Cat Shit One
• Motofumi Kobayashi
• ADV (2004)
• Softbank/World Photo Press (Combat Magazine, 1991–2002)
• Military, Action
• 16+ (language, graphic violence, sexual situations)
Stories of a three-soldier unit in the Vietnam War, Apocalypse Meow is a close-up look at combat on the ground, told with anthropomorphic bunnies and other animals. Intended perhaps to make the story cuter and thus more digestible to casual readers (a side story with human characters, at the end of volume 1, is fairly dry), the effect is similar to Art Spiegelman’s Maus: Americans are bunnies, Vietnamese are cats, Japanese are monkeys, etc. Beyond that, the story is painstakingly realistic, although the author can’t resist having a Vietnamese street vendor yell, “G.I.! You want fresh carrots?” There are no speedlines, no exaggerated blood and gore, and no unearned melodrama here; Perky, Rats, and Botaski—team name “Cat Shit One”—face death countless times in countless tactical engagements, doing their duty with conscience, courage (most of the time), and occasional military humor. Kobayashi jumps right into battle, with maps and pages of teeny-tiny text helping explain the details (although he assumes a basic high school knowledge of the war); the treatment of the war is remarkably even-handed. The art style comes from an illustrative tradition, with accurate drawings of vehicles, weapons, uniforms, and backgrounds. It’s a slow read and far more Western-influenced than most manga, but vivid and fascinating, and the work of a skilled artist. The series was drawn left to right with an eye toward eventual translation.