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  • Writer's pictureJason Khoh

The Japanese translator's favourite books — Noraneko Gundan

Updated: May 5, 2020

(This article was first published on LinkedIn on 26 November 2019)

As a father of two young daughters, one of my daily joys is reading books to them before bedtime. One of our favourite Japanese picture book series is Noraneko Gundan (my translation: The Stray Cat Brigade), written & illustrated by Noriko Kudo and published by Hakusensha.

The protagonists (antagonists?!) are eight mischievous stray cats who constantly seek out hedonistic pursuits at the expense of their honest & hardworking canine counterparts. After reading this series I’m sure you’ll also agree that the word destruction is a very appropriate collective noun to describe a group of wild cats!

Kudo-san has injected her delightful and sometimes wickedly dark sense of humour into this charmingly illustrated series. In the episode entitled, The Land of Ice Cream (アイスのくに), we see the stray cat brigade’s courageous side as they battle a hungry killer whale to help save a cute young penguin called Pen Pen, who moments earlier had just saved the stray cats themselves from imminent death (I told you there were some dark themes & okay, no more spoilers!)

The scene below sees the killer whale plotting how to turn the cats into a meal. You can totally imagine the killer whale, known to be one of nature’s most intelligent creatures, conjuring up this devilish plan...

こおりの したに いれておけば

くるしくなって でてくるな

でてきたところを たべてやろう



If I leave them under the ice

they’ll pop out once they struggle for air.

As soon as they do I’ll gobble them all up!

bubble, bubble, bubble

I also love the use of onomatopoeia to describe the sound of air bubbles rising to the surface (buku buku buku in Japanese). Who else enjoys the Noraneko Gundan series? If you know any other amazing Japanese picture books please do share!

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