I Am a Cat Barista: Short But Sweet, with a Bit of Whiplash to Serve

The main gripe I have about the series I Am a Cat Barista, based on its first volume, isn’t its setup. (It’s basically Rokuhoudou‘s with a giant cat-man, so don’t fix what ain’t broke, amirite?) It’s the fact the chapters are too short, so they leave you wanting! Once the treat of the day is introduced, the character of the day has their problems somewhat resolved and they move on, but the tight page count can make it feel like mood whiplash.

My complaints aside, you’re probably here for one or both of these:

The Central Gimmick

It’s a cafe…manned (catted? Staffed?) by an actual cat. It sounds a little stupid when explained like that, and no one ever questions how a cat-man – paw-hands and all – can make professional coffees without the dexterity of fingers – but the book runs with the concept for as long as it can, culminating in a story where Hachi splurges on a larger human bed…only to sleep on it like a cat. Considering this is a volume 1, it’s a bit worrying how long this joke can last for in subsequent volumes, unless Maijima (the mangaka) uses the second cat-man, Kurusu, in the main story more.

Hachi (his full name appears to be “Hachiware”, judging from the name of the cafe itself) seems to like dropping suave lines to humans, but it doesn’t stand out until Kurusu gets introduced in the bonus chapter.

Speaking of his name, the Seven Seas translation doesn’t explain it, but hachiware in Japanese is actually a cat pattern where the cat (usually) looks like its head has a pattern in the shape of the kanji for “eight” (like the examples on this page), hence the name. By this definition, Hachi isn’t actually a hachiware cat in literal terms, but a tuxedo cat (which can fall under the Japanese linguistic auspices of hachiware).

There could also be some sort of subliminal message lurking under the surface here, about how “diversity is cool” – people just sort of note “the master of the cafe is a cat” with surprise at first and then they treat him like any other human, although conversations always tie back to the cat theme in the end.

The Treats

What is a manga like this without some food porn?

Well, unlike Rokuhoudou‘s focus on recipes – where the manga will more likely give you the way to make the food as well as stare at it in case you stuff up a step and occasionally throw in some drama to keep the plot going – I Am a Cat Barista is about healing people’s problems with the power of drinks and cats. This is not necessarily a bad thing, unless you…well, want to make the drink yourself, which is going to require some guesswork if it’s not obvious already. The soda float looks like it’s a ramune flavour with dill or some other leafy herb used to replicate seaweed, judging by the colour shot on the back cover.

Well, my bias towards what I saw first really shows (especially because Rokuhoudou brought me out of a mental rough patch), but don’t let that stop you from picking up this manga! It’s a very speedy read.


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