Saturday, July 24, 2010

Chi's Sweet Home Vol. 1

Writing this review has been one of the most difficult tasks I have been charged with. One of my main goals with the U.S. Anime Review is not just to talk about anime and manga but also to talk about how to introduce someone to anime and manga. I understand fully that everyone’s tastes are different and no one is going to like the same thing simultaneously.

Usually when I review something, I am very convicted in my opinions. If I like something and appreciate it then it is quite easy for me to express these views and opinions. Chi’s Sweet Home is one of the newer releases by Vertical Inc., and much like this website, Vertical is more concerned about reaching out to new audiences who may not particularly be a manga fan, than simply pandering to the existing fan base. After much deliberation, I have decided to write this review in sections. These sections will help provide a well rounded scope of what this book contains and can provide to potential readers.

A young stray kitten gets separated from its (feline) family one day. A kind family, the Yamadas, find the kitten and take her home, despite the fact that there apartment complex has a strict “no pets” policy. This volume introduces the kitten, later named Chi, and the Yamadas; as the focus is on their everyday life and the growing up experiences of Chi.

The Facts
Chi’s Sweet Home is presented in full color by Vertical Inc. and it looks amazing. The paper quality and the color palettes match perfectly with the tone of the material. This is a fun light-hearted book that uses author Konami Kanata’s art style to its full potential. The character designs of the human characters are very basic to say the least. Every aspect of the humans is very plain and not exactly what I would call detailed; but the artwork is never ugly. The main focus of this series is of course Chi and she is drawn very nicely. While not realistic is her design, Chi has all the details and nuances of what a great comic feline should have. The author has to be a cat lover because each scenario Chi is placed in is realistic in how it plays out; how a cat plays, potentially thinks, and feels.

Needless to say, Chi is adorable. The design and character of this cat is genetically engineered to be relentlessly adorable and strike the perfect nerve for the target demographic. The translation by Vertical is also pretty top notch. The wording fits perfectly into the English language and never presents an awkward feeling in its flow. The choice to make the vernacular of Chi extremely cutesy is a little less than perfect though. As with Vertical’s release of Black Jack, they use strange spellings to reflect the immaturity and speech nuances of young characters. Chi constantly speaks with this pattern, words such as “pway (play)”, “miulk (milk)”, and “scarewy (scary)” are used to the point of excess. While reading the book if you “speak” the words in your head it is easy to imagine this being animated. You can hear the nuance and it adds to the cute factor ten-fold. However, because it is used so much it can become over bearing and slightly annoying at times. In Black Jack the only character with this translated nuance is Pinoko and she isn’t heavily involved in each story so it is easier to take there; where as here the main focus is Chi and there practically isn’t a single panel that doesn’t at least show Chi.

This is a book that understands its material perfectly and is flawless in how it presents the story. Each chapter is only around eight pages, each making for perfect relaxation material or a great escape when light-hearted super cute is the mood you’re in. Each story gives a believable perspective that makes the series all the more relatable. The way Chi thinks and acts will make anyone who even knows a cat start to wonder if this is what they are really thinking when the cat acts a certain way.

Solid writing with just enough humor make this volume a great start to a series that has a lot of potential to touch hearts and crack smiles the world over.

My opinion
I LOVED this book!! I am a cat person, I have always owned a cat, and I really enjoy just ENJOYING a book every once in awhile; one that doesn’t push the boundaries of my imagination or intellect. I think that it is strange that this is a seinen manga (older men) because this is on the level with any successful children’s book ever created. Being an adult I don’t have an issue with this because I didn’t find the book condescending in any way, it was just simple fun with intelligent writing that really makes each story pop. Also, the fact that my own cat does very similar things as Chi not only makes me wonder about my own cat’s motivations but also connects me closer to Chi and love each chapter even more!

I highly recommend this book to anyone that will enjoy it because I have read this volume twice so far and really enjoy just getting lost in the absolute cuteness of it all. I also feel that Vertical has hit another one right out of the park! Sticking to their guns of not strictly going for the pre-existing manga fan, they present another series for everyone else to enjoy. Like Peepo Choo, which can draw in the sex and violence American comics crowd, Chi has the ability to draw in another crowd. Yes children will love this series, it is a great way to introduce small kids to the world of Japanese comics and possibly make a future convert out of them. Also, I know plenty of adults who either don’t know about anime/manga or straight out don’t like these mediums. However, they love watching videos of animals doing cute things and/or are huge animal/cat lovers. This book is for them. It could very well be a cross over series that can help break down barriers and open up the possibilities of manga in America! The fact that the book if oriented from left to right, as opposed to the traditional Japanese format of right to left, proves that it is this demographic that Vertical is aiming for.

Will pre-existing manga fans love this series? Yes, if this sounds enjoyable to you and you think you would have fun following Chi on her many adventures by all means buy this book! If you are some irrational “purist” who will only read manga in its original right to left format then obviously you won’t pick it up, but you will be missing out of one of the more heartwarming and fun experiences released this year!

That being said…

For everyone else
If you are not a cat lover, if you are not under the majestic spell of cute animals doing cute things…don’t even bother! Not only will you probably hate this book but you might assault however it was that told you this book was great and recommended it to you. If you are not the type of person this book is meant for not only will you not fully enjoy it, or enjoy it at all, but you will probably hate your life while reading it.

It is not a super intense story full of mystery, intrigue, action, and/or mind-bending puzzles. It is intended to be fluff; highly enjoyable fluff if you think this is something you might possibly enjoy. Otherwise, you have been warned! However, if you fit this description and know someone who would enjoy this series, well you already know the best book to recommend.


Take this Kitty home today!!

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