The queen of cat manga returns!
In the world of cat manga, there’s no more well-known name than Chi. The cute gray and white kitten created by Konami Kanata is back this week in a new collection by Kinoko Natsume. Chi’s Sweet Adventures Vol. 1, published by Vertical Comics, features a variety of short tales in which Chi causes havoc, makes friends, and explores both her home and the outdoors. Does this volume deliver the cuteness and charm expected from the brand? Is it good?
One of the most important things that creators of cute animal manga have to do is make sure the animals are actually cute. Natsume succeeds at this–Chi’s Sweet Adventures Vol. 1 is every bit as adorable as one would hope. The line-work throughout is very clean and polished, and the simplistic style effectively matches the writing’s tone of innocent bliss. Chi’s facial expressions are precious, and her movements are rendered in a way that feels realistic for an excitable kitten. A lot of the volume’s other animals are humorously rendered as well, especially a parrot who vexes Chi with its vocal mimicry. Natsume’s charming visuals throughout contribute a lot to the characters’ sense of personality, which helps the series stand out from others in its genre.
In addition to its line-art, this volume impresses with its coloration. There’s an intricacy of detail to some portions of Chi’s Sweet Adventures that I never expected. This detail is most noticeable and beautiful in the stories where Chi ventures into the outdoors. The volume’s biggest “wow” moment for me is a panel of sunlight filtering down through dense tree leaves, illuminating select spots on the dirt ground. The interaction of light and shadows here is just lovely, and it makes Chi’s world feel that much more real. Even the volume’s more domestically-focused stories impress with bright backgrounds in a variety of colors and patterns. This is a series that’s just plain fun to look at.
Thankfully, this volume’s writing is up to par with its visuals. Chi goes on some adventures that I’ve never seen any other cat embark on, and that show off Natsume’s creativity. The previously mentioned encounter with a talking parrot is one of the volume’s biggest highlights. Even some of the stories that just center around Chi’s interactions with her owners manage to spice up familiar scenes of domesticity. When Chi refuses to move out of the way of a vacuum, for example, her owner vacuums her fur. Chi loves the sensation, and it’s a cute moment that captures how endearingly weird pets can be. I also appreciate how Natsume gives each member of Chi’s family a distinct personality; the humans in this manga are actual characters, not just props.
My main qualm with this volume is just that, like any other pet manga, it has some relatively bland stories. The first couple tales feel particularly familiar. They’re not bad, but they lack a sense of uniqueness and as a result the volume gets off to a slow start. There are also a handful of segments throughout that don’t quite have the same level of visual charm as the rest. These scenes aren’t bad, they just don’t induce the same level of joy as the rest of the volume.
Overall, Chi’s Sweet Adventures Vol. 1 is an enjoyable start to the new series. Chi explores the wonders of both domestic and outdoor life, and her exploits are beautifully illustrated. The characters have an impressive amount of personality, and Chi encounters some obstacles that I’ve never seen in another pet manga. My only major qualm with this volume is that it takes a little while to reach its full potential. Nonetheless, this book is a fun read that I would recommend to cat-lovers of all ages.