This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series An Innocent Puppy Meets a Two-Faced Cat. 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 house fires, manipulation, and age gaps, as it appears in the manga.
Naohito is very hardworking. He wants to move up the corporate ladder as soon as possible but doesn't think that's possible if he reveals his true self. So, he puts on a friendly and gentle mask that he uses with everyone at work. This leads to everyone liking him, but no one really knows him. His existence, while successful, is ultimately very lonely. Though he has a long history of lovers and relationships, none lasted because they eventually realized Naohito would always put up a front. They never really know who he is. Nearing forty, Naohito is losing hope that he'll ever have a romantic life partner, but the only friend who knows him for who he is, Seiji, isn't ready for him to give up just yet. Seiji ends up talking Naohito into coming to a singles mixer where Seiji works. Despite Naohito's disinterest, he decides to go.
As expected, Naohito ends up being the oldest man there, and he has no interest in getting involved with any of the young people romantically or otherwise. While he does his best to remain distant and just enjoy the food, another young man ends up coming up and making himself at home at Naohito's booth. The young man's name is Tohru, and he also came for a friend with no interest in dating anyone there. Unlike Naohito, Tohru is open and honest, obnoxiously so, and the young man is able to pull out the more honest side of Naohito as well. After an uncomfortable walk to the station together, Naohito writes this encounter off as a strange one-time interaction. Surprisingly, he runs into Tohru at one of his client's locations.
Unable to brush the young man off without risking his contract with the client, Naohito is forced to appease Tohru whenever they run into each other. Unfortunately, this happens far more often than Naohito ever intends. After Tohru's apartment burns down, Naohito feels compelled to help the young man by letting him move into his extra bedroom. So begins this unlikely duo existing together. While Naohito was perfectly content living alone, having the vibrant Tohru around only highlights his loneliness. Will he be willing to accept this new life of light and honesty? Or is he too old to change his ways?
The art isn't my favorite. It's nice, but it feels antiquated, and it's far from clean initially but does get better as it goes along. It probably doesn't help that I don't care for either of our main character's designs. Naohito almost always has his hair slicked back, which isn't my favorite look, and Tohru is the jock-type with longer hair on top and shorter hair along the back and sides. Tohru is super unattractive to me, which is more just my preference than anything else. Naohito, when he does have his hair down, is definitely my type, and he is super attractive then. Another thing that does bother me is the ears, which often come off the sides of their heads really far – unrealistically so. Overall, it's very sketchy and heavy-handed when it comes to the darker tones and outlining, and the characters just aren't my favorite design-wise. It's totally serviceable, though, and is, of course, much better than anything I could ever do.
This is where I admit part of the reason I am doing this review is because of how much I love the spin-off of this. I want to review that spin-off as soon as possible, but I want to do it in the intended order, so here I am reviewing this. That doesn't mean I don't like this manga. I do. It's cute, but compared to the spin-off, this isn't nearly as good. One of the best parts of this initial manga is most certainly Seiji, who also happens to be the main character of the spin-off series. Seiji is 1,000% my type, as the relaxed, lazy, and down-to-earth friend who pesters our main characters into doing what they already want to do. We love a supportive best friend, and Seiji is just that. He's the catalyst for this entire manga, as the only reason Naohito even considers male partners is because Seiji makes a casual suggestion to try dating men. Seiji is just such a cool dude, and I loved him long before I got to the spin-off.
I've been pretty hard on this thus far, but I did enjoy it. It really comes into its own from chapter 3 onwards (and just for reference, this is 5 chapters long). This is right after their first sexual encounter, and while Naohito has always been more honest with Tohru, this is where he begins to expose the more raw and vulnerable parts of himself. As the title suggests, Naohito is very cat-like, often being a bit prickly and hard to understand due to the masks he wears around different people. I really like this character type, especially when he starts exposing his soft underbelly. One of my favorite parts of having this character type is seeing how they are when that prickly side of them is torn away, whether that is in the bedroom or not. We get to see both, which I am so about.
The best part of all this is the final chapter. It really exposes all of Naohito's insecurities over his age and his personality, and it all culminates in them having some super sexy and super sweet sex. Naohito and Tohru are separated for a time due to a change in work schedules, Naohito works during the day, and Tohru works nights, so they never see each other. Tohru, as the younger, dog-like top, is depicted as insatiable when it comes to sex, and he just sweeps away Naohito in the pleasure of it all. But without Tohru around, Naohito starts reliving his days of loneliness before Tohru. It's so sweet watching him realize how much he loves Tohru and wants him just as much. When they finally reunite, Naohito initiates and confesses his insecurities about being the older man, wanting to have sex, and the like. Meanwhile, Tohru is comforting him and assuaging all of his fears. I love this chapter so, so much, and it is so worth reading for.
This is fine. It's much better in the second half than in the first, so if you can hang in for the first two chapters, you're in for a really good time afterward. However, I think this is worth reading just to meet Seiji and get the context for the spin-off series, which I will review soon. Otherwise, this is a perfectly fine manga worth every penny I spent.
Have you read An Innocent Puppy Meets a Two-Faced Cat? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!