OP: 「Unknown World」 by Schrodinger’s Cat
Some shows have their tone set based on their promo material or posters. With Doukyonin wa Hiza, Tokidoki, Atama no Ue., it’s set from its first minutes where Mikazuki Subaru attends his parents’ funeral. From then on, the anime blends a bleak reflection on death and isolation with the cuteness of seeing a recluse come out of his shell to raise a cat.
From the start, it’s established that Subaru has a rough time handling company. His grief for his parents’ deaths come into the fold, but not as much as his general apprehension for human contact. He brushes off his editor and his close friend, claiming them to be nuisances that interfere with his creative process. He’s not the most likable protagonist, but part of his growth comes from how he finds himself slowly reflecting on the kindness other give to him by observing the behavior of his new pet cat, Haru. As he becomes more puzzled by Haru’s habit of offering him cat food, he begins internalizing his editor’s advice that he should acknowledge when someone gives him something out of generosity. He is slow to recognize Haru’s personality, but the progress he makes within the episode show hope for him to be able to open himself up to non-cat entities.
What makes this anime unique is how they focus on Haru’s perspective as well. Despite being a small adorable cat, Haru has internal narration that guides us into its motivations and emotions. While it’s cute to see how determined Haru is to make Subaru pay attention to eating more often, it takes a very dark turn by revealing that Subaru passing out from exhaustion reminds Haru of an encounter they had with a cat that died. It’s as rough as the beginning of the episode, but luckily, the anime is able to bring the focus back into the more hopeful endeavor of Haru being the key to get Subaru to open up to those around him.
Doukyonin wa Hiza, Tokidoki, Atama no Ue. is a cute yet emotional slice-of-life that tells the all-too-true story of a person who finds themselves understanding their cat far more than the people around them. It has its darker moments, but overall, it aims to be a more life-affirming anime that tries to show how Haru’s influence might just be what Subaru needs to learn how to love his friends. Through the combined perspectives of Subaru and Haru, it also goes through creative channels to help us understand both characters and the impression they leave on one another. It’ll be neat to see how the show develops from here and what changes Subaru will make now that his cat Haru is starting to teach him how to be more empathetic.
ED: 「君のとなり わたしの場所」 (Kimi no Tonari Watashi no Basho) by Nanjou Yoshino