“As anyone who has ever been around a cat for any length of time well knows, cats have enormous patience with the limitations of the human kind.” —Cleveland Amory
Told from the perspective of Daru, a cat whose owner is only known as Her from his eyes, She and Her Cat: Everything Flows is a retelling of Makoto Shinkai’s She and Her Cat (1999), a simple story spanning six minutes that follows the cat’s experiences as he sees Her continue to care for him with a smile despite all of the challenges that she faces. In Everything Flows, this story is extended to depict what Daru means to Her, from how they’d first met to how he helped Her befriend Tomoka. This relationship is very warming for both Her and Daru; his master is kind and gentle, and despite being a cat, Daru is able to comfort Her whenever she’s feeling down. However, in Everything Flows, the years pass, and Daru passes on after helping Her reconcile with her mother one last time. In his final moments, he predicts that they will likely meet again, and a year after his death, She encounters an abandoned cat under the rail bridge on a rainy day. This cat remarks that She is familiar, and the two take a liking to one another. It’s a simple story bereft of any fluff, and at its core, She and Her Cat: Everything Flows succeeds in illustrating how subtle but powerful gestures can be conveyed without words. Daru feels loved, and She has a constant source of companionship that she can pet and hold even when times are tough.
Although She and Her Cat: Everything Flows is told from Daru’s perspective, the main theme is that companionship need not necessarily take the a human form, showing how having a pet around can be immensely comforting even during exceptionally difficult times. Studies have found that pets in general are powerful companions for warding off depression, hypertension and even high cholesterol; their presence raises serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being. In Everything Flows, Miyu (the girl who hitherto, has been known only as She or Her) is depicted as going through a great deal in her life, dealing with a move and the challenges of the job search while still in university. In light of the current economic situation in Canada, this is a particularly relevant issue: the weak dollar and low oil prices have made it astoundingly difficult for post-secondary graduates to find employment out of university, and as such, there’s been much consternation that it’s become difficult for both companies to create positions for new graduates, and for new graduates to find employment. I’m presently sitting in this position and as such, feel the stresses and uncertainty that Miyu is feeling as I begin submitting cover letters and resumes to companies. While I deal with it by talking it out, Miyu does not appear to have such an option and as such, Daru becomes an invaluable source of company for Miyu, helping her relax even on the toughest of days. His final act before death near She and Her Cat: Everything Flow’s end illustrates that he was totally devoted to Miyu, and Daru’s words throughout suggest that he knows happiness thanks to Miyu. This shows that the benefits are mutual: both the humans and pets become happier in one another’s company.
Screenshots and Commentary
- In my last post, I was debating whether this or Aria would happen first. Since some novice decided that Hai-Furi would be a love story since the character’s names were purportedly named after cats, I figured, let’s do a real anime review involving cats. Makoto Shinkai’s original film was around six minutes, done entirely on monochrome and cleverly used camera angles to avoid showing Her face. In Everything Flows, there are four episodes, each gently coloured to reflect on a more introspective mood. However, despite the seventeen year difference, the mood in Everything Flows loses none of the potency when compared with its predecessor.
- While the exact mechanisms are still not well-characterised, what is known is that stroking a pet’s fur is highly effective at relieving stress. Studies have found that for both the owner and pet, this simple act is beneficial for everyone involved. Daru’s owner, Miyu, is portrayed as a gentle and kind girl who, despite all of the stress in her life, always finds time to care for and play with Daru.
- Most days, Miyu leaves for school and work, and Daru frequently contemplates the world around him. His words and actions show that he deeply loves Miyu; his feelings can probably be expressed as the Japanese phrase 愛してる (“aishiteru”) rather than 大好き (“daisuki”). The former is the most serious expression of love, and as such, is very rarely used, reserved for conveying the strongest of feelings. By comparison, 好き is more informal and used similarly to the English expression “to like”.
- Despite smiling frequently, Miyu is shown to have her share of challenges, too. She’s a university student looking for work, and from what is shown in Everything Flows, Miyu has very limited emotional support as she goes about her everyday life. Consequently, she’s very close to Daru.
- The female leads seen in Makoto Shinkai’s early films resemble one another in appearance and manner: whether it’s Miyu, Sayuri of The Place Promised In Our Early Days or Akari of Five Centimeters per Second, each character has a kind mien and gentle disposition. His characters in Children Who Chase Lost Voices From Deep Below and Kotonoha no Niwa, on the other hand, are more varied in personality and appearance.
- According to records, Everything Flows released between March 4 and 25, but last month, I was up to my eyeballs in work, as I strove to finish an implementation of microtubule dynamics in Unity and prepare for my first-ever conference, so I did not have time to watch Everything Flows in conjunction with everything else. The conference was an excellent experience, and I learnt quite a bit, as it was my first time giving a presentation overseas, first time travelling to Europe and first time flying to another continent without family. The full discussion will be a topic for another day in the near future.
- The second episode is a flashback, as Miyu recalls the day when she finally accepted Daru. Prior to this, when her mother bought Daru home, Miyu was quite cold towards Daru, especially since the latter had broken her favourite cup and frightened her with a dead lizard. Cats bring back dead animals because of their natural instinct, and naturally do so to teach their offspring hunting techniques; so, a cat that offers a dead animal to one can be seen as expressing love for that individual, and in Everything Flows, Daru warms up to Miyu much more quickly than she does to him.
- At some point, Miyu reaches her limits and decides to abandon Daru, but cannot bring herself to do so. While sitting on the swings, she encounters Tomoka, who takes a liking to Daru. From here on out, Miyu appreciates Daru more substantially, and Tomoka becomes a lifelong friend.
- This moment captures all of Miyu’s feelings into a single frame, mirroring the English idiom “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Both my supervisor and I believe this quite strongly: describing a metabolic or signalling pathway can be done intuitively with pictures, but would take much longer via words. This method has helped me save a substantial amount of space in the conference papers we’ve published.
- Miyu stretches after reminiscing about how she warmed up to Daru, and with this, the second episode comes to an end. In the present, Daru remarks that he’s feeling winter in the air and sleeping more, corroborating that he is aging. Cats have an average lifespan of fifteen years, and given that he’s been with Miyu for quite some time, subtle hints are shown that he’s reaching the end of his time. He spends a short section of the third episode reminiscing about how he had lost his family as a kitten, but also notes that he’s having trouble remembering details (another sign of age).
- The third episode likewise presents flashbacks, following Miyu as she transitions from high school to university, moving out against her mother’s wishes. Even in a slow-paced anime such as Everything Flows, the visuals, aural aspects and body language are highly effective at conveying to audiences what Daru and Miyu are feeling. These flashbacks serve to reinforce that Daru’s been around for a while; he says that despite not understanding a word of what Miyu says, her tone and actions are all that’s necessary for him to really get how she’s feeling at a point in time.
- While Everything Flows was animated and produced by Linden Films, and therefore lacks the graphical depth of Makoto Shinkai’s films, the facial expressions in the characters, reflective dialogue and infrequent but well-placed music are consistent with his style. Miyu’s smile stood out to me in particular; besides conveying a girl of great warmth, her smile is exactly that of what I’ve seen in The Place Promised In Our Early Days and Five Centimeters Per Second.
- To assuage her mother’s worries, Miyu decides to be roommates with Tomoko; her mother decides to finally let Miyu move out, asking Daru to look after her. Compared to Makoto Shinkai’s other films, which have incredible details bar none, Everything Flows is presented in a much simpler manner: landscapes and interiors are minimalist and cleanly presented, and I have stated previously that simpler landscapes and artwork are usually intentional, allowing focus to be on the character’s dialogue.
- The challenges Miyu encounters are only implicitly shown, but her body language and the presentation of various scenes do much to convey a specific emotion. Now, word has reached my ears that Makoto Shinkai’s Kimi no nawa is set for a release on August 26, 2016. That’s still four months and twelve days away, but Makoto Shinkai films generally release quite quickly, so I’m greatly looking forwards to seeing how this one plays out.
- Sensing that his time is coming to an end and feeling melancholy from Miyu’s unhappiness, Daru decides to dial her mother’s number, but being a cat, is unable to partake in conversation. Miyu’s mother assumes the worst and comes straight over, but it turns out that Miyu, though unhappy, is fine. In general, pets are highly intelligent and are quite attuned to their surroundings.
- Fear gives way to relief and then happiness as Miyu’s mother strokes Daru, whose comments here show that, having done one final thing for Miyu, he can finally rest. Daru is remarkably selfless and does everything possible as a cat in order to help Miyu out. His actions bring Miyu and her mother together; despite the former lacking any desire to speak with her, this action presumably closes their distance. I absolutely love the opening and ending song, and the soundtrack is set to release on May 25.
- Shortly after his death, there are no tears, but later on, while Miyu is lying in bed, she feels a phantom cat brush against her and begins to cry. However, Daru’s final words suggest that he’ll be back to support Miyu. Themes of distance remain present in Everything Flows, but because this was not a Shinkai film, I’ve opted to go with a completely different discussion; distance simply isn’t at the same level of relevance as it was in the original She and Her Cat. It is my belief that themes that are more obvious in a narrative are of greater relevance: an author usually intends to make a statement, and obfuscating this statement behind difficult concepts or obscure symbols would defeat their purpose.
- Yesterday marked the last day of classes for this semester, and although I’d finished my last class on Tuesday, yesterday, I observed the iOS class’ final project presentations. I was utterly blown away by how polished, professional and fun each presentation was. It’s quite clear that everyone in the class had put in a lot of effort into creating their apps and I look forwards to taking a look at their final submission. I watched all four episodes of Everything Flows during lunch hour, and as the last day, the food trucks were on campus, including the Red Wagon, so I got to watch Everything Flows with their Montreal Smoked Meat Hash as an accompaniment.
- The Smoked Meat Hash this time felt much more flavourful than I remember: this dish is always of a high quality, but this time, the smokiness of the meats, crunch of the onions and a mild heat from the banana peppers give things a bit more kick than usual. Returning back to Everything flows, a year hence, Miyu is back on her feet and has found employment. On a rainy day, she comes across an abandoned cat with white fur, and it seems that this cat houses Daru’s spirit: the cat takes an instant liking to her, and she adopts him. Because this cat had white fur, some have speculated that that it is Chobi of Makoto Shinkai’s She and Her Cat.
- Thus ends this review and with it, my final winter term as a student: I stopped by campus earlier today to discuss the next steps for my third conference paper, which is due on Monday. The paper is almost there, and I’m stopping by the CAVE on campus to update the microtubule simulation there so I can get some photographs of the CAVE running the aforementioned simulation for the conference paper. As far as anime goes, the next posts I have planned out are a talk for Aria The Avvenire‘s second OVA, and a special reflection on The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi as it’s been a decade since the anime first aired.
With all four OVAs under my belt, She and Her Cat: Everything Flows tells a direct and moving story about how important pets can be in an individual’s life, and moreover, this relationship also can help a pet become happier. Coupled with a calming set of opening and closing songs and plain but clean artwork, She and Her Cat: Everything Flows further suggests that there is beauty in simplicity. Even though there is more content than Makoto Shinkai’s She and Her Cat, She and Her Cat: Everything Flows presents a similarly fleeting glimpse into Miyu and Daru’s life, and despite its greater length, conveys the same sense as the original animation. At present, I do not have any pets, and most of my stress relief in life comes in the form of talking the problems out to people who are close to me (however difficult it may be for me, as I tend to try and take on my problems on my own), but I have helped family and friends with looking after their pet rabbits. Since then, I’ve been partial to rabbits because, beyond their adorable constitution, they are highly intelligent and full of pleasant surprises, so I might just decide to take care of a rabbit a ways into the future (I am aware of their living requirements and rabbit-proofing practises, plus health considerations to keep them healthy and happy). So, the final verdict is that She and Her Cat: Everything Flows is a short and pleasant presentation about companionship, and as such, is something I can easily recommend for all audiences.