The only thing worse than intrusive adults is a gaggle of intrusive children.
Overview (Spoilers Below)
Subaru and Kawasei sit in his living room talking about the publication of the first collected volume of Subaru’s new cat stories. Kawasei is having trouble picking a cover, but Subaru could not care less, as per usual. Kawasei floats the idea of a book signing by Subaru, but after considering Nana and her brother possibly attending, Subaru shoots the idea down. Kawasei, for his part, is not surprised. Their meeting is about to wrap up when the doorbell rings. Kawasei goes to get it, and it’s Yasaka, along with four of his younger siblings.
Before Subaru can send him away, the family makes themselves at home in his house, and start playing with Haru. Subaru is not quite ready for all of this attention, so he retreats to his kitchen. He meets Yasaka in there, who remarks that he doesn’t have any food. The neighbor notices a restaurant menu on Subaru’s fridge and uses it as an opportunity to order takeout for everyone. Subaru wants everyone out of his house, but can’t refuse the nice gesture.
With takeout on the way, Subaru worries that he doesn’t have enough cups for everyone to use during dinner. He brainstorms, thinking he might have some extra kitchenware someplace in the house, and he remembers a tea set that belonged to his mother. She bought the set on one of her trips and was so excited to use it at a party, but she never had the chance. Subaru finds the set and decides to use the cups to honor her memory.
While Subaru is lost in thought, Yasaka’s sister enters the kitchen. Subaru remembers her from his childhood; she was always tagging along with Yasaka, much to the elder brother’s chagrin. She, unlike her boisterous siblings, is a fairly mellow and respectful person, offering Subaru a hand in the kitchen. She does, however, ask Subaru for a book recommendation. This causes the author to go into a bit of an existential crisis, causing him to leave the room. The young girl thinks she’s offended Subaru until he comes back with one of his favorite books from his childhood, and she promises to read it.
The children and Kawasei amuse themselves playing with Haru, who is game after a little coaxing. Soon after, the delivery arrives from the family who fed Haru when she was on the street, and the daughter of the chef (also named Haru) turns out to be Yasaka’s sibling’s classmate. A joyous dinner is had by all, the guests leave, and Subaru & Haru lie exhausted on the living room floor, passed out.
I’m not convinced that agoraphobia, major depression, and PTSD can be cured by a cat and a few nice neighbors, but My Roommate is a Cat does little to dispel the charming fantasy of their soft-edged world. It’s next to impossible not to be entranced by the cutesy interactions and perfectly low stakes that make up the currency of the series. Each new kind face makes it harder and harder for Subaru to hate people, and even when people are less than kind, they are ultimately comprehensible, and nearly always redeemable.
So, this week, when Yasaka inflicts his entire family on the Subaru household, I’m still left with the feeling that he’s a touch inconsiderate. He is checking in on Subaru and he has left him alone when he needed to meet with Nana, but this is still more than one would reasonably expect their depressed friend to be able to deal with. I expect, having not seen Yasaka’s parents since the pilot, that this will play into some development for his character.
The most compelling part of this episode, however, is Yasaka’s younger sister. An old screenwriting adage imparts that there is only one character in every story, the protagonist. The rest are either mirrors or emphasized qualities of that protagonist reflected back at them. In this young woman, Subaru is confronted with his enthusiasm for reading and his reticence to deal with other people. Subaru was just in an unfamiliar house long after he wanted to leave, so he should have the ability to empathize with Yasaka’s sister, but he is mostly unable to leave his own perspective, and only barely recommends a book. Subaru is coming along, but he has a long way to go before he’s able to leave his own head and consider others’ feelings.
We were light on Haru this week, which is mostly fine. We had been focusing on her backstory for the past couple of episodes, so re-centering with Subaru was a welcome return to focus. Her one moment of emotion, too, wasn’t terribly compelling. A desire to protect the weak is in character, but it didn’t amount to much in this episode and felt like a moment like that needed to happen to keep her involved in the episode. This kind of emotional beat is accomplished much better when the delivery arrives and Haru meets Haru. I feel similarly about the moment where Subaru flashes back to his mother’s tea set. There are a virtually infinite number of things in this house, will each be connected to an episode-relevant memory? It’s a trick that may grow stale from overuse.
Once again, though, these are the most minor of quibbles. My Roommate is a Cat is probably the strongest anime that Funimation has on its roster right now, at least that it’s premiering week-to-week. Its small world and character-based stakes are a rebuke of battle anime and their endless arcs and tournaments. While I do sometimes want to know that the fate of the world will be decided by a couple of spiky-haired teens, I get a lot of comfort wondering how long these people are going to stay in that recluse’s house. I’m also dying to know how Kawasei is going to get Subaru to do that book signing.