Perhaps the most challenging aspect of penning down my thoughts on She and Her Cat is simply the lack of things to talk about - the film is, after all, but a measly four and a half minutes; you'll likely spend just as much time reading this review. Yet, astoundingly complex or not, it leaves this review ultimately with but one question to answer: are these four and a half minutes worth consideration?
My answer would have to be a resounding yes. As can be expected of all Makoto Shinkai's works, it touches very lightly on the topic of love, but in many ways this is almost a null point in the context of She and Her Cat's story. No, if I had to classify the story as any one thing it would be visual poetry - it's the art of telling the story, not so much the story itself, that makes it so fantastically charming. Whether it be the soft, monotone narration of the cat reminiscing about his love with his master or the poignant patter of raindrops against a window pane, the film oozes with an aural sort of serenity that draws you in, relaxes you, and then gently lets you go as quickly as it captured you. It brims and teems with pure, subtle emotion, and the timely structure into which this is compacted optimizes its effect; it's so brief yet so powerful, and thus I find it difficult to fault its simplicity for anything other than its pure success.
As can be expected of all of Shinkai's works, the animation is absolutely timeless; there's simply no indication that She and Her Cat is nearly ten years old, as it could easily pass for a top-notch 2008 production as well. Where it lacks color it compensates with fantastical lighting and shading effects, and the enormously fluid feel of the scenery really gives the movie its impact. As the saying "a picture says a thousand words" goes, the animation almost seems to tell a story in and of itself, and for this I can call it nothing less than masterful.
And yet, while I would love to have given the animation a perfect score, it has one minor flaw. Amidst its artistic realism, the depiction of the cat as a simplistic cartoon seems slightly out of place. While not glaring it is noticeable, but certainly not worth consideration when choosing whether or not to watch this film.
The single piano piece that accompanies She and Her Cat is absolutely gorgeous. It drifts so calmly into the background at times that it's hard to notice, but by all accounts the piece is simply stellar. Accompanied by the cat's distinct, pensive monologue, the audio ends up being just as powerful a draw as the visuals, and the harmonic interplay of the two scores makes for an astoundingly pleasing watch.
As can be expected, there's really nothing to say regarding the characters; their arbitrary qualities make them entirely inconsequential assets to the film. To correspond with the wistful commentary on love they are distinctly faceless - perhaps to accentuate the universal nature of Shinkai's message.
Ultimately, though, as much as I enjoyed She and Her Cat, its temporal restrictions simply inhibit it from becoming something truly great. It's emotional, it's unique, and it's invariably Shinkai, but it lacks the charismatic draw that his longer, more recent works possess. Nevertheless, at under five minutes run time, it's absolutely impossible to go wrong in giving it a watch, and for that I recommend it whole heartedly.