12 CommentsFavourite and Forgotten / By Scamp /

2001 Forgotten Anime: Cat Soup

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.

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  1. Thrashy
    Posted September 15, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    Back in college I had a friend who was obsessed with catgirls in anime, and he downloaded this, not knowing what it was. Some time later, I was over at his place for anime night, and he insisted that we watch it.

    Thirty minutes later, I turned to my friend and said three words.
    “What. The. Fuck.”

    He replied with three words of his own: “I… don’t know.”

    • Scamp
      Posted September 16, 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      That’s pretty great :D

  2. WallGod
    Posted September 16, 2012 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    I’ve never posted on your site before, but have always followed your articles. However, I was perplexed about this piece of animation after reading your piece here on it. I quickly went and watched the entire short film and did actually see some themes behind it. Intrigued, I did a small inquiry on the internet.

    The movie was created after the works of Nekojiru, who often used cats in her Mangaworks. There is a short article about her and entails Nekojiru’s extensive use of drugs represented in her mangas. Sadly however, it appears she committed suicide 3 years before the release of this film.

    The film seems to be based off of some of her works, and is most likely her feelings on the world up until her passing in 1998. There actually is a message to this film, and it’s quite somber.

    • Scamp
      Posted September 16, 2012 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      Huh, that’s pretty interesting. So the mentally disabled sister is an allegory for drug overdose or something like that? Or maybe the other way around when she takes the flower at the end? Or maybe I’m just grasping at straws again…

        Posted September 19, 2012 at 6:35 am | Permalink

        Thank you, WALLGOD. I came here with the same intent and I will talk a little bit more about what you already said.

        Also, Scamp watched this with the wrong approach, but it’s okay Scamp, I won’t tell you think more before you write because I actually like your reviews!

        But, yes, there are LOTS oh meanings and themes here and this work is really really interesting.

        Well I can’t really write much about it, because there are just way too many years since I last watched it, but I’ll tell some things I still remember.

        Well, first, for the people who are going to watch it, you need to know the background context of this show, as WALLGOD said, Nekojiru had a tired and tormented mind, followed by drugs and then suicide.
        Second, this is definitely not a “JCStaff anime”, this is a work representing Nekojiru’s feelings and point of view of the world around her.
        Third, you should not try to find logic in this piece, this one is just like a painting, it’s a short that tries to make you feel her distorted world and emotions through pictures.

        Some examples:

        The mentally-disabled cat that has half of her soul taken by that deity in a fail attempt of her brother trying to save her. In my point of view, this cat is actually Nekojiru. Why? Because the cat was “sick” lying in bed, and then she had everything sucked from it’s soul, there was nothing left. It clearly depicts a strong case of depression. So, she is basically saying that it was too late to try to save her, because the depression had already taken her soul.

        Those housewives chatting. They are made of air, they have nothing inside. Maybe some grudge against her neighbors talking about her unfaithful husband or about her?

        God playing with his own creations in the circus. In their adventure, there is always a feeling of being played with by god or falling in the traps of mankind.

        The ironic sadist robot who was bored. At the end, he found pleasure in his own suffering.

        Now my memory is starting to fail me, but once again, this is a show about Nekojiru’s feelings and her somber perception of the world. It’s also clear that there is not only Nekojiru’s soul in it, there are the feelings of the people who tried to help her and tried to understand her through her work.

      • Scamp
        Posted September 20, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

        That’s interesting, but it does mean the work doesn’t stand up without knowing that stuff. Also it sounds like a stretch to interpret all this stuff. Still, who knows how people will interpret something, so good for you for getting something out of it

  3. Lanf
    Posted September 16, 2012 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    J.C. Staff? Damn straight thats a shock but it’s not as if they haven’t produced good titles within the last 5 years, there was… Nodame Cantabile? Hell even the first season falls short of the 5 year mark now.

    Oh well, they’ll have the new season of Hayate to make them look good now. Perhaps they should take that approach more…

    I watched Cat Soup 3 years ago, but even as my memory fades on the chapter, it was certainly a trippy one, lacking the social commentry of the TV shorts, in favour of more madness.

  4. Shiara
    Posted September 16, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    The first time I saw it I had the same reaction. But I stumbled upon another review about this show and it looked like someone had actually grasped some meaning (if there is any) from it. One of the things he noted was that the younger brother was able to get half of his sister’s soul because he himself was dead/dying (remember when he drowned in the tub?) and if you’d consider the crazy time-space adventure and when everything blinked out in the end, it was possible that both cats actually died in the beginning and were in the afterlife.

    I’m gonna search the review and post the link here if I find it.

    • Scamp
      Posted September 17, 2012 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

      If it’s all afterlife, what the hell was the afterlife supposed to represent? And then why do they go back home at the end? I mean, it’s an interesting idea, but the afterlife doesn’t make a whole lot of narrative sense in itself

  5. Posted September 16, 2012 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    In the TV series, the cat siblings are bastards who take pleasure in seeing others suffer.

    In this OVA they finally get what they deserve.

  6. DarkEnergy
    Posted September 17, 2012 at 3:32 am | Permalink

    When I want to show someone something really fucking weird, I show them this.

  7. Walao
    Posted September 22, 2012 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    Reading this while eating a pork bun. Talk about bad timing.

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