Doukyonin wa Hiza, Tokidoki, Atama no Ue
My roommate is on my knees, sometimes on my head. What does that title tell you? An over annoying roommate who takes advantage of you? Now think of that roommate as a cat. I bet you are thinking, “ah, that’s what cats do.” This is indeed what cats do and this is what Haru the cat does!
Doukyonin wa Hiza, Tokidoki Atama no Ue (also known as My Roommate Is a Cat in English) is a 12-episode anime that came out in Winter 2019, was adapted from a manga of the same name by Minatuki Tunami (Story) and Futatsuya As (Art). It was serialized by Comic Polaris. I am going to refer to this comedic slice-of-life anime as HizaUe, it’s short title; the English title is nowhere nearly as fantastic or representative as the Japanese one. Saa, kono review wo hajimemashou!
The Plot: Basics You Should Know
Subaru Mikazuki is a 23-year-old mystery novel author (Mikazuki sensei!), major introvert, and an awkwardly shy person. He would much rather stay home to read a book than go outside and interact with others. Further exacerbating this life of solitude, his parents tragically died in an accident many years ago, leaving him alone in the world. One day, while giving offerings at his parents' grave, Subaru runs into a small grey and white cat named Haru, which he ends up taking home with him. Subaru, however, has never taken care of anyone else in his life—can he even take care of a cat? Haru is grateful toward Subaru, as he gives her all the food she wants—a luxury for a cat who is used to a rough life on the streets. But she notices that Subaru can't even seem to take care of himself! Will she be okay with this dunce?
Doukyonin wa Hiza, Tokidoki, Atama no Ue. tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a human and a cat who try to foster an understanding with each other.
Yes, I shamelessly copied this off Myanimelist. It is a pretty good summary. I only have one point to add: I wouldn’t have written “a small grey and white cat named Haru” because that implies that Haru was named that from the start. No, Haru did not have her name from the beginning and her naming process is a beautiful part of the story. Also, Subaru’s parents did not die “many years ago”; the main events of the story are set 3 years after their death.
Each of the episodes can be separated into two halves: the day’s events from Subaru’s perspective and the same events from Haru’s perspective. We see the human-cat dynamic, how they perceive the same thing differently and their priorities, and also a look into the lives of street animals who have to fend for themselves. Let me give you an example. Haru somehow ends up interpreting that “haru” means “food”. So she looks around for her meal every time Subaru calls for her and doesn’t respond if she doesn’t see any food, and poor Subaru feels crestfallen because he thinks Haru is rejecting him ;A;
HizaUe kept giving me Barakamon (another feelgood slice-of-life comedy) vibes until the end. Mikazuki Subaru is a total Handa Seishuu (both are sensei!) minus the cat allergy. And Haru is Naru! If dear reader has watched or read Barakamon, you would be able to relate more because it has the same happy wavelength. Not to worry if you haven’t!
Characters that Make the Plot
As you may have already guessed, Subaru and Haru are the main characters in this story and this is about their development. Subaru, the human, adopts Haru, the cat, and the same thing is applicable the other way around as well. Haru accepts Subaru as her person and how she looks out for him speaks volumes about the need for giving as well as receiving affection that exists in every living being. I have seen some videos where rescued street cats were adopted by someone and they waited to let the cat have space to adapt to the new environment, to trust the human after years of fear and mistreatment. Our Haru used to be a street cat and she has had her share of sufferings. HizaUe shows us how she first decides to repay Subaru’s kindness in the only way she knows- sharing her food with him- and gradually comes to feel a sense of protectiveness about Subaru, that she would have to take care of this weird human who does not eat even though he has food within his reach!
Subaru, being the introvert/Aspie he is, doesn’t understand the emotions of another human, much less a cat’s. His state only got worse after his parents’ death. From the beginning till the end, we see Subaru grieving his parents, what had been, what had not been and what could have been. But we see his struggle to overcome his broken soul and awkwardness with both Haru and other people around him. These developments are shown gradually, the pacing just right to allow the viewers to follow Subaru’s trains of thoughts. I have read some comments which said that this made the anime slow and boring. In my opinion, the show focused more on the psychological aspects and taking time to establish the baby steps of changes, which can really help the viewer soak in the feels. For people who do have difficulties with social interactions, it would be really helpful to see how the obstacles can be conquered or skirted little by little with the help of precious people around them.
The supporting characters in this anime are all people with diverse personalities and very good-hearted. Actually, they are so nice that at some points I kept thinking, “ano Subaru no yaro, he got himself so many people caring about him”. His childhood best friend Hiroto doesn’t only care about him, he cares for him. Hiroto often brings over food and groceries because he knows that Subaru doesn’t cook and forgets to do these. His ‘being there’ for Subaru has been a constant in Subaru’s life which I believe worked as an anchor to support Subaru toward improvement. This also made me think how better off Handa would have been if he had gotten a Hiroto instead of a Kawafuji. Speaking of Kawafuji, Handa’s agent, there is a Kawase here, who is Subaru’s editor (he’s a novelist, remember?). Unlike Kawafuji, Kawase-san has his fair share of contribution to the story and our precious protagonist’s growth. The Ookami siblings and their cats Roku and Hachi, Subaru’s neighbor, Tarou the dog are notable among other supporting roles. All of them are substantial characters. The characters are what make this anime “feelgood”. The focus on kind characters also conveys the message that we should be kind to those around us. We never know when our words might make or break a Subaru.
Music that Sooths
HizaUe does well in the musical aspect as well. At least, I think so because the OST comprises mostly of beautiful scores with classical instruments and I love this style. The OST guides the mood in the episodes but it’s the strongest during uplifting parts.
One thing I loved about HizaUe is that the opening theme – very happy and uplifting – represents the theme of the whole plot. I will share the key lines here for the reader and generously use a spoiler tag in case you wish to discover this for yourself:
Dare ka ga dare ka o omou hibi no sukima de
Sekai wa hirogatte iku
“In the gaps between days where someone thinks of someone
The world gets bigger”
This song is Unknown World by Schrodinger’s Cat featuring Kotringo. There can’t be a better band to perform the opening to a cat anime, change my mind.
Just like the storytelling of series itself, the opening and ending also represent the perspectives of our two MCs. Unknown World captures Subaru’s version while the ending is all about Haru. This one is Kimi no Tonari Boku no Basho (my place is next to you) by Yoshino Nanjo. Yoshino-san depicts Haru’s feelings superbly through her voice. The lyrics are also things that Haru might be thinking (or meowing). Here as well, I’ll share some representative lines. Not a spoiler but I’ll still hide it for any reader who might wish to discover it on their own.
Genki de nai nara onaka ippai gohan wo tabe yo
“if you’re not feeling well, eat a lot of food to fill your tummy”
(yeah, Haru thinks the solution to world peace is food, change her mind)
Not to forget:
Kanashi toki wa yonde sugu ni iku wa egao misete
tayorinai kimi dakara soba ni ite ageru
"Call me when you’re sad, I’ll come right away, show me your smile
you’re unreliable, so I’ll stay by your side”
These lines are full of Haru’s affection for Subaru. Even that food one xD
Personal Watching Experience of Yours Truly
As you have probably guessed, I loved this show and will rate it a 1000/10 any day. For this, I have to thank Angellucy-san. I got to know the awesome title from her.
Now, I loved it from the get go. My heart melted at the fluffy, cute, heartwarming scenes. Honestly, there were some parts that I could predict an episode away. But I still got worried about what would happen because the show made me care about how it would happen. Especially, in the last episode, the tension got pretty bad. If you watch it until the 11th episode, you’ll KNOW that this anime has no place for tragedies (though there are some tragedies) but still you might feel yourself shifting to the edge of your seat.
But I personally feel that the anime still had some parts that could have been done better. One such thing is that Subaru’s progress as a person focused too much on his interaction with Haru and how he was saved by Haru. This did have a spillover effect on his interpersonal skills but we don’t see that strongly enough. Of course, I didn’t want him to be all “HIROTO WAGA YUUJIN <3” but I kind of wanted to see him being a tad more open to it. I understand that people like Subaru cannot just start opening up to people around them too soon. Maybe I could have seen it if there were more episodes. But one thing I do regret is the lack of Tarou-Haru interaction. There should be more of Tarou the friendly doggo!!! Also, I really wanted to know what happens in Subaru’s novel Shining in the Dark Night. The cover was so cool!
But after everything, especially the last two episodes, my heart was a melted puddle of mass that defied all laws of biology. The voice artists did a great job of representing the characters. Subaru’s unease and insecurities were brought to life by Kensho Ono. Subaru looks so much like Handa from Barakamon that I kept expecting Daisuke Ono’s voice to come out of him. Only while looking stuff up for writing this review did I get to know that there was an easter egg of Daisuke Ono in one episode. Now I feel so stupid for not noticing that god voice.
All in all, I loved this anime and I’m not even a cat lover. Doukyonin wa Hiza, Tokidoki Atama no Ue is a must watch for cat lovers and generally any comedy and/or slice-of-life lovers. Even if you are not into any three of these but wish to watch something feelgood for passing time, this anime would be an ideal choice. This anime leaves you contented and fulfilled, as if you just ate a lot of food to fill your tummy