Riko is a driven employee who always gets her work done by 5 p.m. She does not participate in any of the after-hours activities organized by the other employees, leaving her co-workers mystified by her behavior. Is she anti-social? Is she introverted? Well, unbeknown to her co-workers, Riko is a hardcore video gamer. One might hesitantly say she is obsessed and perhaps too immersed in the RPG game, Neo Dragon, that she plays every night and on weekends; however, Riko uses lessons from her gamer characters to guide her as she learns how to care and interact with her first pet, Musubi.
As eluded to in the opening sentence of this review, there are a number of manga stories featuring the trope of an individual utterly overwhelmed by a new cat in their life and their story as they learn to live with the cat. By following Riko as the main protagonist, Nadatani explores and develops a fascinating character and her love for video games. While video games have been cause for concern because of their negative impact on gamers, in this story, Riko relies on her gamer experience to help her navigate the cat ownership waters in humorous ways that allows Riko to connect not only with Musubi but also with the reader. Nadatani’s Riko goes through many familiar cat ownership experiences: buying an expensive toy when a simple toy hanging on a string will do, or setting up an Instagram account on behalf of the cat — cat owners’ camera phones are about 90% cat photos after all! — as a way to share all the cute and adorable cat poses.
Nadatani’s art style is clean and concise, yet engaging and warm. On the cover, Musubi’s inviting and charming personality grabs readers’ attention, and with the interiors, Nadatani balances line work, white space, and a variety manga textures into engaging and complex visuals. The black of Riko’s hair and Musubi’s fur often pops off the page, adding depth and interest. The text and word art are easy to read and are well placed so the eye can naturally move across the panels on each page.
Additionally, Cat + Gamer is translated by Zack Davisson, who is an award-winning translator of Gou Tanabe’s adapted and illustrated H. P. Lovecraft stories and Shigeru Mizuki’s Showa, a history of Japan series, just to name a few. Davisson captures the energy and charm of the initial days as Riko become acquainted with the ins and outs of caring for Musubi.
Fans of stories focused on new owners of a cat manga titles such as Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu, Kanata Konami’s Chi’s Sweet Home, and Makoto Kobayashi’s What’s Michael? will enjoy Nadatani’s Cat + Gamer. Also, readers who enjoy heart-warming animal stories should not skip this title. Cat + Gamer is suggested for readers 12 and over.
Creative Team: Wataru Nadatani (story/art); Zack Davisson (translation); Susie Lee and Studio Cutie (lettering/retouch)
Publisher: Dark Horse Manga
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