Like many, I was drawn to Cats of the Louvre on its simple concept of cats, well, hanging out in the Louvre. Sounds cute, right? The story was written and illustrated by Taiyo Matsumoto, the creator of Tekkonkinkreet and Ping Pong, as well as Sunny and GoGo Monster. Matsumoto is very unique in both his surreal art style and storytelling, and that applies to Cats of the Louvre. This manga might not be for everyone, but it is a wonderful contemplation on art.
The story takes place in the mecca of art museums, the Louvre. It tells of two intertwining stories: one focusing on the humans and another on the cats. On the human side, tour guide Cécile laments how many people come only to see the Mona Lisa. There’s so much more to this wonderful place, she thinks, and she wishes more people would explore it. She gets to do just that when she meets the night security guards, wide-eyed, young Patrick and secretive, elderly Marcel. It turns out Marcel has been taking care of cats that live in the Louvre in secret.
This leads to that second story about Snowbébé, one of the cats that live on the museum’s rooftops. Matsumoto does an interesting thing where he switches between drawing the cats realistically and artistically. They have the face and body of a human, but they have the ears, eyes, and teeth of a cat. Cats can only emote so much, so it makes sense that the artist would want to humanize the characters at times.
Matsumoto treats these cats as flawed characters. The cats are real cats; they hiss and get into fights, often for the kill. Don’t go into this expecting to have many moments of cuteness like Chi’s Sweet Home or Plum Crazy. There are cute moments here and there, but this story isn't about being kawaii; it’s about how art affects the psyche of living things. In the case with Snowbébé, he still acts and looks like a child despite being one of the oldest in the group. He needs to grow up, but his fascination with the fantasy of art keeps him innocent. This, we learn, ties into the human story.
You see, Marcel had a sister he loved very much, and she absolutely loved the Louvre. One day, she disappeared after telling Marcel how she “hears the paintings.” She, like Snowbébé, also kept her child appearance despite being the oldest sibling. Snowbébé also has the magical ability to teleport into paintings…
To go more into the plot would spoil things, but I can say that the plot expands at a contemplative pace and is more interested in telling a story visually than through words.
In this book, Matsumoto really wants to show artistic intent. He uses a realistic approach to the characters and animal designs but often takes liberties to get a point across visually. Want a cat to show he’s being aggressive? Stretch out his body parts to cover most of the panel. Want a shadow to highlight the subject? Bend the shadow a bit so it points to the subject.
Like any good art tour, words are meant to enhance the art, and that is true in this book. The dialogue is sparse and inward-looking, wanting to explain what visuals alone could not. A picture is worth a thousand words, but adding three more words helps too.
I could write another 1,003 words about this book: about how the theme of grief plays a big part, how compelling other cat characters like Sawtooth are, or how deep and beautiful the fantastical art gets. Like the Ping Pong anime, everything ties together as it gets closer to the end, and Cats of the Louvre makes me feel like I have a deeper understanding about art.
The world-renowned Louvre museum in Paris contains more than just the most famous works of art in history. At night, within its darkened galleries, an unseen and surreal world comes alive—a world witnessed only by the small family of cats that lives in the attic. Until now…Add to CartLearn More
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