Something best enjoyed while not alone
November 17, 2011 6:22 PM   Subscribe

More than just Hello Kitty on acid (warning: disturbing imagery)

Venturing far from the safe boundaries of easy romance and swords was manga artist Nekojiru. Born on January 1st, 1967, Chiyomi Hashiguchi debuted her pseduoeponymous series “Nekojiru Udon” in 1990. Featured in the adult-themed manga anthology Gara, the debut strip portrays a father cat asking an udon seller to neuter his kitten before things go horribly wrong; later strips continue on with this surreal trend (1 2 3 4 5; source) (NSFW).

Her husband and collaborator, Hajime Yamano, would continue writing under Nekojiru after Chiyomi's suicide in 1998 though the strip has since, perhaps, lost some of its incisive charm. A very close friend of the couple paints Chiyomi as 'shy' and 'antisocial', 'unpredictable' and 'selfish', who whipped her cat and listened to Aphex Twin. He, like the contributor above, blames her eventual suicide on the sudden rise in her popularity, on being overworked, and all the signs that she was, at heart, a tenuously fragile person with too much pride.

The anime short was created in 2001. As if in tribute to her, Nyaako (originally Nyako), one half of the hyperviolent duo, journeys into the land of the dead to retrieve Nyaata’s (originally Nyaaso's) soul. Surreally calm violence interspersed with sometimes sublime imagery make for a very interesting viewing experience, sober or otherwise.
posted by dubusadus (23 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
What the fuck was that, and how did it end?
posted by c13 at 6:26 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

or maybe more like "Hello Kitty on Assholery"
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:28 PM on November 17, 2011

Oh, man, someone once told me to watch Cat Soup because it was so trippy and boy does the incredible sadness sure outweight the tripiness.
posted by griphus at 6:30 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think you mean Garo but I could be wrong.

I've always read the half hour animated version of Cat Soup as a depression allegory, which would make sense given her history and death. Thanks for linking to the printed material; I've never seen it.
posted by Barking Frog at 6:31 PM on November 17, 2011

Mod note: swapped main URL for one with subs and added warning per OP request.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:32 PM on November 17, 2011

Oh, I see.. makes slightly more sense now..
posted by c13 at 6:45 PM on November 17, 2011

I bought this dvd many years back.. strange thing it is.
posted by MrLint at 7:05 PM on November 17, 2011

Just saw a thing, dont think it was on MeFi, where a couple of shirtless "Cops" extra types boys from Georgia, adopted a dog from a pound, fed it acid, and let it go, then videotaped it as it got run over in the road because it was so confused. Not watching the links. Not much appreciating the reminder. Looked interesting right up til "hyperviolent duo", then I remember it is Japanese animation (which while some may enjoy, I think peaked right at the last episode of Speed Racer) , and I look at my watch to see if the Honeymooners are on or something. Please no more whipping cats. It's my blue too, and I find the very idea foul.
posted by timsteil at 8:19 PM on November 17, 2011

I loved Cat Soup. It was beautiful and weird, and it flowed well. Excellent. Thanks for linking to this, dubusadus!
posted by heyho at 8:24 PM on November 17, 2011

I happened to find my copy of Blast Books' Comics Underground Japan just the other day, so I think I can fill in some gaps...

1. According to its commentary, Nekojiru started in Garo magazine. No mention of whether it continued its entire run there, but at the time the book was published (1996), the artist was still alive and Garo had recently changed hands but not shut down yet.
3. Nekojiru's identity was apparently concealed until her death. Some of the links in the OP imply it was an open secret among professional colleagues, belying CUJ's assertion of her "pynchonesque" status.
The next item contains spoilers
3. The Nekojiru story in CUJ is reused as the framing plot in the Cat Soup anime, and goes approximately like this: Big sister is suffering a fever and dies. Buddha comes to take her away. Little brother sees the pair, latches onto big sister's free hand, and a tug of war ensues. Her soul tears, and little brother runs off with half of it. Buddha, holding his half, says, "I could have taken her to heaven, but I'll have to reincarnate her as a plant now." Little brother returns his half of her soul to her body, she surprises everybody with her recovery, but she is a human (feline) vegetable, drooling and wetting herself. Later little brother is riding his tricycle past a flowerbed and recognizes that one of them is special. He picks it, rides home, touches her with it and her soul is whole again. I assume other segments in the cartoon derive from other manga episodes.
End Spoiler
posted by ardgedee at 8:53 PM on November 17, 2011

As an aside, skimming through Comics Underground Japan gives one the impression that Cat Soup is the lightest-hearted that Garo gets. The dismemberment, vengeful spirits, suicide, murder, and just plain relentless abuse on each of the other 200 pages of comics makes for challenging reading, and these were considered by the editors to be representative of Garo's regular stable of artists. No doubt the anthology's editors were biased towards horror, weird and heavy stories, but there didn't seem to be any difficulty in finding material to fit the bill.
posted by ardgedee at 9:07 PM on November 17, 2011

It seems to me that in a world with Hello Kitty, this must exist, or the entire Japanese culture would die of diabetes. Yin and Yang.
posted by Goofyy at 9:18 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I love Cat Soup.

Even before I read the story of Chiyomi's suicide, I also found it more melancholy than weird. I thought perhaps I just read it that way because I'm sort of inured to it - I've sought out weirdness for so long that it doesn't obscure the story beneath. It's dark and strange, but the story at its heart is simple and touching.

Strangely, I never really thought of comparing it to Hello Kitty at all. They just seem like two discrete things to me. Two cartoon things with cats, I suppose.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:36 PM on November 17, 2011

It's phenomenal to me that the concept and associated imagery of an underworld are so identifiable and so pervasive throughout human artwork. I mean, to the point where cartoon cats can act out a largely wordless narrative and still convey that the tale being told is of someone venturing into the nether on a quest to retrieve another's soul, and it works, is accepted, and is understood.
posted by Graygorey at 12:35 AM on November 18, 2011

Thank you for posting this. It's an amazing film, and I would NEVER have heard of it if I hadn't seen it here.
posted by biddeford at 12:56 AM on November 18, 2011

Am I the only one whose mouth dropped open in sheer awe at the blithe ignorance displayed by timsteil's comment? Usually there's a bit of castigation when someone comes onto a thread and shits all over it by admitting that they have not RTFA, admitting that they hate the genre of content being posted, and then making some random bullshit vomit stain of a comment about some completely unrelated personal experience of theirs. Where's my portobello mushroom style flood of comments? Where's my absurdity to counter absurdity?
I'm not just the first one to the party, am I?
I'm with timsteil. I think the OP should be TERRIBLY regretful about not posting PTSD trigger warnings because of such horrific scenes such as the one where a kitten (literally) unzips a pig, takes his labeled cut of meat, and then eats it with the pig. Also, anime as a genre is something you can easily understand and make broad, sweeping generalizations about with 100% justification and integrity. As he suggests, the works of studio Ghibli, poignant philosophical franchises like Ghost in the Shell and Serial Experiments: Lain, and classic shows like Dragonball are all a feeble insult to the intellectual palate when compared to SPEED RACER.
posted by GoingToShopping at 12:56 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cat Soup is a touchstone of one's friends' fortitude for disturbing weirdness. It's a test, I tell them, designed to evoke an emotional response.

I don't fully understand my own reaction to it, although I find it enthralling. But I do recognise similar feelings to those I get from the Epic of Gilgamesh; it's a story that sinks in and takes over parts of the psyche that aren't used to being addressed like that, but clearly have the ability to respond. It describes an alien, familiar world that I've never visited and wouldn't know how to get to, but that I half-remember inhabiting.

Its exquisite sadness, however, is all its own.
posted by Devonian at 1:13 AM on November 18, 2011

Hi goingtoshopping.

I value your feed back. I really do.

It would be really nice for everyone if you spent more time shopping.
posted by timsteil at 1:18 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Now that I have your attention, what did you think of "Holy Mountain," by Jodorowsky?
It's my blue too, and I enjoy art.
Art makes people uncomfortable.
posted by GoingToShopping at 1:33 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mod note: GoingToShopping and timsteil, you two can continue this via email if you'd like, but no more sparring in the thread please.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:40 AM on November 18, 2011

Surreal. If not for the spoiler supplied by ardgedee I don't know if I would have caught that at all.
posted by Gwynarra at 10:39 AM on November 18, 2011

very interesting viewing experience, sober or otherwise.

Yeah, I saw Cat Soup in an "otherwise" state. I honestly don't remember much about it other than it was beautiful and sad. Having recently been on a tear through Masaaki Yuasa's works, I wasn't terribly surprised to learn that he was involved. I'll have to watch it again in a less chemically-altered state.
posted by lekvar at 12:55 PM on November 18, 2011

> Surreal. If not for the spoiler supplied by ardgedee I don't know if I would have caught that at all.

The video has no dialogue, but there are some word balloons here and there that the fansubbers left untranslated. I suspect they fill in at least as much of the context as I posted earlier.
posted by ardgedee at 2:38 PM on November 18, 2011

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