Overview (Spoilers Below)
When we left Subaru and Haru last week, someone had just burst into Nana’s apartment and was questioning what Subaru was doing there. It turns out that this is not Nana’s boyfriend, as expected, but in fact her younger brother, Yu. After some awkward introductions, the three sit down for a relaxing cup of tea. Yu, however, has become obsessed with a story he’s been reading in a fiction journal: the one written by Subaru.
Yu is so excited about the story that he has persuaded Nana to read it as well, and both are enamored by the writing but have no idea that Subaru wrote it. Subaru starts to get exceedingly anxious, and he recalls his own childhood love of books. He was an avid reader as a child, but he was always unable to communicate his affection for literature to the other children, and this was yet another thing that would separate him from the other kids. Back in the present, the pressure is too much for him, so he scoops Haru and they bolt from the apartment. Nana later catches up with him and tells him that he and Haru are allowed to visit anytime.
We then move to Haru’s perspective, and she’s freaking out about Nana’s other cat Roku. She’s afraid of stepping on his turf, a lesson she learned from a pair of strays that taught her to live on the streets. Roku puts her fears at rest when he reveals he’s been an indoor cat for long enough to not feel threatened by Haru. This lesson also seems to extend to Yu, who Haru also initially fears. She’s just gotten used to the place when Subaru freaks out and she leaves to take care of him.
The rest of the episode consists of a flashback to Haru and her litter. After her parents’ deaths, she was the leader of the pack and took responsibility for her four siblings. The aforementioned pair of strays taught them the survival skills they needed, but before long, they found themselves on their own again. Two of Haru’s litter were adopted by kind humans, but after a pair of run-ins with some crows, one of the group was killed. Haru believes that it was her fault and carries the guilt to this day.
I think My Roommate is a Cat has been better than it was this week. The show pulls off a heart-melting cuteness with aplomb, but it seems to stumble when it has to land on a note harsher than bittersweet. I’m not often a fan of the Subaru plots over Haru’s, but I found Subaru’s fear of fame much more compelling than the abridged story of Haru’s streetwalking. I found the former under-covered to the point of it nearly being irrelevant and the latter abridged past the point of recognition. This certainly leaves the arc plenty of space to fill in later, but I feel too much was laid bare this week and may undercut future revelations.
The disappointment started with Yu’s identity. It’s inherently less interesting that Nana has a bro-y younger brother rather than a boyfriend. The show is fairly obviously building to a romantic plot (consummated or not) between Nana and Subaru, but this takes away any external obstacles. This only leaves Subaru’s endless shyness and misanthropy, but without anything in the corporeal world getting in the way, this has the potential to become monotonous. I’ve praised the show for having a limited number of elements in order to keep the story tight, but as the show expands its world, if complexity doesn’t come along with it, pieces may become superfluous.
One thing that did compel me this week was the idea of Subaru’s notoriety. It seems as if the author the show has described as best-selling remains unrecognized in his hometown. This is an interesting dynamic that compliments his reclusiveness. Additionally, it seems as if Yu is only in the nascent stage of his fandom, so his growing interest in Subaru’s stories will be something to watch out for. Nana has begun to read the story too but has not recognized Subaru as the author. Maybe she is unable to square the confident mystery writer with the timid new cat owner that she’s been dealing with thus far.
On the Haru side, there was simply too much too fast. We’ve introduced at least a half-dozen new characters, and even if some are not alive in the show’s present, they will likely make appearances in other flashbacks. More care could have been taking in introducing them, as has been done with most other characters in this series thus far. Episode six seems to be an important episode in the show’s story, but it doesn’t resonate nearly as well as previous installments have.
A possible reason may be the lack of real stakes. We didn’t get any sort of resolution to how Subaru feels this week. In fact, his only development is that he hasn’t screwed up his relationship with Nana by leaving so abruptly. In fact, she apologizes to him for Yu’s behavior. Haru, given much of the episode’s runtime, does more of the plot’s heavy lifting. Her plot though isn’t terribly relevant to the main story. What we learn is that Haru has also lost family members, and that’s what binds her to Subaru, but if the show has done anything well it is making sure that relationship is understood in very clear detail.
Redundant information and a maladroit hand with pure tragedy make this one of My Roommate is A Cat’s weaker installments, but it’s still a strong showing. Characterization is never all bad. Roku is a fun addition to the cast of cats, and I’m still eager to see the resolution to Yu’s Subaru fandom. I’m also sure that many of these plot details needed to be dropped to make future episodes work effectively, but that’s the feeling I got from this episode. One of perfunctory quasi-obligation. I know they can do better.