Chi’s Sweet Home
Seinen – Comedy, slice-of-life
12 Volumes / 4 Omnibuses (complete)
Chi, a young kitten, gets separated from her mother. Just when all hope seems lost, she meets a young boy and his mother. They temporarily rescue Chi as they try to find a home for the little cat. Although Chi wants to find her mama and the Yamada family’s apartment doesn’t allow pets, is it possible they can make a new home together?
First, I have to say after years of reading manga in Japanese style, it takes some time to adjust to the left-to-right format!
Also, while the featured image shows the original release, I am reviewing the omnibus version (The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home). The omnibuses boast of “bonus cat comics”, but I think they’re all excerpts from Konami’s FukuFuku: Kitten Tales. So if you pick up that series (also available from Vertical), I don’t think you’re missing anything if you already own the individual volumes of Chi’s Sweet Home. (Well, maybe one short chapter and some ads for the 3D Chi’s Sweet Home and the omnibuses.) Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. Or maybe I’ll correct myself as soon as I review FukuFuku. The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home is slightly bigger than Chi’s Sweet Home (according to Amazon, 5.9 x 7.9 versus 5 x 7), and combined with the lower price, the omnibuses are the way to go.
Also note that in the original single volume releases, the author is listed on the title as “Kanata Konami” before switching to “Konami Kanata” in the fifth volume. I’m guessing this was an author request so that her penname (こなみ かなた) would be consistent in both hiragana and romaji.
The titular Chi ends up living with the Yamada family: young son Yohei and his mom and dad (who are never named). The manga covers Chi’s daily escapades as she and the Yamada clan adjust to their new life together.
Despite this being a seinen manga serialized in the same magazine as stuff like Space Brothers, Planetes, and Hataraki Man, Chi’s Sweet Home is wholesome family fun. This is a great, safe choice for younger readers, people you don’t know or aren’t close to, and for non-traditional manga fans. Chi and Yohei have some… bathroom issues early in the story, and Chi really, really wants to pounce on prey. Some Disney movies have more objectionable imagery.
So while Chi’s Sweet Home may sound like something just for kids, it’s not. The hyperactive Chi gets mixed up in both epic adventures and not-too-fun misadventures. The parents and Yohei give Chi free rein of the house and neighborhood (Please don’t do this in real life, people!), and the baby cat loves to go on adventures. Finding the perfect spot to nap, trying to convince everyone to give her milk, playing with friends… Chi’s days are always full! But as adorable as she is, the other entertaining part of the manga comes from all the “ahaha, been there!” moments. Pet owners will surely relate to the Yamada family’s struggles with taking their pet to the vet or getting the perfect shot with your camera. Who hasn’t lost their meal to their cat or dog?
Interestingly enough, unlike most fiction tales where animals are anthropomorphized, the animals seem to only be able to communicate with their species. While Chi encounters dogs, birds, and insects, she can only talk with other cats. So while Chi is afraid of dogs, it isn’t because they’re making verbal threats. (“I’m gonna get you, cat!” type of thing.) In fact, Chi doesn’t even realize she is a cat — she thinks she’s just another Yamada. Chi’s memory before she was adopted is hazy, and her previous home life is not really a secret. Chi bonds with Mom, Dad, and especially Yohei; the two young’uns are siblings from different mothers. Cute cat + cute kid = instant feels.
That’s pretty much it for the entire 12 volumes. The manga has some arcs and recurring characters, but don’t expect much else besides a kitten and her family. As typical of manga versus, say, Western-style comics like Garfield, there is more documented story progression rather than just pure random antics. But if you don’t get the entire series (particularly in the single volumes), it’s still simple to dive right back in the next time you want a dose of cute pet antics.
As a manga for all ages, the series is drawn in a typical style for the genre. The Yamadas’ dot eyes and long faces are reminiscent of similar manga like Chibi Maruko-chan, Doraemon, and Sazae-san. For those who aren’t familiar with those series, think of Chi’s Sweet Home being done in the style of a Japanese version of Peanuts. The art is very straight-forward: it’s bright, features large panels, and in full color — perfect for those who don’t normally read manga. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, it seems awkward now for me to read it “backwards”, but I digress.
While some manga draw animals in a full-on cartoonish style, so much so that they look more like humans or blobs than animals themselves. Chi’s Sweet Home keeps the cats and dogs looking like cats and dogs while keeping them very expressive. Case in point, nothing beats Chi’s troll face — or rather, troll faces:
The real visual treat is, of course, the full color pages. Konami uses gentle pastels for a relaxing reading experience. The watercolors means the panels aren’t being overloaded with a lot of unnecessary background images. The focus is on Chi: what Chi is doing, what Chi did, and what is Chi going to do. Of course, we also get plenty of reactions from those around her, like poor Papa Yamada above…
No honorifics are used. Some volumes list two translators, and it does reflect at times. Some parts seem to heavily use
baby kitty talk: “cawling” for “calling”, “guesh” for “guess”, etc. I guess you could say Chi’s growing up?
Otherwise, since this isn’t a dialogue-heavy or heavily-Japanese series, there aren’t a lot of jokes, puns, or cultural aspects that needed to be translated. Things like the origin of Chi’s name is the same because the kitty is misunderstanding “chi” for “shi(kko)” and “chi” for “pee” in English. Her habit of referring to herself in the first person is also carried over into the English version. The black cat (Kuroi) becomes “Blackie”, a fairly standard adaptation.
Yeah, you get the idea.
I mean, unless you only read some PhD-level, thought provoking “what is the meaning of life”-type manga, I don’t know who wouldn’t like Chi’s Sweet Home. It’s the Internet’s obsession with cat videos in manga form. What else can I say?
The second season of the anime is available on Crunchyroll while the first and second is available on DVD from Discotek Media. Vertical, Inc. is also releasing Chi’s Sweet Adventures, and the anime is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
Konami’s FukuFuku: Kitten Tales is also available from Vertical, Inc.