Chi's Sweet Home, Vol. 1
written by Kanata Konami
The first volume of Chi’s Sweet Home, written and illustrated by Konami Kanata, tells the rather innocent tale of a kitten who, losing its mother, finds (or rather is found by) a family with a very young son. One problem: The family’s landlady is decidedly anti-cat. The family initially decides not to keep the kitten, Chi, but plans on keeping Chi’s existence a secret until a proper home can be found. As the family has difficulty in obtaining takers, the kitten stays longer and longer and slowly becomes a member of the family. By the end of the first volume, the family has embarked on an all-out mission to hide the kitten’s existence from their landlady and neighbors.
Overall, this is a series that is clearly written by a cat lover. Everything from trying to make a kitten understand what a litter box is to trying to get it to go to a vet for the first time is seen from the kitten’s perspective, and it reads exactly as I would expect a kitten’s inner-monologue to sound like. Chi’s baby language constantly reminds us that this is the story of a kitten, not a cat, and truly reminds us of how much work can go into a pet. For that reason alone this may be a good series to pick up for a child when considering getting a pet for the first time; it illustrates not only the joys of pet ownership, but the frustrations as well.
While the language that Chi talks in can be a bit grating to anyone but the very youngest among us (Chi speaks in near baby-talk, dropping Rs in favor of Ws and exclaiming and crying over everything), there are some aspects of the story that make it appropriate for the older elementary-aged child. The process of hiding Chi from the landlady may seem adventurous to many readers; and the humor is sweet, playing out scenarios that are very familiar to cat owners. Mid- to upper-elementary-aged children, those for whom a specific gross humor can be a beacon, may most of all relish how Chi gets his name.
It is worth noting that Chi’s Sweet Home is not presented in the traditional right-to-left manga format. While this may annoy some manga purists, the manga purist is not the target audience for this work. Presenting the work in a left-to-right format allows younger kids to pick it up and perhaps read it with greater ease than they would have otherwise. For this audience, I would see this aspect of the book a definite plus.
Overall, Chi’s Sweet Home is a near-perfect selection for elementary-aged kids who are just getting into the world of manga. The colorful illustrations, coupled with a (sometimes almost too) cute and mischievous kitten, will attract children of both genders. The artwork is bright, fun, and everything that you would expect in a family-friendly manga. This is definitely a series that will keep kids coming back for more.