“There are some things in painting which cannot be explained, and that something is essential.” – Pierre Auguste Renoir
I finished Cat Soup. I have to admit it was quite a trip. Acid trip, perhaps. In a nutshell, the story is simple; Nyatta rescues part of his sister Nyaako’s soul from Death and must embark on a quest to restore her fully. The two set out on the quest, and encounter God along the way. It’s very, very difficult to really say more about this title because it’s so surrealistic in nature; I quickly found that the best way to approach it was to treat it like a work of art and not a narrative.
Once you approach this work as Art rather than Story, you can genuinely enjoy it without having to understand why. For some people, this work will simply grate on their nerves. The reason isn’t because of incomprehensible plot (such as the case with serial Experiments: Lain, which I still haven’t finished), but because of nonexistent plot. The Quest story at the heart of Cat Soup is just a skeleton upon which visual anecdotes hang, each with its own unique flavor. In this way the entire story is like soup; it is formless and heterogeneous and could conceivably be watched in random order just as you stumble across random ingredients with each ladle.
Cat Soup tasted good to me.
Nick left a comment in the earlier thread about the ending, where everything sort of winks out of existence. I can accept the “awakening from a dream” interpretation. However, I wonder if it’s really we the viewers who are supposed to be waking up rather than Nyaako.
I also found the backstory of the author, Nekojiru, to be intriguing:
With the exception of Tsunami, all Nekojiru’s work has main characters drawn as cats. Even in her manga essays, Jirujiru Travel Journal and Jirujiru’s Diary, she drew herself as a cat. Although many characters in this manga appear as animals, the artist chose as her setting not a forest, but rather the human world. Her manga with the cats Nyaako and Nyaata are held in high esteem. The major themes of her work are a child-like zaniness, cruelty and nostalgia. And, as we know from Dream Memo, included in the posthumously released compilation Nekojiru Udon 3, many of her bizarre works of fantasy were based on her own dream experiences. Psychedelic mushrooms and LSD also often appear in her works.
Nekojiru committed suicide and her husband compiled her notes and commissioned the anime. It’s clearly the work of a fractured yet inspired mind. I highly recommend adding Cat Soup to your viewing agendas.
(kudos to tounge.in.chic for the Renoir quote)
UPDATE: astro had the DVD in his to-watch pile and was motivated to tackle it. He has a intriguing interpretation theory, which I won’t spoil. He also quotes the Director’s commentary (earlier also recommended by Nick). I found the following commentary pretty revealing:
We concentrated on connecting the filmâ€™s sequences together. In a sense, this film is a collage of images. When we, the creators, made this piece we werenâ€™t looking for consistency.
Which makes perfect sense… why should soup be consistent? 🙂