from other works in the genre by following Keito and her friends' personal growth rather than romance (although love is present in their lives as well).

It was adapted into a 6 episode drama by NHK in 2008, and licensed in several countries like France and Spain.

Tropes in this manga include:

  • Abusive Parents: Keito's parents are arguably this: Keito's mother seemed very pushy back when Keito was still an actress while her father is pretty much a non-entity, and they apparently haven't sought out professional help for their daughter after her breakdown.
  • The Ace: Rei is one, despite having become kind of a Broken Ace since he joined El Liston: he's a handsome, skilled soccer player who also has a hand with girls.
  • Affectionate Parody: Sunny, the main character from the musical Keito was going to star on her childhood, seems to be inspired by Annie which casts two girls in the titular role.
  • All-Loving Hero: Keito, no matter what the world may throw at her.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: El Liston is a school designed for kids that are treated like this by their families and classmates.
  • Always Someone Better: Nako feels this way about Keito: despite the first remaining succesful for years after Keito's breakdown, she still survives thanks to her advice, and not because of her own talent.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: According to the principal, El Liston means "walking path" in French. However, El Liston isn't French but Spanish, where it means "long and slim piece of wood" and not "walking path".
  • Axe-Crazy: Natsumi certainly seems to have a few screws loose what with her hate-the-world attitude and violent tendencies.
  • Better as Friends: Keito and Rei date for a very short while before ultimately deciding to go back to being friends.
  • Book Dumb: Keito isn't dumb at all, but due to not even finishing grade school she has trouble with some stuff, like reading difficult kanji.
  • But Now I Must Go: Rei leaves for Brazil in volume 5. He still turns up a few other times during the rest of the manga, though.
  • Can't Take Criticism: Few gossip rags apparently have nice things to say about Nako's talent as an actress, which she takes especially hard. The worst part? She somehow thinks that it's Keito's fault.
  • The Casanova: Rei hangs out with lots of girls.
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: Keito used to have fun acting, but this came at the cost of a normal, healthy childhood experience. When she takes it up again as a teenager, other people start treating her less like a person and more like a cool thing to take pictures next to (which her friends call them out for). Complete strangers believe that they have Keito all figured out, and make unjust assumptions on her character, one example of this being Kouichi's assistant: Jealous of Kouichi and Keito's relationship, she assumed that as a pretty young actress Keito had nothing more to offer than her looks, thus Kouichi's attraction to her could only be shallow. Lastly, in a different way, some people have a preconcieved idea of the person Keito is and take it as a personal attack when she fails to meet these standards, like Natsumi.
  • Coming of Age Story: Essentially, the manga is about Keito becoming mature and realizing what she wants to do with her life.
  • Cool Big Sis: Midori. Also Momiji for her younger brothers.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: One of the reasons students join El Liston.
  • Dude Magnet: Keito.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Everyone in the main cast, no matter what hardships they may have faced, earns happiness by the time they're young adults. Keito becomes a successful actress and is happily engaged to Kouichi, who is now both chairman of an important computer brand and principal of the rebuilt El Liston. Momiji's designs get noticed by a famous brand and the extra gives her a potential love interest. Rei, although rejected by Keito, achieves success as a soccer player, and seems to have gone back to his old suave ways.
  • Easily Forgiven: Keito goes through, to say the least, a lot. After Nako betrayed her as a child, Keito never seemed to hold it against her (if anything, she tried to think of Nako as little as possible); when Nako reaches out to her years later only to try and ruin her life all over again, Keito merely shrugs it off and wishes her the best. Natsumi goes a step further by stalking her old idol and going as far as to physically assault and kidnap her, and again Keito does not resent her for it: she calmly tells Natsumi to get over herself and stop blaming the world for her problems. Later, she gives Natsumi a haircut and wishes her every happiness.
  • Elegant Gothic Lolita: Momiji, although she switches between sweet and gothic lolita.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: The three year Time Skip is made more apparent by Keito shortening her hair and Nako growing hers out.
  • Flower Motifs: "Keito" means "cockscomb" in Japanese, and this flower symbolizes undying love. Kouichi gives Keito a bucket of these before she performs in the musical.
  • Flirty Stepsiblings: A mild and one-sided example with Kouichi, who had a crush on his older step sister Midori when he was younger but never acted on it.
  • Friendly Rivalry: Keito and Nako at the end of the series.
  • Heroic BSoD: Keito had one as a child after Nako betrays her during the musical performance.
  • Hikikomori: Keito barely left her room for seven years.
  • Important Haircut: Keito cuts her hair in chapter 23 as a way of moving on and focusing on her new career as an actress. She gives Natsumi another one in further volumes, implying it has the same meaning as when she did it herself.
  • Incompatible Orientation: Much to Momiji's disappointment, Maasa turns her down because he's actually gay.
  • Jerkass: Good god, where to even start with Nako. Let's see: she pretended to be friends with a girl she was deeply jealous of, which led to that girl being publically humiliated, disappearing from the public eye and having no social life for the next seven years. Nako goes on to become a famous young actress in her own right, but when it seems like she's getting blasted by the press and the film critics for a supposed lack of acting talent, she somehow decides that the only solution is to track down the girl whose life she destroyed when they were children and take it out on her by thrusting her back into the spotlight and ruining her relationship with her friends. Thankfully, this is only temporary, and she and Keito develop a Friendly Rivalry.
  • Loony Fan: For the very little information we have concerning Natsumi's backstory, we are very clearly made to understand that she's not all there. Natsumi had been a big fan of Keito's when they were younger, and as an embittered and resentful young adult she seems to have thought of Keito as a kindred spirit after she was deemed a "failure" for freezing up on stage and disappearing for the next seven years. Seeing Keito actually take steps to fix her own life is something that Natsumi takes as some kind of betrayal, to the point where she actually kidnaps Keito with the intention of making her miss an important audition, which would then get her fired. The worst part? Natsumi did all of this while impersonating Yui, an old classmate of Keito's who had died years before.
  • Meaningful Name: Taiyou means "sun", and he's a bright, cheerful boy. Keito quickly notices this when they reunite.
  • Nice Guy: Both Taiyou and Hirano are kind with everyone.
  • No Social Skills: Keito's contact with other people has been limited since she was a kid, both by her short lived career as a child actor and her ensuing years in isolation.
  • Parental Neglect: Keito's parents are guilty of this. They seem to have simply given up on Keito in the wake of her on-stage breakdown, and poor Chika is little more than an afterthought.
  • The Pollyanna: Subverted: Keito has to learn to become this, after losing her faith in both life and herself.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Keito gives Natsumi a rather powerful one once she realizes what the whole kidnapping thing was really about from the start. It's made all the more awesome by the fact that Keito remains completely calm, even when Natsumi furiously knocks her face in moments later.
    Keito: "Because I stood back up"? You'd become a criminal for something like that? I used to be like you... listlessly going through each and every day, blaming the world for my problems. Quit whining. Go do something of your own instead of resorting to such stupid things.
  • Redemption Demotion: Maasa appears significantly less after his ploy with Nako is discovered and resolved. Justified since he got a full-time job and had less to time to spend hanging out at school.
  • The Resenter: Keito's little sister Chika was only a toddler when Keito started acting, and had to deal with the fallout of her sister's breakdown alone during the seven years Keito spent in seclusion. As a tween, Chika never has anything nice to say to or about her sister, and blames her for being all their mother ever seemed to care about.
  • The Rival: Nako one-sidedly perceived Keito this way for years, but as teenagers working in the film industry they play it straight.
  • Romantic False Lead: Keito develops a crush on Taiyou, her childhood classmate... whose arc gets finished pretty quickly once she finds out he has a girlfriend.
  • Skilled, but Naive: Keito: a talented actress that in many aspects has the mindset of a 9-year-old.
  • Stage Mom: Mrs Aoyama was this to Keito when she was younger, pushing her into acting and strongly discouraging her friendship with the "amateur" Nako, even attempting to impress some kind of "winners vs losers" mentality on her daughter, who was far too young to understand. In the present she's a lot more subdued, and doesn't have a clue what is going on in either of her daughters' lives.
  • Teen Genius: Kouichi is said to have an IQ of 200, and has been in El Liston since middle school.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Momiji's old classmates. Also Chika's so-called "friends".
  • Time Skip: In volume 6, the story moves 3 years forward, with Keito now being 19 years old.
  • Title Drop: Nako mentions at one point that a "cat street" is the name given to cat statues commonly found on rooftops in Brittany. Keito buys four of these statues and perches them atop the reformed El Liston's roof, this being the last page of the manga.
  • True Companions: The main quartet is firmly this by the end of the series.
  • The Unfavorite: Chika feels this way due to having had to grow up in the shadow of Keito's despondency.