TL;DR: A sweet story about books, The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa is a lovely tale for a Sunday.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Rintaro Natsuki has lost his grandfather, his sole caregiver in the world. An aunt is found who can take him in, but Rintaro doesn’t feel anything. He’s numb and becomes a hikikomori, or a shut-in who refuses to go to school. He also feels as if no one would miss him at school, even though two of his classmates stop by his grandfather’s bookstore to find out how he is. When a talking cat shows up and demands Rintaro help him save books, his life inexplicably changes.
This is a sweet story and every adventure he goes on with the cat is a commentary on the love of books and why they shouldn’t be locked away, cut up or only for those good enough to own them. It’s a simple story and the translation, while good, wasn’t as rich as I imagine the Japanese version would be. For all that and more, I gave it 4 stars.
Rintaro Natsuki loses his grandfather and loses himself in his grandfather’s secondhand bookshop. He stops going to school and doesn’t look forward to anything, especially not moving in with an aunt he met for the first time after his grandfather dies.
He has two classmates who check on him in the store, but otherwise, he is left alone to mourn. One day, a talking cat, Tiger, shows up and demands Rintaro help him save books. They go on three quests and each one features a different variation of saving the books. Slowly, Rintaro comes out of his shell, but can he give up his grandfather’s beloved bookshop?
What I liked & liked less
This is a simple story with a very clear message about how books should be loved, cherished, and read, but that that shouldn’t be the only way to live life. The adventures Tiger and Rintaro go on are interesting enough, although there doesn’t appear to be any danger at all for Rintaro, no matter what Tiger says.
Rintaro is that shy, geeky kid who feels invisible and is overwhelmed at the sudden death of his grandfather. The author did a great job of coaxing him out of his shell and numbness, starting with little things until eventually he comes out completely.
The cat, Tiger, is a vehicle to keep the story moving, although I didn’t find him to be as well-rounded as I’d expect a talking cat to be. I also found his ‘help’ in each of the quests to be nonexistent, but since the purpose of the quests was to show Rintaro he had a reason to stay invested in life and the bookshop, it wasn’t a deal breaker for me.
The popular kid in school being interested in Rintaro felt odd… forced. Why would Akiba care about a shy kid who he never really interacts with in school? I wasn’t sure why he was included in the cast.
Sayo, on the other hand, made a lot more sense and her interactions with Rintaro grew over time. She seemed to have a reason to initially talk to him and then once they got to know each other better, their friendship blossomed. Akiba never gets past the nice guy at school phase.
The different quest worlds were interesting and the lessons taught by each were not complex. I liked that Rintaro got to use what he learned from books and his grandfather to complete each one, which cemented the lessons he learned and we learned.
The story didn’t have as much depth as I expected, but I’m guessing the limitations of translation is the reason for that.
To Sum Up (Too Late!)
This is a light easy story to read, which hammers home the importance of books, but also the importance of living outside of books. The journey is simple yet moving and I enjoyed how easy it was to read. For all that and more, i gave it 4 stars,
About the Author
There was little to no information about the author available in English.
This fills the Multiverse square on my Fantasy 2023 Bingo card.