Normally I stick with YA here, but I couldn’t resist reviewing what is probably my favorite graphic novel series, even though it’s totally for kids.
The Chi’s Sweet Home series is twelve short manga about a little kitten who gets lost in a park while out with her mama and two siblings. After looking for them, she collapses on the grass in exhaustion and depression. She is found by a family—the Yamadas—with a little boy named Yohei. They take her home and become cat owners, despite early attempts to rehome her. After some litter box tribulations, they name her Chi, which apparently (and hilariously) means something like ”pee.” In the beginning, Chi is all about trying to get home, remembering cuddling with her mama and siblings. But she’s very distracted by food, eating herself into a stupor and passing out in her cat bed every time. Eventually she becomes so entrenched with Yohei and the adults that she forgets she’s a cat. Then, when they start letting her outside, she meets other cats and has many adventures, both fun and frightening.
The series is really quite adorable. I mean, it’s hard to describe it otherwise. Konami captures cat ownership and cat behavior so, so well—she puts all these little details in there that you've probably forgetten about, but when you see them, you think, “Yes! That’s exactly what it’s like!” The way that food is the key to her heart and how she sleeps so hard, among others. In the first book, her first visit to the vet is pretty funny, especially once they get the thermometer out.
The art is simple and in soft colors, but somehow conveys a great deal of feeling from Chi, her cat friends, and the humans. I think the story in the first book isn’t the most exciting, but the story that spans the twelve books is deeper and more interesting. I definitely feel that if you like the first one—even if you don’t love it—the others will make you happy. The Yamadas go through a lot for Chi, even moving to a new apartment. I can say that the ending was a little bittersweet for me, because Chi had to leave some of her friends and family behind in order to stay where she felt she most belonged.
I should mention there’s one thing that some people might find a little off-putting (I feel like I should have, too, but didn’t), which is Chi’s baby talk that. It’s not every thought, but Chi’s R’s and L’s are often W’s, and W’s are often inserted in unnecessary places (“gowing” for going, “wittle” for little, “scarewy” for scary). This may simply be a translation thing since I haven’t been able to read it in the original Japanese. However, I think the series still worth trying (twying?) because it might be worth it.
Anyway, this series is definitely for cat people. If you don’t like cats, I imagine it would be boring and tedious. But if you do like cats, you will probably enjoy it, whether you’re six or sixty-six. The original versions are out of print, but you can get them used for pretty low prices. Plus, there are new versions out that appear to be longer, omnibus editions (I think there are four that complete the series).