It's a story about a former child star named Kate who gets betrayed by her best friend & rival child star and becomes a hikikomori or recluse. Kate is now 16, her family is barely holding together and her only human contact is a waiter/bartender of a bar.
One day, Kate is eating at the bar when a strange middle-aged man asks her if she goes to school. He tells her to follow him & he takes her to a "free school" called El Liston.
The man is the superindentent of El Liston, which is a private institution where kids who couldn't go to school for various reasons come to do what they want to do. The students can take naps, read books in the library, make crafts or continue to study.
At El Liston, Kate learns to trust others & slowly comes out of the shell she's been in for so many years.
I decided to read Cat Street vol 5 first among all the manga that came in this week. Even though Cat Street is very tear jerk-y (or maybe I just cry over anything), it's a very feel-good tear jerker.
Aside from being a former child star, Kate is a typical teenager who hates life (well, maybe a little excessively) and blames all of her troubles on her parents and rival child star / former best friend Nako. But because she stopped going to school & having any social interaction since elementary school, Kate is pure & simple, but timid.. and at times dumb. Dumb in a cute way that you love your dumb cat.
The other characters are very likeable too. Like Rei, a former high school star soccer player who dropped out because he couldn't get along with his teammates. And Momiji, a girl who's into gothic-lolita attire who dropped out of high school because she felt suffocated in a school uniform and the social structure of classmates. And Koichi, a genius programmer who quit high school because the curriculum was too easy and boring for him.
There's also side characters like Taiyo, a former classmate of Kate from elementary school who helps her come out of her shell. She also falls in love with him, only to get her heartbroken (and almost goes back into her shell) when he starts dating his classmate Hirano-san.
And of course Kate's former best friend & current teen actress Nako makes an appearance.
Manga author Yoko Kamio took a long break (1-1/2 years?) after Hana Yori Dango ended. I was disappointed with how Hana-Dan was dragging on during the last few volumes (I didn't even bother reading the final volume! I need to pick it up), so I'm glad she started a new series that I like just as much as when I was reading Hana-Dan.
It's a good series & I hope Company V decides to release Cat Street in the US even if Hana-Dan doesn't do well. I think Cat Street is a great series that it will bring new readers to the older Hana-Dan series.
Since I don't plan on going back to review Cat Street vol 1 - 4, I'll write a short synopsis in the "read more" section for each volume, and a longer chapter-by-chapter synopsis of vol 5.
Author: Yoko Kamio
Volumes: currently up to 5
Likelihood of Company B to license: 0
Well, it's Company V's title. Even if it's not licensed, it's on Company V's platter. If heaven and earth flip over (what a Japanese saying!) and pigs fly, we'd have a teeny chance of getting it (which I'd pick up in a nano second).
PS. Tee-hee. I did a search on "El Liston" to make sure I spelled it right... and the first Japanese website Google gave me was a host club website. I must say the No. 1 guy Aito is pretty cute.
Cat Street vol 1
"When the maroon velvet curtain opened... the highest moment of my life passed."
Kate walks out of the house without saying anything to her younger sister Chika or her mother. "Another boring day starts again."
Kate was a former child star who did commercials when she was selected as the newest girl to play Sunny, the lead role in a musical about an orphan girl who befriends animals (think Annie w/ animals). At the Sunny Days rehearsal, Kate meets Nako, a new child actress who started acting because she wanted to be like Kate. Nako doesn't have the acting, singing or dance skill like Kate, so Kate helps her improve because Nako is the first friend she's ever had.
On the opening day of Sunny Days, Nako performed the first act even though she wasn't feeling good. Kate was scheduled to perform the second act which was going to be filmed. But right before Kate went on stage, Nako tells her that she's not going to give Kate all the good parts & how she's creepy for not having any friends.
At that point, everything crumbled for young Kate & she couldn't say anything or move for the 15 minutes the curtains stayed open until they cancelled the performance.
Kate leaves the bar & a middle-aged man follows her. He tells her to go with him to El Liston, a "free school" for teens who couldn't go to a normal high school. He tells her it's a home away from home & she can find her place in her life.
Then a boy (Rei) notices Kate & calls her "voice-less Kate." Kate slaps Rei & runs away to a nearby park. She's on a swing when another boy (Taiyo) tells her to get off to let the kids go on. Kate recognizes Taiyo, her classmate from the 4th grade. But she tells him he's stupid for thinking he can get into the J-League & runs back home.
Kate remembers that Taiyo was the only classmate who didn't treat her like a celebrity, so she heads back to the park. But instead of meeting Taiyo, she bumps into Rei. He tells her to come to El Liston & it might change her life. Kate wants to believe in the small hope of being her old self again & goes to El Liston with Rei.
At El Liston she meets genius programmer Koichi and goth-loli girl Momiji. They all go to the diner Rei works at, when former teammates of Rei's old high school come in to harrass him. Kate & Momiji get into a fight with the guys and Rei gets fired, but he says he's never been happier. And for the first time in 7 years, Kate laughs.
Cat Street vol 2
Rei walks Kate home in the morning, when they bump into Taiyo. Taiyo asks Rei to coach their team, but Rei refuses saying he doesn't play anymore. Taiyo tells him he's disappointed that a soccer player with so much talent is wasting it all.
Next day, El Liston goes to a nearby park for a BBQ. Rei sees Taiyo's team playing & they toss a ball at him. Rei passes all the players & scores a goal. He realizes how much fun soccer is, and finally agrees to coach the team.
Kate, Momiji & Koichi go and watch Rei coach the team. Kate has trouble talking to Taiyo, and Momiji realizes that Kate likes Taiyo. She takes Kate to her old high school to show her the guy she likes.
During next practice, Taiyo walks Kate home. He gives her a bottle that he kept since 4th grade, which was supposed to be used for a time capsule that Kate couldn't participate in. Kate realizes she likes Taiyo. But back at the team locker room, Rei finds out that Taiyo & manager Hirano-san started dating.
Next day Rei tells them not to come watch practice anymore. But Kate, Momiji and Koichi see Taiyo and Hirano-san coming out of a convenience store talking about going on a date over the weekend. Kate starts to have trouble breathing, and when Momiji & Koichi run in to the convenience store for help, Kate disappears.
Momiji & Koichi call Rei and they start looking for her. They go to Kate's house, and her mother is shocked to learn she's going to school.
Meanwhile Kate is in a daze & couple of guys try to take her away when Hirano-san stops them. She takes Kate to a park, where Kate starts crying loudly over Taiyo. Hirano-san tells Kate that she was heartbroken before, but she was able to like someone new, so Kate will be okay.
After Kate & Hirano-san cried all their emotions out, Hirano-san tells Kate that her friends were looking for her. Kate heads back to El Liston & they yell and cry at her for making them worry. Kate realized she's no longer alone & has friends who care for her.
"I will always remember this night. The night I cried like a newborn baby."
Next day at El Liston, Kate wanders around the school when she bumps into a boy named Masa. He asks if he can practice putting make-up on her & makes her look pretty. Masa takes a picture & Kate wishes she had something she wants to do like Masa learning make-up, Momiji making goth-loli clothes, Koichi programming software or Rei playing soccer. Rei thinks Kate found her life-work too early in life.
Masa heads to work, where Nako is waiting. He shows her the picture of Kate & asks Nako why she worries about her. "I never felt like I beat her."
Cat Street vol 3
Kate & Momiji go to Harajuku, where they bump into a TV film crew doing a shoot on "Where is He/She Now?" show. Then Nako appears & says hello to Kate with the opening lines of Sunny Days. Kate tells the cameramen to turn off the camera & runs off.
Next day at El Liston, Kate sees a crowd & Nako is in the middle of it. Nako asks Kate to be friends with her, and Kate thinks she's acted for 9 years, so making a fake smile is easy. But Rei, Momiji & Koichi realize this and tells Nako that they're not interested in doing anything with her since she's not really Kate's friend. Kate tells Nako that she doesn't have to feel bad about the TV shoot & she wishes her well.
As Kate & Koichi walk home, they see Nako standing in the rain. Kate & Koichi try to ignore her, but Nako begs Kate to help her. Kate decides to leave anyway, but has Koichi look up information about Nako on the internet. Kate finds out that Nako's been bashed by the media as a one-dimensional actress.
Next day, Kate sees Masa talking to Nako's agent in front of El Liston. She tells her that Nako disappeared, and asked her agent to negotiate pending work with Kate. Kate initially refuses, but Nako's agent tells her Nako performed every day & night on Sunny Days after Kate was dropped from the musical. Kate agrees to work on the music video for a new band.
The crew for the music video are skeptical at first. Even though she was touted as a talented child star, she hadn't worked in ages. But once they start filming, they realize that she can immediately create a character and has the actress aura.
Next day, Masa gives Kate her pay for the music video work & a ticket to Sunny Days the musical. Masa tells her it's from Nako. Kate goes to see it & remembers that she had happy moments being a child actor.
Kate tells Nako that she didn't have any friends in school or in the entertainment business, so she was happy that she became friends w/ Nako. But Nako isn't getting better because she's stuck imitating Kate. Nako tells Kate that she wanted to be like Kate. She admits to pretending to feel sick on the opening day because that was the only way to get praises from the producers & staff, who were always comparing Nako to Kate. Nako tells Kate she has no friends & Kate tells her that's how she was like.
In the city, the music video Kate starred in plays on the big monitors. Kate's performance creates a buzz.
Cat Street vol 4
Kate becomes a small celebrity at El Liston, but some students don't like the noise it's creating around school. Kate, Rei & Momiji go to an amusement park and find out that someone's been taking pictures of Kate. The photographer happened to be a fellow El Liston student who was paid to take pictures of Kate.
The student tells Kate & others that El Liston was established by a criminal and that the school was going to be shut down soon.
Kate finds out that the superintendent used to assist children of well-to-do families get into good schools & he was arrested for it after his own son committed suicide.
Kate goes to Nako's manager to tell her she's not going to take on any more work. But Nako's manager introduces her to famous producer who tells Kate that he wouldn't be able to use her since she hasn't been training her voice.
Kate tells Rei that she's never felt so frustrated, and Kate realizes that her professional pride finally caught up to her. She starts practicing shouting at a park, when Rei asks how Koichi heard Kate scream at El Liston. Kate says she couldn't say anything, so it must be some telepathy between her & Koichi. Rei gets upset at that remark.
Next day Kate goes to Koichi's house & meets Koichi's older sister Midori. Midori is actually Koichi's step sister, and she worries about Koichi who lives away from home. Next day when Kate talks to Koichi about Midori, he tells her he doesn't want to talk about her. Kate realizes that Koichi likes Midori & he's struggling with his feelings.
Midori invites Kate & others to her college festival, where she is part of a theater group. One of the side role actress is out sick, so they ask Kate to take her place. After the performance, Midori introduces her boyfriend & Kate worries about Koichi and goes to look for him. Koichi tells Kate that he's okay, and calls Midori onee-san for the first time.
Cat Street vol 5
It would be my pleasure to take some of those manga off your hands. ::sneaks in through the window:: ...
Do you ever find yourself living vicariously through all the characters you read about?...it's a bit tragic really..