The Cat Who Came to the Rescue of Books

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The Cat Who Came to the Rescue of Books
Author: Sōsuke Natsukawa
Specifications: ISBN  978-4093864633
222 pages
13.4 x 19.4 cm / 5.3 x 7.7 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Shogakukan Inc.
Tokyo, 2017
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The story probes the significance and value that books have in life as it traces the adventures of a somewhat introverted teenage boy and a cat in their efforts to rescue books from unfortunate fates.

Since his divorced mother’s death, high-schooler Rintarō Natsuki has lived with his grandfather, who runs a secondhand bookstore. The shop specializes in literary classics from around the world rather than trying to cash in on trendier titles. But when Grandpa Natsuki suddenly dies, Rintarō learns that the shop will be closed and he must go to live with an aunt he has never met. An older boy named Ryōta Akiba, and a girl named Sayo Yuzuki who serves as class representative, are about the only friends at school who will miss Rintarō.

Rintarō is doing some preparatory tasks related to closing the shop when he encounters a talking tabby cat. The cat asks Rintarō to help him rescue books that have become endangered and are near death. Rintarō tries to beg off, saying he has no special powers, but the cat tells him that anyone who loves books is perfectly capable of helping. The cat then leads him to the back of the store, where a passage has opened up leading to labyrinths of threatened books.

In the first labyrinth, they succeed in liberating books from the glass-doored shelves where they’ve been confined by an intellectual who wants to show off how many books he has read. In the second labyrinth, they counter the arguments of a professor who thinks the way to help people read more books is to provide them with versions that have been condensed as much as possible, persuading him of how books can repay full, close readings and re-readings. In the third labyrinth, they get a publishing house president who has been focused only on the bottom line in his selection of titles to rethink his approach, reminding him of what he loved about books to begin with.

Having cleared the three labyrinths, the quest to rescue books comes to an end, and Rintarō says goodbye to the cat. But the cat soon returns: a final labyrinth has appeared, and the mistress of this labyrinth has abducted Rintarō’s friend Sayo. The elderly mistress, who has retained her strong powers for nearly 2,000 years, says she despairs for books. Even at risk of never being able to return to this world, Rintarō enters the labyrinth and speaks to the mistress about the power of books. The mistress of the final labyrinth regains faith in the tremendous potential of books and decides to let Rintarō and Sayo return to their former world. She thanks Rintarō for what he has done.

After Rintarō has completed his journeys through the labyrinths, his aunt arrives to make the arrangements for him to move to her home. Rintarō tells her that he wants to keep the Natsuki Bookshop open, and to go on commuting to his high school from there. Book lovers and cat lovers alike will find themselves drawn to this coming-of-age tale in which the protagonist finds sage advice in the books he so loves and learns to walk on his own two feet.