Cat's Eye: The anime and manga classic

"Cat's Eye" is the name of a manga by Tsukasa Hojo as well as an anime by Tokyo Movie Shinsha (TMS) and Nippon Television. The first manga episode was published in "Shonen Jump" magazine in 1981, followed by 18 volumes between 1981 and 1984, plus an additional short appearance in 1985. Loosely based on the manga, the anime series was produced in 1983/84, with 36 and 37 episodes respectively.


Introduction

Background

We find ourselves in Tokyo during the mid-eighties. [In anime episode 48, Ai mentions to be living in 1984. Manga episode 1 shows Rui reading a newspaper from 1981.] Michael Heinz, a German painter and art collector, disappeared many years ago, together with his art collection. His daughters, the three sisters Ai, Hitomi, and Rui Kisugi are now trying to find him.

Most of their father's artworks being in the hands of criminal collectors, Hitomi and her sisters feel that they have to resort to theft if they want to see their father again. Acting under the name of "Cat's Eye" (which is their café's name as well), the three girls start their criminal career, supported by a close friend of the family, Mr Nagaishi.

Cat's Eye always announce their thefts by sending their victims a business card. What's even more astonishing is that they actually get away with it. One reason for this might be that, by chance, Hitomi's not-too-smart boyfriend, Toshio Utsumi, is the detective in charge of the Cat's Eye investigations, thus constituting a good source for insider tips about the current police work. Unfortunately, there is still Toshio's colleague, Mitsuko Asatani, who suspects Hitomi of being one of the Cat's Eye group. What a nice coincidence that the "Cat's Eye" café is located in front of the police station! Obviously this classical combination of secret identity/police work/love story is a good starting point for nice plot twists.

Anime vs. manga

"Of course, the real appeal of the story was in Hojo's beautiful drawings (and the fact that most of the drawings were of three young girls jumping around in leotards didn't hurt much either)."

Jeremy Roland Robinson, The Hojo Tsukasa Page (offline).

Artwork and plot of the anime stay very close to the manga during the first season, maybe even adding a quality to the story that the original had not, and definitely bringing the characters to life. However, quite a few characters did not make their way to the screen. In the manga, Asatani falls in love with Toshio, while his colleagues, Takeuchi and Takeshi Hirano, are after Ai and Rui respectively. Furthermore, Masato Kamiya, a journalist fond of Hitomi, knows the real identity of Cat's Eye - and also acts as a thief under the name of Nezumi ("Mouse").

The anime only hints at the fact that the sisters hope to find a clue about their father's whereabouts in his artworks. But the series ends with episode 73, without revealing anything substantial. Heinz' fate is never disclosed and requires quite some guesswork. All these missing explanations can be found in the manga (although of course they do not explain some odd clues spread throughout the anime).

It should be noted that the anime's second season saw an improvement of the animation quality; the drawing style changed and became more anime-like (yes, bigger eyes and all that). However, the focus on single episodes went along with a complete lack of overall plot - the character development seen in the first season stopped dead. In any case, despite its age, Cat's Eye is still an out-of-the-ordinary series with accurate and consistent character design. Supported by Otani Kazuo's remarkable music, both seasons succeed in summoning a dense, realistic atmosphere.

 


On-site resources

The Cat's Eye Discussion Forum: With over 1700 hits in October 2005, this forum is bravely fighting against oblivion. Online since 1999 and moderated by me. (Read more)

The News: This stack of news represents the development around Cat's Eye. By now, manga and anime have been released in many countries; however, we are still waiting for DVDs with English subtitles (none available yet except for the sub-optimal Anime Cartoon version), and an English manga version. (Read more)

DVD box by Anime Cartoon: Cat's Eye "Perfect Collection" import DVD sets are available. Released by Anime Cartoon (not a legitimate company, according to the feedback of some fans), the collection consists of the whole TV series, 2 boxes with 4 DVDs each, priced at approximately 70-100 EUR per box. The price could be another hint that the DVDs might be unlicensed pirate copies. (Read more)

The episode guide: This is a complete list of the Cat's Eye anime episodes, split into two seasons. English titles are inspired by the French and German ones. The stars below the episode number represent my personal rating (three stars = best). Click on the thumbnail pictures to view the enlarged version. (Read more)

The live-action movies: Beside the manga and anime series, a number of less successful live-action movies (i.e. with real actors) was produced. James Maruyama has a look at the video movie published in 1997 and tells us if watching it is worth the trouble.(Read more)

The Heinz Theory: Although the manga gives a satisfying explanation concerning Heinz, the anime seems to have followed a different logic. This might explain the inconsistency of clues spread throughout the anime series with explanations found in the manga. This text is an attempt to gather the facts and find an explanation for Heinz' disappearance in the anime. (Read more)

Lost Love, the fan fiction: "And this is our most recent lost battle." To emphasize his point, Toshio Utsumi clapped his right hand on the wall, partially obscuring a painting of a meaningless Japanese landscape. Unfortunately, the painting itself had been much less meaningless in the past few days. (Read more)

 


Recommended links

Originally, when Cat's Eye related resources on the internet were extremely sparse, this list included virtually every existing link about Cat's Eye. Since 1997, new websites popped up like mushrooms, and now in 2012 it seems they are all disappearing again. Below are the few links you have to know.


Web pageContentsLanguage
Angelus CityBig website with news and info about the anime and mangaFrench
Anim'int: Cat's EyeSeries infoFrench
Café Katzenauge TOP!Amazing information resource, including a list of Heinz' artworks and a CE dictionary. Innovative and well-researched.German
Cat's Eye FanFiction Repository TOP!The main resource for fan fiction. Downloadable movie theme in MP3 formatEnglish, French, German
The Cat's Eye Discussion ForumShameless plug: Moderated by me, online since 1999English
CD review at EX2nd season CE soundtrack reviewEnglish
occhidigatto.itHuge website with loads of information and pictures.Italian
Stéphanie's Cat's Eye site TOP!Plenty of background information about the manga and anime series. Regularly updated.French
Shopping linksCD Japan and JPOPHelp sell Japanese 1st/2nd season DVDs, Mix-Image sells OST CDs and French DVD boxes, and anime-cel.com sells animation cels.English