Sad and sublime.
That’s how I would describe She and Her Cat (彼女と彼女の猫): Their Standing Points, Shinkai Makoto’s second film. Released in 1999, the five-minute short film is about the relationship between a male cat and his owner. Chobi, the cat, tells the story from his perspective. Chobi calls the female owner She or Her.
The story takes places in a span of one year.
It starts on a rainy spring day when She finds Chobi and picks him up to bring him home.
Chobi gets to know her better after a few weeks. He describes her as kind and beautiful. He becomes used to her morning routine and loves her look in the morning before she goes to work—her hair pulled up, her makeup done, and her faint perfume.
And everyday, before she leaves, she would come up to Chobi, place her hand on his head and say, “I’ll go and come back, okay?”.
Summer comes, and Chobi meets Mimi, a young cat, who becomes his girlfriend. Mimi tells Chobi that she wants to marry Chobi, but Chobi tells her he already likes someone else. Mimi doesn’t believe him so he tells her to meet again when she’s become an adult.
One day, Chobi sees She on the phone for a long time. She starts crying. Chobi, not knowing the reason, just looks at her. After the phone call, she continues crying while Chobi is watching her.
Time passes and winter comes. She continues with her daily morning routine. When she leaves for work, Chobi says,
“She, who wore the scent of snow, and her slender, cold fingertips… the sound of the black clouds streaming by far in the upper sky… her soul, and my feelings, and our room… the snow inhales the sounds of all, but only the sound of the electric train that she boarded, reached my upright ears. I, and probably her too.
‘This world, I think we like it.’”
After watching 5 Centimeters Per Second, Shinkai Makoto’s sixth film, I knew that he has become one of my favourite animators. In She and Her Cat, Shinkai directed, wrote, and animated the short film. He also voiced Chobi.
The story is really simple. A woman who lives alone picks up a cat. One day, woman is on a phone call and starts crying. Time passes, and the woman moves on and continues with her life. The end.
What makes the story interesting is that it’s told from the cat’s perspective. It’s not often you find a story from a non-human point-of-view. You get a different viewpoint of the story, the characters, and the emotions.
Because Chobi is the narrator, he tells the viewers what is going on and what he thinks about it. When she was on the phone, Chobi doesn’t tell us what she’s saying, but he sees her crying so he knows that something’s wrong.
I love that Chobi describes Her and his surroundings in detail because they make him more human. At the same time, we are reminded that he’s still a cat, particularly in the morning scene where she gets ready for work. In that scene, he doesn’t tell us what she does because he doesn’t care about that stuff. While Chobi was saying it, the visuals show him stretching.
The simplicity and subtlety of the images fit the story and the characters. The background images look real (a Shinkai style) while the characters—She, Chobi, and Mimi—are hand drawn. I love it and it works because it combines reality and imagination. It makes the characters more real and human, when you see the images. The black-and-white colour and monochrome shading fits the gloomy theme of the film.
For a five-minute film, Shinkai did not disappoint. It’s visually beautiful and it conveys human emotions. If its simplicity, beauty, and story caught my attention, how much more on a full-length movie? And don’t forget, this was released in 1999.