Cats of the Louvre, a Hobonichi Techo cover, and Taiyo Matsumoto

Cats of The Louvre caught my eye as I walked through the library last week. I don’t normally stop at the manga section, but there was something about the artwork on the cover that seemed familiar.

The familiarity was all the more striking when I opened up the book, and then I realized the illustrations looked almost exactly like that of my Hobonichi Techo cover!

Last January I (temporarily) abandoned by beloved Traveler’s Notebook for the Hobonichi Techo A6. I read that the Hobonichi is the most popular planner in Japan, and so, of course, I had to try it. It’s efficacy is a topic for another day; for now, let’s just stick with the covers.

It was Cat Over Kanda which I purchased because it looked exactly like the scene outside of my window when my husband and I left Narita airport on our way to Tokyo.

How it is that a “cartoon” and a landscape can so closely resemble one another I can only attribute to the skills of the artist, Taiyo Matsumoto.

Taiyo Matsumoto drew this Kanda, Tokyo themed illustration for us, and we’ve printed it across the entire techo cover.

The idea for this cover came from our recently moving our office to Kanda, Tokyo. We fell in love with this part of the city and wanted to make a techo designed after Kanda. Taiyo was the first person we thought of to ask for help. We wanted to see Kanda from his unique perspective and reached out to him about working together.

The name of the piece is Cat Over Kanda. You can see the famous arch bridge in Ochanomizu, called Hijiribashi, and the scene is drawn from the perspective of looking out from on that bridge.

Taiyo says, “That intersection between the JR train line at Ochanomizu Station and the bright red Marunouchi line that crosses over the Kanda River is really cool. And lately, I’ve been into drawing flying cats. I drew it this way because I feel happy when I look at cats.”

It’s impressive to see the stark contrast between the flexible and energetic cat and the red cars of the Marunouchi line.

This cover was carefully printed to retain all of the little details of the original illustration by Taiyo: the delicate brushstrokes of the cat’s fur, the texture of the paper that Taiyo himself painted onto, and all the tiny little details of the city.

Hobonichi site

If you decide to use a Hobonichi for your planner, and if you decide on a cover, perhaps this one would appeal to you as well…but, imagine my surprise at coming across a book by the same artist in my city’s library. I checked out the book, and read it in an hour as one is able to do with manga.

Cats of the Louvre, by Taiyo Matsumoto, is a charming story involving the cats which live in the Louvre Museum. “At night, within its darkened galleries, an unseen and surreal world comes alive—a world witnessed only by the small family of cats that lives in the attic. Until now…” ( Matsumoto won his second Eisner Award in 2020 for this book.

Cats of The Louvre is my third book for 20 Books of Summer, the other two being The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher, and All The Lovers in The Night by Meiko Kawakami. My thoughts on those may or may not be further discussed on my blog; today I just wanted to tell you of kitties, covers, and the artist who connected them for me. In case you would be as intrigued as I am.

A Man & His Cat by Umi Sakurai (or, Me & My Cat)

Minou was a bit disgruntled to be woken for her photo shoot. But, I seized the opportunity to highlight A Man & His Cat for the Japanese Literature Challenge 15.

The book first came to my attention from Robin’s review. Not only did it sound lovely, but I needed something light after slogging through Keigo Higashino’s Silent Parade. A book about a cat and a man, written in the manga style, seemed quite endearing.

A kitten languishes in a pet shop, unwanted and unloved. Even as his price drops with each passing day, no one spares him a glance unless it’s to call him names. Having practically given up on life, the kitty himself is most shocked of all when an older gentleman comes into the store and wants to take him home! Will the man and the cat find what they’re looking for…in each other?

(back cover)

I realize this sounds a little sappy, or even melodramatic, but this is a charming little book told from the kitty’s point of view, and I quite enjoyed the hour or so it took to read it.

The Drifting Classroom by Kazuo Umezz (Winner of the Shogakukan Manga Award in 1974)

It is not my typical practice to go straight to the manga section of the library. But, when I sat down with one of Keigo Higashino’s books to read for a bit, I looked up and saw a display of newly arrived YA books. The Drifting Classroom caught my eye, and after I flipped through the beginning pages I checked it out and brought it home.

Within an hour or so I had finished it, completely drawn in by the story and the drawings.

Out of nowhere, an entire school vanishes, leaving nothing but a hole in the ground. While parents mourn and authorities investigate, the students and teachers find themselves not dead but stranded in a terrifying wasteland where they must fight to survive.

VIZ Signature Edition (cover)

The novel has an element which would certainly appeal to the sixth grade student: frustration with one’s parents, longing to be independent but unable yet to do so, searching for strength and even admiration from one’s peers…

And, there is an element of imagination that drew me in as if I was watching a film…

But, one of the most interesting things to me was that I found the presence of morality. The kids take leadership, find courage, band together against evil.

I’m not saying that manga is literature. In fact, I feel a bit strange including it in what I’ve read for the Japanese Literature Challenge 13. But, the facts remain that it is from Japan. There is text. And, I found it utterly fascinating.

I am now awaiting the arrival of Volume 2 at our local library.

The Drifting Classrom was the winner of the Shogakukan Manga Award in 1974.