This is the one hundred forty-fourth entry in the Scratching That Itch series, wherein I randomly select and write about one of the 1741 games and game-related things included in the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The Bundle raised $8,149,829.66 split evenly between the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund, but don’t worry if you missed it. There are plenty of ways you can help support the vital cause of racial justice; try here for a start. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.
Our one hundred forty-fourth random selection from the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality was supposed to wish to be the one hundred forty-third selection, but it got distracted. It’s My Friends And I Were Granted Three Wishes By A Cat Goddess And I Swear I Got Distracted When My Turn Came Around, by Alex Zandra, and its tagline in the bundle reads:
An illustrated light novel about cats, wishes, catgirls, and gender feels
I wasn’t sure what a “light novel” was, but it seems it’s basically what people used to call a novella. It’s about 60 pages long, spread over several chapters, and as the tagline suggests, it involves a lot of gender feels.
This emphasis means I don’t feel fully qualified to judge our long-titled entry. I have (so far!) never experienced difficulties or challenges with my own gender identity, and as such I suspect I am not the target audience for this light novel. For me, it was more of an enlightening glimpse at what such things might be like. For others, it might mean a lot more.
With a title like My Friends And I Were Granted Three Wishes By A Cat Goddess And I Swear I Got Distracted When My Turn Came Around, readers will expect something fairly lighthearted, and they will be correct. This isn’t a heavy work about trauma or persecution. But it does touch on some emotional struggles that rang true to me, acknowledging and respecting them without dwelling on or sensationalizing them. I would guess that, for those who relate to what the main characters are going through, this will be affirming rather than triggering, but I cannot say for certain. The main characters are true friends, always fully supportive of each other, so there is (almost) no judgment from others directed at our protagonists. Instead, the conflicts come from within, from their own insecurities and worries, illustrating how these situations are difficult even in the best of cases. I could at least recognize many of these emotional hurdles, but the big one that is reserved for the story’s climax is not something I had foreseen. I don’t wish to spoil it, but it gave me a new appreciation for what some people might feel as they sort out their gender identity.
The line-to-line writing did not impress me as much. Alex Zandra seems to be in too much of a hurry to get started, barely introducing the main cast before they’ve met a cat goddess who grants them wishes that change their lives. Sure, this gets us to the emotional core of the story sooner, but it was harder to understand what these changes meant to the characters when I didn’t know much about them before it happened. Bits of background are mentioned later, often completely recontextualizing earlier sections, which struck me as a little awkward. Also, for all the generally relatable emotions the cast experiences, they do so via the very specific situation of turning into cat-people. That seems like it would have a narrower appeal. I worry that it might turn away readers who would otherwise have found themselves connecting with the characters on a more general level.
Then again, not every (light) novel needs to be for everyone. Maybe it’s enough that there’s this story for aspiring cat-people everywhere to enjoy. And it turns out that cat-people deal with a lot of the same problems as everyone else. They worry about their college classes and exams, they worry about what others will think, they worry about whether their friends will still need them, and they try to sort out what it is that they really want. They just, you know, also get cat-like reflexes and acute hearing and stuff. My Friends And I Were Granted Three Wishes By A Cat Goddess And I Swear I Got Distracted When My Turn Came Around is about the emotional whirlwind that arises from a sudden and mostly unexpected change. Sometimes — a lot of the time — it’s about just getting through one more day. But it’s also about growth and gradual acceptance, and everything along the way. It takes place in a world where this type of divine intervention is not entirely uncommon, yet it’s still notable enough to be a big deal to our main cast and those they meet. Yet it’s a world where, by and large, people are supportive and helpful, offering a glimpse of how much better we could be in our own world.
My Friends And I Were Granted Three Wishes By A Cat Goddess And I Swear I Got Distracted When My Turn Came Around now has two sequels, although neither of them are included in the bundle. So those who are interested in further cat-person reading can dive in to those as well. To get started, My Friends And I Were Granted Three Wishes By A Cat Goddess And I Swear I Got Distracted When My Turn Came Around is sold for a minimum price of $5.00 for those who missed it in the bundle, and it includes both PDF and EPUB formats.
That’s 144 down, and only 1597 to go!