Story/Art: Konami Kanata
Translation/Adaptation: Ed Chavez
What They Say
Chi is a michievous newborn kitten who, while on a leisurely stroll with her family, finds herself lost. Seperated from the warmth and protection of her mother, she feels distraught. Overcome with loneliness she breaks into tears in a large urban park meadow, when she is suddenly rescued by a young boy named Yohei and his mother. The kitty is then quickly and quietly whisked away into the warm and inviting Yamada family apartment… where pets are strictly not permitted.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
One of the more enjoyable properties of the last few years for me in both manga and anime form has been Chi’s Sweet Home. With its simply approach and addictive storytelling where you want just one more story and suddenly read the whole thing, it’s a book that’s your true gateway kind of property in many ways. It’s the only manga that I’ve gotten everyone in my household to read, including my late 70’s mother who keeps my copies in her living room to read whenever the mood strikes of finding something that will make her smile. So getting a new edition in makes me happy, because it’s one I can keep for myself.
And thankfully, with this new omnibus, Vertical has gone above and beyond with what they do here. With a larger trim size that makes it even easier to read and lay about enjoying, the book feels even more accessible here. The design may seem simple with just a close-up of Chi on the front, but it pushes all the focus on her in a great way here while standing out on a bookstore shelf too. But the omnibus, which takes the first three volumes and fifty-six chapters, has new material to it as well. With a cute look at the initial residence of the characters and some cute pages on the cast, we also get three chapters of FukuFuku, which is Kanata’s previous cat focused work. One of them is in full color while the other two are in black and white and it serves as a reminder that the release of this series coming up is a must-own thing.
Originally starting its run back in 2004 in the Weekly Morning seinen magazine, Chi’s Sweet Home has slowly but surely built itself an audience. So much so that with many volumes available in Japan over the years, slow as they may take to be produced, it also spawned an anime series done a shorts similar to the length of the manga stories. Vertical has grabbed a solid crossover hit here that should appeal to kids pretty easily,especially the many girls who love cats, as it’s instantly accessible and extremely cute.
The series revolves around a young kitten who while out on a walk with her mother and siblings ends up separated from them. The little kitten makes her way around and ends up encountering a little boy who she then mimics, which is entirely too cute for the boys mother as she brings the kitten home. Unfortunately, the small apartment they live in doesn’t allow pets so they try to find a home for the kitten for awhile with no luck. During that time, the family gets closer and closer to the kitten as she goes through her life discoveries. The Yamada’s are a straightforward family where you have the mom and dad along with the little boy named Yohei.
The kitten is eventually named Chi, which is a bit of a joke itself as the name means both small and urine in Japanese, and we see her going through all sorts of normal coming of age stories that you’d expect for a kitten. Discovering the warm comfort of a sleeping place, learning where the appropriate place to relieve herself is and getting into all sorts of games with the family. Part of the time is spent trying to make sure Chi doesn’t get noticed by anyone outside of the apartment since they don’t want to get booted out and there’s an amusing adventure off to the veterinarian as well which has Chi’s temperature being taken in a way that nobody likes, cat or man.
As the series goes on, you do wonder how many directions you can take a work like this before it gets old or repetitive. Thankfully, it manages to avoid that by being adorable and silly while introducing Chi to new situations. Chi’s life in the household is like any new kitten’s would be as she discovers what kind of new foods she likes that the humans eat (mmm, waffles!) and she discovers one of the most wonderful things that a cat can discover, sleeping on a persons chest and falling sound asleep to the sound of a beating heart. Chi’s life has its challenges but there are some wonderful perks as well.
One of the early challenges Chi has to face is trying to play with the toys in the bathtub when Yohei and his dad are in there. The toys are so enticing, but it leads to her getting hugely wet and the whole idea of baths together becomes a terrible thing. The temptation is so high though that you can see her desperately wanting to get in on it more. Chi also has to deal with not being the center of attention as the family is talking about a postcard from a relative and that leads her to being creative in trying to get their attention. Her real issue though is that large gray cat that’s come by before causing trouble as it’s now made its way into Chi’s house and she has to defend it. It could have gone badly in a way, but Kanata manages to make this challenge very adorable for Chi as she tries to scare away the other cat or just the amusement in watching it open the sliding screen door so she can enter. That nobody else notices outside of Chi makes it even more fun as she’s exhausted over the whole ordeal.
As the series goes on, it does try to change things up a bit and one of those things is reminding the reader that Kanata understands what life is like and the impact it can make on animals. Towards the end of this set, things shake up a bit by letting the reader know that things won’t always stay the same and a couple of different kinds of tension are in store for us. Rather than keep it continually cute and cloying, Kanata wants to make sure that we treat this seriously as well, something which the regular thought of eviction certainly carries.
Blackie has been an interesting character in the book as he’s something of the sage older cat, yet not an elderly cat. He’s taken Chi out to do a bit of hunting, showing the tricks of survival on the outside and some of the tips on how best to get your owner to do what you want. Chi’s learned a lot from him, yet Chi’s still not entirely familiar with Blackie. When the two get along, it’s all good, but when Chi does stuff to tick off Blackie, he wants nothing to do with Chi. The hunting adventure alone shows that. But when the chips are down, the two work together well and Blackie definitely looks out for Chi, which is important when the super sees both of them outside and Blackie has earned quite the reputation for problems and property damage.
When things do get problematic, Chi’s presence is something that’s actually causing Yohei’s parents to consider sending Chi to Hokkaido to live since it would be safer. The Super didn’t know about Chi before, but now that she does, it’s even more of an issue since finding places to live that take pets is so hard. It’s really good to see the kind of scare the parents get into about Chi’s presence and how it can affect their living there as well as seeing how Yohei reacts to all of it, especially with Chi being oblivious to all of it. There are some good, real issues here that the family faces, ones that others have faced in real life as well when it comes to pets and apartments, and while it is simple, it’s not candycoated for us. That Chi’s Sweet Home can give us silly and serious, often at the same time, is one of the biggest points in its favor.
With the short chapters, the individual stories aren’t drawn out too much so they’re quick and cute without being too much. Kanata’s artwork is very adorable and has a very appealing look to it with the kitten and the family, which is made even more accessible to Western non-manga fans because it’s in color. There’s a simplicity to the artwork that gives it a good flow but it also has some really nice detail in a lot of panels that lets it stand out nicely. The general direction of how the story works and the focus on it being cute and adorable is what sells it and Kanata does a spot on job here. Chi’s Sweet Home is pretty much timeless in a lot of ways as we watch the story of this cute kitten. They translation for it works well too as they give Chi a young voice to speak with as she stretches out some words in her cat-speak and basically sounds like a three year old does for a lot of phrases. It’s utterly endearing, though you may need a break every few chapters so as to not overdose on it. This omnibus edition is fantastic and I love it as a complement to the smaller volumes that provide a more Japanese experience.
Content Grade: A+
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: All Ages
Released By: Vertical Comics
Release Date: July 28th, 2015