Well, we're finally done with the maids, so let's move on to something more positive, something everyone can enjoy - cute animals! This month's reviews will all be about cat- or dog-centric manga, and I'm starting things off with one of my personal favorites.
CHI'S SWEET HOME (Chizu Suito Homu), by Kanata Konami. First published in 2004, and first published in North America in 2010.
Chi is an adorable little grey tabby kitten who becomes separated from her mother and littermates. She is eventually taken in by Yohei and his parents, the Yamadas. As Chi becomes more familiar with her new home, her new family tries their best to care for her while keeping her hidden, as their apartment complex doesn't allow pets.
Chi's Sweet Home is a sophisticated, complex work, a deep metaphor for the struggle of nature to overcome and adapt to man in the 21st cent - oh, who the hell am I kidding? It's about a little kitty doing cute things and I absolutely love it!
I'll admit to being biased - I've always been a cat person, and nothing gets me happier or more giggly than cats doing cute things. As such, Chi's Sweet Home hits that target spot-on. Its cuteness is undeniable. It's one of the simplest, most pure examples of slice-of-life on the market. There's no huge overarcing plot, just Chi learning to live with people, exploring a houseful of places to play, and dealing with the dreaded litterbox. Even the dialogue is simple and short, and Chi's inner monologue gives her an adorable little lisp to go with her babytalk. As such, this is one of the rare manga on the North American market that can be read and understood by small children (which is weird, considering this runs in a seinen magazine). Those who own or are familiar with cats will find a lot of familiar situations in this story, but anyone can enjoy the sweet simplicity of this story.
The art for Chi's Sweet Home is also sweet and simple. It's also in full color, with lots of soft watercolors for the backgrounds. The character designs are simple, almost child-like, but they can be shockingly effective. For example, Chi's face is little more than two enormous eyes and a triangle for a mouth, but Konami gets so much emotional range and so much comedy out them with just the widening of Chi's pupils or the drop of her wee kitty jaw. Panels are small (although that may be more of a reflection of the small physical size of the volumes), but are spaciously composed.
In a rare move, Vertical chose to publish this volume flipped, most likely to make all the more accessible to small children not used to unflipped manga. There's also a diagram of the Yamada's apartment in the back. As noted, the volume is smaller and thinner than your average tankoban, but the paper is of notably higher quality, which I would consider a fair trade off.
Chi's Sweet Home is a series that I can recommend to anyone of any age who can enjoy manga, or just wants a concentrated dose of adorability.
This series is published by Vertical. This series is ongoing in Japan, with 10 volumes currently available. 9 volumes have been published so far, with the 10th coming in August 2013. All volumes are currently in print.
You can purchase this volume and many more like it through RightStuf.com!