Japanese filmmaker Tatsuo Satō is well-regarded in the anime community, most notably for his series Martian Successor Nadesico. Although he was studying to become a lawyer, Satō pivoted to pursue a career as an anime director despite the fact that he initially tried to make it in the film industry before getting into animation. Cat Soup, his 2001 collaboration with another pioneer from the anime industry – Masaaki Yuasa (who is responsible for masterpieces like Tatami Galaxy and Ping Pong the Animation) stands out as a bizarre addition to his filmography.
In an interview, Satō explained: “I was also making movies at the time and wanted to work in the film industry but animation was easier to get into, so I tried that instead.I liked anime so I didn’t have any second thoughts about entering the industry. Hayao Miyazaki’s works, like The Castle of Cagliostro, were an inspiration. I thought that visually, animation could do some things that weren’t possible in live-action films.”
The screenplay for the 2001 experimental short was co-written by the filmmaker and Masaaki Yuasa whose influence can be seen all over the production. Cat Soup is a surreal meditation on mortality and spirituality, told through an allegorical tale about an anthropomorphic kitten who embarks on a grand quest to rescue his sister’s soul. In order to achieve that, he needs to enter the ominous land of the dead.
Cat Soup was inspired by the art of manga artist Nekojiru who published her work in periodicals as well as television shows. Sadly, she passed away due to suicide in 1998 and never got the chance to see this beautiful adaptation of her creations. Cat Soup received several accolades, including prizes Best Short Film at the Fantasia Festival as well as the Excellence Prize in Animation at a national Arts Festival.
Watch the beautiful and experimental short Cat Soup, below.