Book Title : The Cat Proposed
Author : Dento Hayane
Genre : LGBT, MM Romance, Manga, Contemporary, Supernatural, Shape-shifter, Japanese
Warnings : suicide ideation
Matoi Souta is an overworked office worker tired of his life. Then, on his way home from a long day of work one day, he decides to watch a traditional Japanese play. But something strange happens. He could have sworn he saw one of the actors has cat ears.
It turns out that the man is actually a bakeneko — a shapeshifting cat from Japanese folklore. And then, the cat speaks: “From now on, you will be my mate.”
** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK FOR MY READING PLEASURE **
Copy received through Netgalley
The Cat Proposed, by Dento Hayane
Content Warning: suicidal thoughts
The Cat Proposed is a seriously cute, lovely story that has a lot of heart and depth hidden beneath the pretty exterior. When I first saw it, I knew from the cover that I had to read it, then I read the blurb and was captivated. This is a simple, sweet story that is light and charming, with hidden depth. It’s about fated mates finding each other, navigating life, love and romance from strangers to lovers, but is also – just as importantly, and just as beautifully – about Kihachi entering Souta’s life and healing his broken spirit and empty life with care and affection.
When I began reading, I was intrigued to find that when Souta “sees” a man with cat ears at the play, he actually sees a full human-sized cat figure. I loved that it wasn’t just an accidental thing passed off as cosplay, but something he thought was a figment of his imagination, a product of the storytelling.
Souta is an unusual character, because he begins the book so mentally, physically beaten that he’s got no will to live, no positive thoughts, and no hope for the future. He’s literally so tired – mentally, emotionally, physically, and every other way a person can be – he contemplates suicide. It’s brief, casual and he fears a product of his bone-deep fatigue, but is really a sign of deep depression that he’s just been too busy and tired to see creeping up on him. I LOVED the way he was portrayed, because in most other media, something like this would magically be resolved by love, and it wouldn’t affect other aspects of his life. But, for Souta, he’s been on a serious down-fall for so long that he’s literally on his way to working himself to death.
Then Kihachi enters his life. A storyteller, who is a bakeneko – a magical being with the ability to become a cat – his story brings Souta to life. It sparks his imagination, captures his heart, and leads him to not only feeling like his life is worth living again, but their meeting sparks a bond that Kihachi says means they are mates.
Thus ensues a romance that is different to most others I’ve read. It’s got a touch of insta-love, but is probably more insta-affection, and these two begin a life together built on the mate bond that becomes something sweet, deep and wholesome. There is a suggestion of 18+ material, but it isn’t on page, and I loved that. The story didn’t *need* more than a suggestion. I also loved that Souta had some issues around physical intimacy, due to his recent depression and illness. Instead of magically solving it, because he’d met this magical being and fallen in love, he was honest, Kihachi was understanding, and they found a way to work through it together.
The artwork was STUNNING! What you see on the cover is exactly the style and quality that you get inside. It’s sweet, a little whimsical, with a lot of traditional Japanese touches, like the blossoms and fan that hint/relate to the traditional storytelling of Kihachi’s career.
The pacing was perfect. It begins with Souta, and how he stumbles across Kihachi’s storytelling, then progresses into their mate bond and their life together. After we’ve learned about both characters, through them learning about each other, we’re slowly given more information about the bakeneko. I never felt like there were info-dumps or that I was being rushed towards something that didn’t make sense. I never felt like I didn’t follow the intricate storyline or that I couldn’t understand the world of the bakeneko. The storytelling, pacing and worldbuilding were perfectly interwoven.
Overall, this was a stunningly real, wholesome story that captured my heart and won’t let go for a while. TokyoPop never disappoints me with their range of the different, the unusual, and the utterly adorable work they produce. I’ll be adding this to my paperback list, and adding Dento Hayane to my Watch list, for the future.