“If Cats Disappeared from the World” by Genki Kawamura | How the movie is different from the original book version.

Book Summary

Genki Kawamura’s If Cats Disappeared from the World is a story of loss and one man’s journey to discover what matters in life.

In If Cats Disappeared from the World, the author tells the story of a postman in his thirties. He lives alone in a place where his only companion is the cat named ‘Cabbage’. He didn’t have many days to live because of a brain tumor that will cause his inevitable death. He was unprepared for the doctor’s diagnosis that he has only months to live. 

On that day, when he was listing things to do before he dies, the devil appears before him with a special offer: in exchange for making one thing in the world disappear, he can have one extra day to live. He agreed to the devil’s offer as he thought that there are many useless things in the world. But he didn’t get to choose what to get rid of, the decision is up to the devil. As things disappeared, the young man begins to truly question his existence and the importance of the things that are disappeared and takes us in his thoughtful questioning.

This book is translated from the Japanese by Eric Selland, who also translated ‘The Guest Cat‘ by Takashi Hiraide. Fans of ‘The Guest Cat’ and ‘The Travelling Cat Chronicles’ will also surely love ‘If Cats Disappeared from the World’.

About the movie

If Cats Disappeared from the World (Sekai kara Neko ga kietanara) is a 2016 Japanese drama film directed by Akira Nagai, starring Takeru Satoh and Aoi Miyazaki. It was released in Japan by Toho on May 14, 2016.

Spoiler Alert!

Warning! The following content contains spoilers. You shouldn’t read any further if you haven’t read the book or watched the movie.

Major Differences between the movie and the book

It is not surprising that when someone adapted the book into a live-action movie, every book lover is concerned whether the movie would ruin the original taste of the book. Luckily, the movie didn’t disappoint the most audience and became a hit in some Asian countries. However, like most other movies based on books, the movie plot seemed a bit rush, trying to fit the story of the book in a short run time of 103 minutes. A few changes are made in the movie version. So, I will point out the major changes that are completely different from the book version.

1. The Devil’s appearance is not the same

The first major difference is the characteristics of the devil. The devil in the movie isn’t different much, except for his personality, from the young man. He almost looked like a “doppelgänger”.

However, in the book, the devil’s characteristics are completely different from the young man, except the face being the same. The most prominent difference is the devil’s outfit. He wears brightly colored Hawaiian shirts with palm trees or pictures of classic American cars. And he was always in shorts wearing sunglasses, despite the freezing weather. That’s why the young man gave the devil the nickname ‘Aloha’ in the book. But in the movie, no one mentioned the name.

Like I said before, the movie plot is a bit rush. And the movie didn’t include some of the conversations between the young man and the devil. Also, the devil’s appearance in the movie is a bit lesser in comparison to the book.

2. The first thing the devil chose to get rid of wasn’t the phones

Although the devil gets rid of the phones in the first place in both movie and the book, the phone wasn’t the devil’s first choice to get rid of in the book version. But he wanted to get rid of chocolate instead. However, after he had experienced the taste of the chocolate biscuit, he addicted to it and changed his mind.

3. Mom found both cats from the streets

The main character’s younger version found ‘Lettuce’ in the rain and requested his mother to keep the cat in the house in the movie scene. And the father brought ‘Cabbage’ home after Lettuce’s death. In the book’s description, the mother found both ‘Lettuce’ and ‘Cabbage’ in the streets and brought them home to adopt.

4. Tom’s cause of death was different

The young man and his ex-girlfriend met a friendly guy named Tom in their visit to Buenos Aires. He was a young man of twenty-nine and had quit his job at a media company to travel around the world. In the evenings, they would go along with Tom to the local supermarket, to buy wine, meat, and cheese which they took back to the hotel and ate in the dining room. Soon, they became closer night after night as they talked until late while eating and sipping wine. But unfortunately, it was sad to know that Tom died out of the blue.

The portrayal of Tom’s death in the movie is not the same as in the book. In the movie scene, Tom died because of a car accident soon after he said goodbye to the couple. It was a shocking experience for the couple since their friend died in front of their sight. But in the book, the couple heard the news about Tom that he died on his trip to the border between Argentina and Chile to see a historical site with a statue of Christ because the bus he was on drove off a cliff.

5. Cabbage Talks

Cabbage talks like an upper-class gentleman due to the devil’s magic in the book version. It suddenly reminded me of Garfield the cat from the Western animation series. They had a long conversation about the mother and took a long walk to the park. Though the movie version didn’t include this scene.

Author Information

Genki Kawamura is a bestselling author of three novels. His first novel, If Cats Disappeared from the World, has sold over a million copies in Japan and has been translated into eleven languages. His other novels are Million Dollar Man and April Come She Will. He has also written three children’s picture books, Tinny & The Balloon, MOOM, and Patissier Monster. Kawamura is a producer, director, screenwriter, and showrunner as well.

Eric Selland (translated into English) lives in Tokyo. And he is the author of ‘The Condition of Music’, ‘Inventions’, and ‘Still Lifes’.

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