Chi’s Sweet Home Book 1

I suspect my expectations for Chi’s Sweet Home may have been too high. I’d heard such good things about the “cute cat comic” that I think I wanted it to be more than it is.

Chis Sweet Home Book 1 cover
Chi’s Sweet Home Book 1
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This small volume, comfortable to hold, is surprisingly in full color, not the usual manga black-and-white. The book contains 20 eight-page chapters, each featuring a small incident. The kitten Chi has wandered away from her mother and siblings, only to be adopted by a family (dad, mom, young boy) who aren’t allowed to have pets in their apartment.

I found a couple of things unpleasant about the tales. The first is the cat’s name. It seems “Chi” means “pee”, as she’s named during a toilet-training incident with the family’s toddler. Also, if you’re not into cute, you will absolutely hate the way Chi’s internal monologue is written to sound like a baby with a lisp: “That was scarewy”, referring to the park as “the gwassy pwace”, “I think I’ll shtay here for a wittle while more”, etc. Often, these thoughts are unnecessary — it’s obvious through the cartooning when she’s lost, scared, and so on, so the text becomes repetitive. As do some of the situations.

The cat’s thoughts are often anthropomorphized, which led me to wonder why the mother cat just left without this kitten. If the baby is capable of logic and reaction, why isn’t the parent? More significantly, it’s hard to fully get into “aw, cute” mode about the cat’s behavior when her actions are frequently interrupted by her thinking how much she misses mom. That’s a downer. It also makes it difficult to consider the pet and the parents all part of one family, since there’s something so important to Chi that they’re unaware of. It works against the main flow of the book, that we’re watching how they all get to know and decide to keep each other.

The incidents themselves are familiar: cats hate baths, cats have claws, pets hate the vet, kittens are easily distracted by food or toys. The most creative moment in the book was the way Chi’s desire to sit in the windowsill, which risks exposing her presence to the neighbors, was camouflaged … only that reminded me of a movie. Perhaps this is all more amusing if you actually have a cat, so you get that glint of recognition: “oh, this is just like when Snoogie-Woogums scratched my armoire that time.” I do like some animal manga, but this one may have worked better for me if the cat wasn’t quite so cartoony. I expected something fresher and less familiar than I got. This feels like the Japanese Garfield.

14 Comments

  1. I did like the book a lot. I found the beginning very touching and I like that it takes Chi awhile to settle in with her new family. She has that wonderful attention span of youth: I have to look for Mommy, oh what is this weird oject over there, boy that was fun, time for a nap. I also like that the book brought up some of the reality of owning a cat, like clawing furniture, clothes, and owners. It was good blend of light, feel-good comedy and real life pet issues.

    However, I also think you accurately point out the limited appeal this book might have. It’s a very cutesy book and will test your tolerance for cute, even if you’re a cat owner. I gave the book out to family members, some cat owners, and got a mixed reaction. I have a couple of cat-owning, co-workers reading it and will be interested to see their reactions.

  2. I’d love to hear more about what others thought. I often enjoy pet comics because I don’t have any myself, and I can’t be near cats in real life. But this one didn’t click for me, unfortunately. I’m curious whether others enjoyed it more and why.

  3. I did like the first volume. But like a lot of manga, the quick settlement into a predictable routine killed my interest in keeping up with the later installments of the series.

    Personally, I’d be dancing a happy dance if pet comics became popular enough for someone to bring back “What’s Michael?”

  4. [...] Black Cat (Soliloquy in Blue) Erica Friedman on Carbonard Crown (Okazu) Johanna Draper Carlson on vol. 1 of Chi’s Sweet Home (Comics Worth Reading) Julie Opipari on vol. 2 of Deadman Wonderland (Blog@Newsarama) Connie on [...]

  5. So this volume arrived,and I was THRILLED to see it was all in color. But I haven’t actually started reading it yet. I’ve watched the first short 50 episodes of the anime, so I want to wait a while before I read this. those episodes are fresh in my head. But this might be a situaton where I prefer the anime over the manga. I watch 1 or 2 episodes of the anime at work during breaks every once in a while. I really enjoy them when I watch them, I also love the sound of Chi’s adorable voice. But I can’t help but wonder if half the reason I like this series so much is because I’m stranded in a desert of work, and Chi’s Sweet Home’s humble offerings just look like an oasis to my entertainment starved self.

    PS – despite my hesitation about Tokyopop I bought NekoRamen and REALLY enjoyed it. I’d say NekoRamen wins as my favorite cat series.

  6. There’s an anime? I probably would like that better than the manga, just due to the sound effects you mention. And yes, I also liked Neko Ramen more than Chi.

  7. Johanna,

    You can watch that anime on Crunchy Roll http://www.crunchyroll.com/chis-sweet-home
    I will warn you that the episodes are only about three minutes long and have opening and closing credits. So it’s much more episodic than the manga.

  8. Oh, thanks for the link!

  9. [...] two special guests with him from Japan: Felipe Smith, author of Peepo Choo, and Chi, the star of Chi’s Sweet Home. Ed started out talking about how Vertical is a book publisher that offers a wide range of books [...]

  10. [...] to a gift from fellow reviewer Ed Sizemore, even though I didn’t like the first book of Chi’s Sweet Home, I read the second. And everything I disliked about the previous volume had been fixed! Chi’s [...]

  11. Kate Riseley

    I am not a manga fan at all, but I am a big fan of Chi’s Sweet Home. I found this comic book while living in Japan and was looking for study aids (something that didn’t have too much dialogue, a story I could relate to, and furigana). I bought about a dozen different manga but Chi’s Sweet Home is the only one that appealed.

    Now living back in my home country and no longer studying Japanese, I still count down days until I can get the next volume.

    I really enjoy looking at the pictures and love trying to imagine how a little kitten would perceive the human world.

    It is clear the author has a pet cat and has given lots of attention to the antics of kittens, not just simply trying to cash-in on cuteness to appeal to the masses (like other pet comics such as Momo).

    It is very simple and innocent. I love that.

  12. What wonderful praise for this series! Thanks for sharing that.

  13. [...] into seven volumes and has also been translated into english (yay!). it’s received some mixed reviews, but i’d say it’s definitely worth a look—i know i’ll be reading it! you [...]

  14. I think that the books are very cute and are good for light reading

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