The Star of Cottonland
綿の国星 Wata no Kuni-Hoshi

[ Spanish ]

October 1, 2004

96-minute theatrical anime from 1984

"A charming movie about a cat that thinks it's a little girl. In the movie we see the cat as she imagines herself, but the humans see her as a cat." (Shoujo & General)

大島弓子 Oshima Yumiko is one of the most famous 漫画家 mangaka (manga artists) in Japan. Her unique mangas are not just cute or exciting, but philosophical and thought-provoking.

Two of her masterpieces are バナナブレッドのプディング Banana-Bureddo no Pudingu (Banana Bread Pudding, 1977) and 綿の国星 Wata no Kuni-Hoshi (The Star of Cottonland, 1978). They show the high level of sophistication 少女漫画 shoujo manga reached in the late 1970's. Wata no Kuni-Hoshi was also made into anime in 1984. Although the original manga is rated much higher, the anime version is charming too.

Abandoned Kitten: No Place to Be

Wata no Kuni-Hoshi is the story of a kitten, チビ猫 Chibi-neko. She was abandoned on a rainy day, and saved by 時夫 Tokio, a boy who just graduated from high school.

Chibi-neko doesn't even know she was abandoned. She doesn't know the difference between cats and humans either. Not even knowing what she was, she was just thrown into the cold world. One could see her as a metaphor of the adolescents, who are not sure what they are nor where they are going.

What Am I?

Chibi-neko believed that she would someday become human and marry Tokio. Just like in her confused belief, she is pictured as a half-human girl, wearing an apron dress, with cat's ears and tail. She is not one of those cat girls. Basically a cat girl is a human girl with nekomimis, or cat's ears (like Ichigo from Tokyo Mew Mew), while Chibi-neko is a normal cat. She is just drawn as a half-girl. Unlike Yoriko from Da Capo, people and other cats around her see her as an ordinary kitten. Also note that the background of the story is the actual world. Her fantasy about herself (that she will someday turn into a girl) and reality are mixed together in the same pictures, without any full explanation, resulting in unique effects.

Most readers of this manga, who were not little children nor adults, accepted this illogical expression as it was. Tokio's identity is unstable too. He has just failed the entrance exam, and is not sure where to go. In one scene, he mimics what Chibi-neko does, as though he was confused about who he was, or wanted to become a cat himself.

Double Themes

Wata no Kuni-Hoshi is not just a fancy world where dreams and reality mix.

"A cat can't become a human. A cat is a cat." is a sad theme that is repeated. Chibi-neko realizes that, and then she even helps Tokio so he can get a (human) girlfriend.

But there's more to it.

The opposite theme that cats and humans can be "united" is also repeated. ラフィエル Raphael, a male cat who is trying to make her realize that a cat is a cat, first looks down upon Tokio and advises her to leave him, but later on respects the friendship between the two. In another scene, Tokio's mother, 二三子 Fumiko, who is heavily allergic to cats, holds Chibi-neko tenderly and doesn't get any problems. Technically that should be impossible as long as Chibi-neko is a cat and Fumiko is allergic to cats, so you could call that scene unrealistic, but it is symbolically beautiful nevertheless.

Wata no Kuni-Hoshi is not a magic story. Chibi-neko doesn't turn into a human. Eventually she is happy with herself being a cat. So this is a story of separation between a human and a cat. However, this is also a story of unity between a human and a cat. Like all masterpieces, it can be interpreted in many ways.

Although the soft texture in the original manga fits with the story better, the anime version was obviously made with great care too, and it has its own forte including beautiful music. As an anime hand-drawn in 1984, this is exceptionally exquisite. I especially like the delicate way they pictured various flowers and trees in the background.

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