The 2016 anime She and her Cat: Everything Flows currently airs on Crunchyroll and can be viewed via VRV, while the 1999 short is not yet legally available. Each episode runs for 7 minutes, except for the 1999 short, which is 4:45 minutes. This review is for both the 2016 prequel series and the 1999 short.
Okay, fair warning. I'm spoiling this series. I know, I know. Some of you out there are a little mad at me that I keep doing this, but honestly, this is for your own good. It'll all make sense later on.
Also, parents? I need to address the rating. Out of fairness, I gave this a Tween rating due to the subject matter. The Blu-Ray is technically G or "NR/Not Rated" but honestly? I would be really upset with you if you let your young kids watch this unsupervised. There's no violence, sex or swearing in this, but it's just so dark and sad that again, I really can't recommend this to it's original G rated audience. Watch with caution.
So now that I've warned you, let me be clear. This is a very depressing anime. Makoto Shinkai (The guy behind the hit film Your Name) is surprisingly the man behind the entire series. For a first try, his visual direction is great, but the story is not for those on Zoloft.
Before I dive into the story, let's look at the things that work in this show's favor.
For starters, the writing is going to hit close to home for many of you. If you're tired of fantasy anime and you're looking for something "real world" (Which is adult slang for "everyone is miserable because if you're happy, you're living in a fake world, but if you're struggling, then it's real") then this short series should be right up your alley. There is absolutely no imagination in this whatsoever, no fantasy beasts, no magic, just endless realism. The timing is also realistic, so if that's your thing, here you go.
Another thing that works? The time. All four episodes of the 2016 series combined equate to 28 minutes. Not long enough to justify the $20-65 I have seen people sell the Blu-Ray for, but long enough it doesn't overstay it's welcome. If this is your thing, you'll appreciate it's pacing. If this isn't for you, you'll be happy to know it's over in less than a half an hour. The 1999 short is four minutes, 45 seconds.
Artistically, the 1999 short is more pleasing to the eye. Both are realistic, but the original black and white short features the cat in a simplistic, cute design, and everything else ultra realistic, while the 2016 series features the cat in a more ugly form. This is to express his age of course, but eesh.
Now let's dive into the story. I have to start with the 2016 series first, or none of this will make much sense.
The four episode series follows a black cat named Daru, who is fascinated with his owner Miyu, a down-on-her-luck college student who is struggling to make ends meet. We see glimpses of her coming back to her apartment later and later, trying and failing at finding a job. Miyu initially shares the apartment with her lifelong best (and only) friend Tomoko, but when her friend gets married, it leaves Miyu and Daru to live alone in the apartment.
Daru narrates the story of his and Miyu's life, between moments of talking about how happy she makes him, how fascinated he is with her scent, and how he knows they do not speak the same language, and yet somehow, they understand each other.
We learn that he came into her life as a young kitten, in cat years, somewhere between a child and tween stage. His mother and siblings were killed by large birds, which led to him running away and finding a cardboard box, which Miyu's mother finds soon after.
Miyu's mother brought Daru home sometime after Miyu's father... dies? We have some implication he's probably dead, but it's never openly said. Miyu when she got him was somewhere between 6 and 8 years old and she was given Daru to ease the loneliness. Not only is her father out of the picture, but she'd just moved to a new town and had no friends. At first, she hates Daru and tries to abandon him, but comes to her senses and changes her tune after she makes her only friend, who happens to think Daru is cute.
We see Miyu growing up, and we learn the only reason why she moved out on her mother was so that her mom could find a replacement husband after being alone for more than a decade. At first, she doesn't want to do this, but she finds a husband and starts insisting Miyu call him "Dad" much to Miyu's chagrin. Miyu has no personality other than one of bleak cynicism, so it's really no wonder she has no friends.
In adulthood, we see Miyu struggle through one job rejection after another. She has no social life, she overworks herself trying to get a job, she avoids her mother and friend, and these scenes of abject misery are followed by brief moments of Daru trying to comfort her as his body starts to fail him.
The final episode, Daru figures out how to use a phone and gets Miyu's mother to come over. The mother is distraught to find that Miyu is so sleep deprived that she looks like a ghost. Daru sits in Miyu's arms, and just slightly nudges her towards talking to her mother. They finally share a laugh together, and Daru feels happy knowing that Miyu is happy.
... And then Daru dies in Miyu's arms, as her mother is about to leave.
Daru's soul lingers in the apartment for one year, while Miyu battles depression.
It's here that the anime becomes self-aware, and realizes it's much too dark for it's own good. So after the credits roll, we cut to Springtime, a year after Daru's death. Miyu has grown her hair back to the way it was when they first met. She finally has a job and on a rainy day, finds a cardboard box, just the way her mother found when she discovered Daru years ago. Inside the box is a white cat, and we realize quickly that it's Daru, reborn.
The 1999 short picks up where Daru is now Chiho. He has a girlfriend cat, but because she is younger, not yet fully grown and he is now in love with Miyu, he doesn't take too much interest in her. Yeah. It just got creepy. He even retains some of his memories of Miyu from years past, which is just throwing a little extra creep onto this pasta. (See what I did there?)
Miyu is still battling depression, and isn't making it very far into her adult life, but just as he did when he was Daru, Chiho stays by her side, and the short ends with it suddenly being winter again, and they both decide that they like living together just fine.... um... okay? I guess we can say this counts as a happy ending.
She and her Cat is deeply depressing, but very realistic. Anyone struggling through their 20's will completely understand Miyu as long as they can look past her dismal attitude, and pet lovers will take comfort in Daru's quick rebirth and memory retention. But if you suffer from depression, hate to see a cat die or you are a kid, I can't really recommend the 2016 installment. Watch at your own risk.
Codename Sailor earth
Codename Sailor Earth is a lifelong anime and wrestling fan. IRL she is cartoonist Koriander Bullard, formerly Koriander Ake, a happily married Chicagoan. Her favorite anime is Sailor Moon. A baby in the late 80's, the first anime titles she ever saw were Speed Racer, Voltron and Robotech.