You know Cat Soup is animated by JC Staff? I know, I was shocked too. This was back in the day when they made stuff like Utena and Azumanga (when cute girls doing dumb stuff was a novel idea). They tried shit. Sure it didn’t always work, as my totally biased review of Cat Soup will illistrate, but they still tried to push the envelope a bit. I’m not sure what caused them to sink into this downward spiral of mediocrity and bore, but until someone else comes up with an explanation, I’m going to continue blaming Shakugan no Shana.
I think the best way to illustrate my problem with Cat Soup is to simply tell you exactly what happens. It’s only 30 minutes long, and I really don’t think you need to worry about spoilers.
The main character is a cat, whose sister is dying/dead. He runs after a totem poll who is leading his sister away and tries to take her back, except she snaps in two. He stuffs the bit he has in his hands into the body of his sister and suddenly she’s alive again, except with a severe mental disability. Their mother then tells them to buy bean curds, but they get distracted and go to the circus. There’s a wizard there who can make things people ask for, so the cat boy asks for a golden elephant, which he creates. Then they wheel out a big water bird thing, who can make sparkles happen when they squeeze its leg. However they squeeze its leg too hard and it explodes, flooding the entire world. So now the cat boy and his mentally disabled sister are on a boat with a pig. The cat boy takes a shit off the side of the boat which attracts a bunch of fish. The pig catches the fish and suggests they eat them, which angers the cat boy so he takes chunks off the pig and eats them with his sister. He even feeds some of the cooked pig to the pig himself. But then one of the caught fish escapes, only to get cut down to just its spine by a bunch of samurai. It ends up on an island where a cat boy, possibly the same one, eats its eye but gets hit on the head by his mother/grandmother.
Then god lifts the earth out of the water and all the water drains off the planet . The cat and his sister trawl across the desert, using the pig as a ride. The cat boy beats the pig over the head with a stick and tries eating the bumps that appear, but they taste awful. This angers the cat boy, so he clambers off and, with the help of his mentally disabled sister, beat the pig to death with sticks. However the cat boy accidentally rips his own hand off, so they go to a friendly old lady in the middle of the desert who sews his hand back on. Thing is, the old lady has lots of dead body parts lying around her house, so the boy and his sister escape. They then go to an old man’s house, who in Hansel and Gretel style feeds them loads of food and then sticks them in a a giant cauldron full of hot water. Then the old man hobbles off and puts on some bondage gear and arms himself with a giant pair of scissors. Unfortunately in his exuberance he falls into the cauldron himself, where the cat boy cuts off all his limbs, revealing he’s a robot, putting the lid on the cauldron, and then escaping back into the desert. In the desert they find an elephant made of water, which is great fun until it evaporates in the hot weather.
Then god accidentally drops a big of mountain he was eating into the gears of the universe, and the entire world stops in place. The boy finds a woman trapped in place jumping in front of a train. He knocks the stationary tear off her cheek, which clunks the world back into motion again. Too fast in motion in fact, because the two siblings suddenly get really old, until god hits the rewind button again and gets his dropped mountain out from the gears. The siblings find themselves back on the boat again, with no pig anymore, sailing into a world of clockwork butterflies. There the cat boy picks a flower and holds it in front of his sister’s face, which cures her mental disability. They then finally buy the bean curds and head home. But when they’re home, each member of the family blinks out like an old television screen one by one. And that’s the end.
There is no coherent plot nor deeper themes or any running thread throughout Cat Soup. If you are able to find some, then I commend you, but any attempts I’ve tried are merely grasping at straws that hold little relevance to more than two or three scenes. I believe the director himself even said that there is no ‘point’ to Cat Soup. What it is, is the finest example of anime doing surrealism, which by its very definition is non-rational. Think Salvador Dali and you’ve got a rough idea of what I’m talking about. I’m not going to pretend to be an art buff or anything, but there is a certain appeal to surreal paintings. Your head makes sense of something that is inherently not making any sense. With Cat Soup, you could take any one of the vignettes on its lonesome and there’s some weird appeal trying to make sense of them, but as a whole, each one is so different that their lack of interconnectivity is frustrating.
But finally, and most damningly, I find the purpose of something to make no sense to be rather boring. There’s no thought involved from the audiences perspective, because all thought put into it is futile. When my mind isn’t engaged, I’m bored and not having a good time. In a way it’s a lot like my problems with Nichijou’s comedy. It’s random for the sake of random, which I don’t find funny once it’s been done more than once, for largely the same reasons I don’t find Cat Soup engaging. Cat Soup is interesting to look at, I’ll give it that, and I’m sure you’d have hours of fun if you took drugs and stuck it on repeat. As entertainment though, it’s just kinda boring.