This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series My Cat and My Bed. While the manga may vary slightly from all other forms of media, it may have similar story elements and could be considered spoilers.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to manipulation, dependency, sex work, sexual assault, stalking obsession, mental illness, self-harm, and blood, as it appears in the manga.
Hiroki has never had pleasurable sex. Not due to a lack of trying, that is. He desperately wants to know what it feels like to have good sex with someone, and in his desperation, he calls an escort service. While hoping for the best, he's not expecting much, and his nerves make it hard to look forward to the big event. Fortunately, Hiroki has been assigned one of the best escorts from “Stray Cat.”
Haru is the perfect escort boyfriend. His specialty? Pampering his clients. He loves to make his customers feel dependent on him, and he has yet to find someone he can't woo into being his regular. When he meets Hiroki, shy and nervous, he goes through the standard script. He asks Hiroki to call him baby, showers Hiroki with compliments, and then makes sure to please him in bed. Hiroki is pleased with the service and falls in line with all of Haru's other regulars.
But for some reason, Haru wants to pamper Hiroki outside of work hours.
I long for this creator's works to be licensed for print release. I desperately want all of them on my shelves because this art style is just so pretty paired with such interesting storylines. Maybe my dreams will come true one day, but until then, I will admire them from my phone screen. I do have to say that Hiroki looks nearly identical to one of the main characters from Baby, Sugar, Succubus, which is a little disappointing, but barely. It's hard to call that a negative when both are so pretty, but I wanted to note that since it was one of the first things I noticed while reading this.
Unfortunately, for me, this particular work puts a big focus on pampering during sex, which includes lots of dirty talk. If you haven't heard, I hate reading dirty talk, and this was no exception. There is lots of dirty talk, and it's all very repetitive. Haru has a set script he seems to follow, such as calling his partners cute over and over again. If I do have a negative, it's undoubtedly this. Having some variety is helpful if I have to read the dirty talk. I'm also not a fan of pet names during sex, so the repetitive “babe” and other pet names with other clients aren't my favorite thing in the world. This is very much a “me” problem, so I'm sure most people will find this petty, but I'm already pretty biased toward this as it is, so I've got to be negative somewhere for the sake of honesty.
However, with that being said, one of the best parts about this, for me, is that part of the reason Hiroki falls for Haru is that Haru makes his clients happy. He isn't put off because he is a sex worker. He loves him for his work, which is a refreshing take on the whole “fall in love with a sex worker” trope. Even I am part of the problem, as my novel Dominate Me features a sex worker with a jealous lover. Hiroki knows Haru's job helped him cope with his past traumas, and many of his clients were ones that he needed to comfort himself with. Hiroki is so secure in himself that he's even cool with Haru texting his old clients on occasion. To say it's refreshing is an understatement. It's so chill and healthy. Sex workers deserve love, too, folks.
One tiny detail that really tips this over the edge is the importance of names. Almost every character we meet uses a fake name. So, much like Haru, we have a wall between us and everyone we meet. We really take on the experience of Haru, and it isn't until we learn the real name of one of Haru's clients that we realize we don't really know anyone, just like Haru. It's such a seemingly insignificant detail that it becomes the most powerful aspect. It all comes full circle when Haru finally lets his guard down and admits he loves Hiroki, and they call each other Michiharu (Haru's real name) and Hiro (Hiroki's real name) and we finally learn who these people are. It happens so casually, with little to no fuss, and it's all the more beautiful for it. I love this detail so much, and I long to write something as powerful. On a less serious note: this has a side story featuring one of Haru's former clients, and there is some great age gap love there. Just had to mention it because it's a really nice bonus.
I love this. I don't think that's a surprise to anyone. It's not overly complex, but it has real depth to it. Its strength is in its subtlety. It could have delved even deeper, especially in Haru's past, but then I think we might have missed out on that subtle charm it has. Regardless, this was great. I highly recommend it.
Have you read My Cat and My Bed? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!