Chi's Sweet Home
Cats may not be said as manís best friend, but they are fantastic in their own way. Our hearts certainly have been utterly stolen by Chi from Chi's Sweet Home. Cats are curious creatures by nature, and Chi being the way she is, makes for a wonderful feline protagonist. Early in the story, she becomes separated from her mom, and subsequently adopted by the Yamadas.
Life becomes an enjoyable challenge for both Chi and her human family, as they adjust to living one another in episodic tidbits. This series is a slice of life tale spoken from the perspective of a cat. It is a bit silly, but only cat speech is translated, so this may put dog lovers in the dark here. The series is still pet friendly as there are humorous situations with Chi interacting with animals and pets of other species. Any reader picking up this book doesnít have to own a cat to experience how a cat owner can relate to actions or situations that Chi has.
Chi's Sweet Home is done entirely in color identical to its Japanese counterpart. Vertical acknowledging the popularity of the series created a portal at http://www.chisweethome.net/ that has extras only available with the Japanese edition. As this review is written, there has been up to nine ongoing volumes released in Japanese, and the English edition catches up. Chi has two seasons of anime that was adapted from the manga. There hasnít been as much similar feline character releases, to read about, but either Animal Land, Aria or Ramen Neko might just be other feline or animal friendly reading experience. Chi steals a lot of the show with how adorable she is, so any reader should automatically go "Awww!"
Reviewed by Linda Yau, September 2012
Chi's Sweet Home
Sometimes good things come in small packages, and sometimes great anime comes in little three-minute bursts. Chronicling the fairly realistic adventures of an adorable little kitten and the family that adopts her, Chi's Sweet Home accomplishes what most series consisting of short episodes don't: it maintains an engaging narrative while still taking advantage of the lightness of the format.
The story focuses on Chi's development from a naive, helpless lost kitten to a beloved member of the Yamada family. As you might expect, Chi herself is adorable, but the creators wisely resisted the urge to make her too cute; instead of looking like Hello Kitty, she often resembles a real cat, especially when she's angry and baring her tiny teeth. This design choice, along with the inclusion of some of the less pleasant realities of cat ownership including hair balls, scratching up the furniture, and struggles with the litter box keep the series from ever being too cutesy, but strangely, ultimately make Chi even more lovable. Instead of seeming like a totally fabricated cartoon character, by the end of the series you practically think of her as your own cat.
Overall, the series has a very deft touch when it comes to realism. While the Yamadas struggles to communicate with Chi will ring very true to anyone who has ever had a cat (or knows someone who does), the animators know when to stop being real and have a little fun. While Chi's movements are realistically catlike most of the time, occasionally Chi becomes more humanlike for the sake of humor, and it works really well. Though it's a series that goes more often for an "Awww!" response than belly laughs, the show features some genuinely funny sight gags, particularly when Chi is surprised by something.
Chi's owners, the Yamadas, are almost as cute as Chi herselfóespecially Youhei, the little boy who becomes Chi's number one playmate. With the parents only called "mother" and "father," they can be a little bland, but they serve their purpose: to support Chi without ever upstaging our favorite kitten. Despite the fact that they never seem to do anything that doesn't revolve around Chi, we found we developed a fondness for the family over the course of the series as well: the fact that they never get mad, only exasperated, when Chi ruins the furniture for the umpteenth time means they have to be pretty nice people.
You might think a series about the adventures of a house cat could get dull, but there's just enough plot to keep things interesting. The Yamada's apartment doesn't allow pets, so Chi isn't just any kitten, she's a clandestine, dangerous-to-own kitten. There are other pets in the neighborhood (and many more if you watch the second season, Chi's New Address), and these other characters bring their own storylines. There's continuity from one episode to the next, giving the series a sense of purpose, even when the subject matter is something as simple as Chi trying to get the Yamadas to give her some milk.
Special mention should be given to Satomi Kourogi, who provides the voice for Chi. A lot of Chi's appeal comes from Kourogi's voicework, which makes Chi sound adorably childlike yet somehow feline as well. Chi speaks in words the viewer can understand (but the Yamadas cannot, only hearing meows) so it's important that Chi's dialogue sound distinct from the other characters. We never forget she's a kitten, even if you sometimes find yourself frustrated with the Yamadas for not understanding what Chi is so clearly trying to tell them.
Unfortunately, the anime is not available in the west as of this writing, but the manga, licensed by Vertical, Inc. has become a New York Times Bestseller. Even though our cheeks hurt from smiling through all 200-plus episodes of the Chi series, we can only hope the anime is made more widely available soon so others can know the joy of watching this irrepressible striped kitten make her way in the world.
Reviewed by Karen Gellender, July 2012
Below: Scenes from Chi's Sweet Home.