Hello everyone! I’ve decided to kick the new year off on an interesting note for Nippon Manga Rebyu. This week I look at Motofumi Kobayashi’s Apocalypse Meow, known as Cat Shit One in most places outside of the US. Apocalypse Meow shows us the horrors of the Vietnam War through the eyes of team of rabbits from America, Botasky, Perky, and Rats.
In fact all of the characters in Apocalypse Meow are anthropomorphic animals, whose nationality is represented by what animal they are. The rabbits represent Americans because of a pun on the Japanese word for rabbit, which is usagi. Get it? USA GI. The Vietnamese are represented by cats, the French by pigs, the Chinese by pandas, the Russians by bears, the Australians by Kangaroos, and so on and so forth.
Botasky, Perky, and Rats belong to a recon team called Cat Shit One. Perky serves as the leader of Cat Shit One, Rats is the sniper, and Botasky is the radio operator. The recon team is also helped out by several cats that are supposed to be Degar, the indigenous people of Vietnam’s Central Highlands that were in real life trained by American soldiers to be guerilla fighters. The most commonly seen Degar goes by the name Chico.
There is no true story to Apocalypse Meow, instead each chapter is a stand alone mission that the team is sent on. As such, I will just do some summaries of their first few missions in lieu of the usual plot summary that I do for most reviews. In their first mission, Cat Shit One is escorting B-52 bombers that are part of Operation Arc Light, their job is to confirm the attacks on the bombing runs’ targets, but they fall under fire from Vietnamese forces. They manage to escape after a heavy firefight.
Their next mission has them continuing their job as being the eyes on the ground for Arc Light, but they stumble upon the Ho Chi Minh Trail. After marking its location, they try to sneak away without being seen, but they end up being tracked by a Vietnamese sniper.
The sniper continues to track the team until he notices that two of them are missing from the rest of the team. It turns out Perky and Rats doubled back and set a trap for the sniper himself. The sniper sees Perky and engages in a firefight with him…
…only for Rats the catch him from a blindside and kill him. Perky smacks Rats for killing the sniper only for Rats to inform Perky he did it because the sniper was one of the soldiers that wiped out his first squad.
The third mission the team goes on is a rescue mission where they have to recover a jet fighter pilot who is an expert on electronical warfare. Their orders are to bring him back alive, unless they are put into a situation where that is not possible. Then their orders are to kill the pilot. Perky goes up to a small convoy of Vietnamese jeeps with two Degar under the ruse that the Degar are trying to sell Perky to the Vietnamese soldiers.
The soldiers fall for the trap and are ambushed by Rats and Botasky from the side and Perky and the Degars from the front. It turns out the convoy was carrying the pilot they were looking for, and the pilot has suffered a back injury in his crash. The team carries the pilot through the jungle while calling for evacuation, when they encounter more Vietnamese soldiers. After an intense firefight where the team gets some help from air support, they are evacuated. The pilot, unfortunately passes away on the helicopter.
The team’s fourth mission begins with the team on R&R. They are then called into forward observer duty, meaning they have to coordinate the placement of artillery fire. Their target is Vietnamese tunnels underneath a group of mountains. After several misses by the artillery team, they hit their mark, hitting an ammo dump under the mountains.
However, the team spots a group of Vietnamese soldiers and hides out of their line of sight. They are then evacuated, but their evacuation helicopter is shot down by Vietnamese soldiers. When word of the team going missing reaches base camp, another officer says that Arc Light is scheduled to bomb that entire area. Chico overhears this from outside of the command building and plots with other Degar to steal an armored vehicle to rescue the team.
When we get back to the crash site, we see that the pilots on the helicopter are dead, but Perky, Botasky, and Rats are all alive. The team comes under attack from various small groups of Vietnamese soldiers, and try to make a run for it, but they are slowed down because Botasky refuses to drop his radio pack despite it being busted. He does this because he feels useless without his radio. The team is ambushed once again, but before either side could fire, Arc Light bombs the area. Somehow the team survives the bombing run, but at the same time so did some Vietnamese soldiers. The soldiers are about the shoot the GIs, when Chico and the other Degar arrive in their armored vehicle and mow the Vietnamese soldiers down with a machine gun.
The rest of the series has the team going on various missions of differing importance. The series is really short, lasting only 17 chapters that have been bound into 3 tankobon volumes. There is a sequel series, Cat Shit One ’80, that focuses on the members of Cat Shit One in different conflicts in the 1980s, such as the infamous Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. There is also a series of short CG animation based on the series.
The series is a short, easy read at only 17 chapters long and each of the chapters are very short in their own right. The art style is cute and cuddly, but it is juxtaposed next to a backdrop of the Vietnam War. There isn’t really that much violence in the series, though, certainly the least visually gory representation of the war that I’ve seen. It is also really well researched, with examples of such research inserted in the middles of some of the chapters. Outside of a language warning, there isn’t that many negatives to Apocalypse Meow. The series gets my approval.