Elle et son chat by Makoto Shinkai (trans. Naruki Nakagawa)

Posted on Jun 16, 2023
tl;dr: Wonderful, cozy vibes.

‘Elle et son chat’ by Makoto Shinkai is a collection of interconnected stories about the cats of a neighbourhood in Tokyo. Throughout we get to see the perspective of the cats and their people. A perfect airport book purchase, I read this across a week of travel and had a wonderful time.

Cozy, Wholesome Vibes

This book is rife with wholesome but at times sad vibes. The author doesn’t shy away from topics of mental health including loneliness, agoraphobia, sexual assault and loss. Despite this, the book remained a light read for me. I loved reading about the different world-views of some of the cats according to their differing life experiences. Each of the cats, and one dog, presented in the book were interesting and enjoyable to read about. The humans, for the most part, were similarly well-written. I have seen some critcism of the representation of a lone woman being a bit male-gazey but I believe that this made sense in the context of it being from a cat that was in love with his female owner.


This book is solidly placed within speculative fiction given that it is written at least half from the perspective of cats. Additionally, a dog is featured that has some almost supernatural powers. I think this level of speculative is a level that even professed fantasy or scifi haters would be able to accept as there is nothing otherwise magical than the anthropomorphism. For speculative fiction fans such as myself, this offers a welcome break from any hardcore world-building. It is simply a wonderful, cozy read.


While somewhat brief, the book does touch on some salient topics of modern Japan. In one story, the intense overwork and mistreatment of a young man is harshly criticised. And while the ageing population isn’t exactly spoken of, we see the story of an old woman who had dedicated years to caring for the elderly. Beyond these topics, I’m not familiar enough with Japan to have picked up more of the subtext.

As a language-learner

I read this in French, my second language at which I have a B2 level. In this book that equated to about one word per page being one that I didn’t know and/or wasn’t immediately obvious from context. For me, then, it was at a perfect level to read and enjoy. The language wasn’t overly florid, and the story easy to understand. I would therefore highly recommend it for intermediate French learners (and presumably it is about the same in other languages.)


I’d highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a cozy read and are a fan of reading from the perspective of animals. Certainly, there is some suspension of disbelief in the perspectives of these cats. Whether you’re already used to speculative fiction or not I think most people wouldn’t have trouble accepting this premise. Additionally, while wholesome, this book does explore some heavy topics.

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