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Go, Cat, Go

When a Cat Faces West, volume 1

By Yuki Urushibara 

28 Dec, 2022



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Yuki Urushibara’s When a Cat Faces West (Japanese: 猫が西向きゃ, Hepburn: Neko ga Nishi Mukya) is a Japanese urban fantasy manga series. It was serialized in Kodansha’s seinen manga magazine Monthly Afternoon from April 2018 to December 2020. Volume One appeared in 2019. The English translation appeared in 2022.

Flow is a mysterious phenomenon that from time to time transforms the world in peculiar, often disturbing, and sometimes (but rarely) dangerous ways. If the people of Japan are to pursue their mundane goals, someone must deal with Flow. Hirota is a Flow Disposal expert.

One might think mitigating reality-warps would require advanced technology or perhaps magic. As Hirota’s brand new assistant Chima Kondo discovers, more often than not it involves Hirota’s cat, Shacho.

Shacho’s instincts for Flow are impeccable, at least according to Hirota. To Chima’s eyes, Hirota might be extremely good at his job and adept at using the tools at hand. He also might be bone-lazy; his success might be due to the fact that most Flow is extremely transient, posing a problem that will usually vanish of its own accord.

Chima’s faith in her new boss’ diligence is greatly hampered by the fact Hirota has clearly not only not read her CV, but cannot be bothered to wonder why he was provided with an assistant of such apparent youth. In fact, Chima is a victim of long-term Flow, her office-worker life upended when Flow reduced her apparent age from mid-thirties to twelve. No longer taken seriously by colleagues and clients, she was forced to quit. Eager for some occupation to fill her time, working with Hirota was the best option available.

Hirota’s indolence is enabled by his experience and skill. Flow requiring his intervention is comparatively rare, so why not enjoy the down-time? He has a trained ability to predict how long natural Flow will last. Since most Flow is short-lived and more weird than deadly, getting excited by it is a waste of energy. Getting excited might even make the Flow worse!

However, humans can cause Flow. In those cases, it’s up to Hirota (and now Chima) to work out who inadvertently caused the Flow, what was on their mind at the time, and what steps can be taken to eliminate the Flow. Hirota has a keen eye for human psychology and he is adept at this part of the job.

Even Hirota’s skills have their limits. Faced with a case beyond his abilities, logic dictates that he turns to unconventional assistance. However, Hirota is a proud man. Is he willing to admit he needs help, particularly from a monk?


As one might expect from the author of Mushishi, this is an extremely amiable story. Yes, in theory, Flow can be deadly. It’s certainly alarming at times, such as when an entire apartment building vanishes, occupants and all. However, in practice, it’s almost always not deadly, and unless humans sustain it with their feelings, Flow will revert to the natural order soon enough.

Consequently, Hirota’s main task is to utter whatever platitudes suffice to calm people down, then to offer facile personal advice that provides an apparent solution to whatever upset the someone who caused the Flow. It may be that he is a marvelous judge of character, but the evidence suggests that it’s more likely he has a knack for glib, superficial patter and enough experience to be well away before the consequences of his half-assed advice show up [1].

The characters in this manga are (barely) sufficient to carry the narrative, which invariably consists of the two humans and the cat [2] arriving at the scene of Flow, doing a bit of legwork, and then resolving the situation (or doing nothing but taking the credit when the Flow vanishes on its own). The art is delightful. The manga as a whole is a puff pastry: nothing of weight here, but enjoyable nonetheless.

When a Cat Faces West is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Barnes & Noble), and here (Chapters-Indigo). I did not find it at Book Depository.

1: For example, he tracks back the cause of an entire neighborhood losing all of its corners and edges (very inconvenient for the fishmonger whose knives are now dull) to a woman who dumped her neat-freak boyfriend because she was too embarrassed to admit she is a slob. Once they reconcile, all the edges come back. However, the pair are not very compatible; as Hirota leaves the area, the couple’s first argument about cleanliness breaks out again….

2: Tomcat. The art is extremely unambiguous on that point.