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Manga / Junji Ito's Cat Diary: Yon & Mu

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Junji Ito's Cat Diary: Yon & Mu (Itō Junji no Neko Nikki: Yon & Mū) is a manga by famous horror manga author Junji Ito. The manga was serialized in Monthly Magazine Z from 2008 to 2009, with its chapters compiled into a single volume.

In stark contrast to his typical works, the series isn't horror, instead being an autobiographical slice-of-life piece detailing Ito's domestic life with his fiancée upon moving house and getting the titular cats.

Not contrary to his usual works, however, is the art, which uses all of Ito's horrific trademarks... but for ridiculous effect, given the inappropriately harmless images they are applied to.

It's that kind of manga.

This series provides examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Downplayed; Ito revealed his wife Ayako wasn't thrilled about how she was drawn, but she was amused enough to help him with the tones and more information on cats.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of Ito's own work as a horror mangaka, since he still draws this series in his usual horror-oriented art style despite it being an autobiographical Slice of Life.
  • Art-Style Dissonance: Played for Laughs, since Ito still uses his trademark scary art techniques despite this manga being a Slice of Life story about cats rather than his typical horror fare.
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance: As the real life photos show, Yon having spots on his back that form a skull-like face seems on-brand for a cat owned by a renowned horror mangaka.
  • Author Avatar: J-kun is clearly a stand-in for Junji Ito himself, while A-ko is a stand-in for his wife Ayako.
  • Bittersweet Ending: A bonus comic included in the collected edition reveals that Yon-kun eventually died of heart failure, but J-kun treasures the time they had together, thanking Yon for being in his life. Ito's wife Ayako included a letter telling her side of the story, talking about Yon-kun's final days. Junji Ito later did a followup video with Crunchyroll, showing the two new cats that he adopted in Yon and Mu's memory.
  • Cats Are Mean: Subverted. J-kun thinks cats aren't comparable to loyal dogs, and Mu even bites him a few times, but he starts to understand that cats are just different and forgives the bites.
  • Cat Scare: Even more than most cases.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: J-kun and A-ko. J-kun is utterly clueless about cats and is quick to jump to superstitious and illogical conclusions, while A-ko treats matters of cat care with reverence and pseudo-elitism.
  • Comical Overreacting: The usual source of the Nightmare Face, à la Ito's typical fare.
  • Cute Kitten: Averted with Yon, who has a weird vibe and looks like he's been hit by a truck when he's asleep. Mu plays it straight.
  • Cuteness Proximity: With a healthy dose of Nightmare Face. J-kun immediately falls for Mu when seeing his reaction to getting kisses.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: In spite of constantly making weird facial expressions, J-kun is perfectly nice and mild-mannered... relative to most characters in Junji Ito's oeuvre, anyways.
  • Defrosting Ice King: Yon starts off as standoffish towards J-kun, because the latter is overly playful and wanting cuddles. Then J-kun has to stay up late to work on a deadline, starting to hallucinate monsters whenever he sees Yon thanks to sleep deprivation. Without prompting, Yon leaps onto his lap, shows his belly, and suckles on J-kun's finger when the latter offers it.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: Subverted; Yon sneezes all over the floor, creating pretty yet disgusting sparkles.
  • Face of a Thug: Yon is basically the cat version of this trope. J-kun is scared of his face, even before seeing the skull-like markings on his back. He's actually quite affectionate.
  • Four Is Death: The cat with the death's head markings is known as "Yon," which is the Alternate Character Reading of the kanji for the number 4: "shi." This is just an incredible coincidence, as Yon is named as such not for having a skull-like marking on his back, but for being the fourth of A-ko's family cats.
  • The Gadfly: While they are Happily Married, A-to can't help but tease her fiancée that Yon likes her more. She does, however, show him how to play with the cat toys properly.
  • Gilligan Cut: "That accursed cat is coming to my house?! I won't accept this! I won't accept this!" Cut to J-kun building the cat tower.
  • Happily Married: Despite the fact that J-kun wasn't keen to have a cat and A-to teases her fiancée about how he wants Yon's affections, they have healthy chemistry. It's shown they work as a team on house renovations.
  • Iyashikei / Slice of Life: Aside from the spooky art style, this is really a comic about a Happily Engaged couple doting on their cats. One of the most dramatic incidents is when Yon runs away, which is resolved when he's found at the plumbers' warehouse, and the nice folks who work there help catch him. It's basically about nice people and cute cats.
  • Irony: J-kun, who abhors the idea of having two cats, let alone the one with the spooky vibe, also gets insanely jealous when he doesn't appeal to them.
  • Journal Comic: Given that Junji Ito is narrating his daily life with his cats.
  • Kids Prefer Boxes: In a short bonus comic, A-ko orders a toy for Yon and Mu, which they are thoroughly disinterested in. The package itself proves far more entertaining to them.
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Pretty much every human character. J-kun evolves into one, and the plumbers are willing to dismantle part of their warehouse to help A-ko and J-kun recover a fleeing Yon.
  • Lighter and Softer: In content, it's much lighter than most of his works, but in visual impact, it's only slightly less disturbing.
  • Lightmare Fuel: In essence, Ito parodies his own work by writing and drawing in the same style as his iconic horror fiction... except that it's an (almost) completely harmless story about him and his wife taking care of their cute kitties.
  • Mark of the Beast: Yon's markings on his back look like a skull. This troubles J-kun, assuming some kind of supernatural curse, before he realizes that Yon is just weird.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Cat Wand Battle!!
  • Nightmare Face:
    • A-ko, J-kun's wife: No irises, and ALWAYS smiling. Junji Ito notes in the "questions to the author" sections that his wife was irritated by this depiction.
    • J-kun makes more extreme ones as exaggerated depictions of his distress.
  • Nonhumans Lack Attributes: Averted; the cats have assholes, and one chapter focuses on Mu being neutered, though nothing is shown in the latter case.
  • Really Dead Montage: Subverted, originally.
    • Then played straight in the final strip in the collected edition where Junji Ito explains Yon's deteriorating health and finally his death due to heart failure.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Mu.
  • Self-Parody: Ito applies all of his trademark sinister flourishes to...a journal about his cats.
  • Sleeping Single: Although not for censorship reasons; J-kun and A-ko just prefer different kinds of bed.
  • Tears of Joy: J-kun when Mu sleeps next to him. Except it's not really Mu, it's just a fold in his bedding.
  • Tender Tears: J-kun, every couple chapters.
  • Toilet Humour:
    • One of J-kun's associates buys him a plastic poop while visiting New York, which he uses to play a practical joke on A-ko. J-kun sees the poop again a few days later and, assuming A-ko was trying to get revenge on the joke, picks it up, only to find out it was cat vomit that was in the shape of poop.
    • We're also treated to a lovely panel noting that Mu's long hair tends to get turds stuck in it.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Mu, after being neutered. He recovers.
  • The Unreveal: Gorou, the skittish and elusive stray cat A-ko's parents adopted, is always drawn as a shadowy blob to represent J-kun's unfamiliarity with him. Despite J-kun's attempts to befriend him and then lamenting that he still hasn't gotten a good look at him in over a year, the reader never sees him drawn as an actual cat, remaining a shadow even when Mu plays with him.
  • We Are as Mayflies: Junji Ito made one final strip following Yon's death of heart failure, the story being included in the collected version.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: J-kun initially wants nothing to do with Yon, who's not very cute, even disregarding his spookiness, but he gradually warms up to him.
  • You Are Number 6: A-ko's family names their cats for the number they are in the list, with Yon being "four(th)", Goro being "five/fifth" and Mu being "six(th)".

Alternative Title(s): Ito Junji No Neko Nikki