I’ve never denied it. I’m a crazy cat lady. I’ve grown up with cats and can barely remember a time when I didn’t have a little furball as a pet. So when tweets about the Japanese game Neko Atsume, or Cat Collecting, started appearing in my time line, I had to check it out. Calling it a game might give the wrong impression. It starts out with just a typical looking back yard, and using fish as currency, you can buy toys and better quality food to attract cats to come to your yard and play with your toys. The thing is though, you can’t be watching. You have to close or reduce the game for the cats to come. It’s sort of random who will come and when.
Cyan is a young Abyssidian cat who is abandoned by his family when becomes sick and has to go to the hospital. Left in the basement of the family’s apartment building, Nyan-Nyans Mansion, he soon meets a gang of stray cats know as the Free Collars, who have made their base there. They are fighting to protect Nyan-Man from being taken over by another gang of strays led by a Siamese cat called Siam. In order to protect his home and keep waiting for the promised return of his master, Cyan joins the Free Collars to fight for their “kingdom.”
I must be getting cynical in my old age. When I first read Free Collars Kingdom 5 years ago, I liked it, even if I thought the fanservice was a little over the top. This second time around, I didn’t enjoy it as much, and as it got closer to the end, I was more annoyed than amused. While I love cats, I don’t care so much for cat boys and girls, and this title seems to be more otaku that look like cats than cats who are otaku.
I was looking forward to reading a fun title about otaku cats battling to protect their home from the evil otaku cats who want to take over the world. The protagonist, Cyan, wants to become like the legendary cat Wild Cat, who once ruled over all cats in the area from the place where Nyan-Man now stands, so he can protect his home while he waits for his master’s return. That’s not what I got from Free Collars Kingdom. The otaku part was there at the beginning, with battles being interrupted by broken limited edition statues, dressing like, and using moves from, video games, and fighting over manga. The otakuness wouldn’t be complete without some cosplay, which this title has plenty of. This element was cute and sometimes funny, but it wasn’t enough to carry the title for me.
The same goes for the shonen elements. There were plenty of battles with Siam’s underlings, who always had to lose to the Free Collars. Cyan, being young and inexperienced, had to win to show his hidden strength and that it wasn’t just pure luck. He spends a lot of time talking about how he wants to be as strong as Wild Cat, but he never really trains to start reaching that goal. It’s all talk and gets dangled out as a hook that there may be more to come, but it never materializes.
Think part of my problem with this title is that is too much going on. It feels like it doesn’t know what it wants to be. It has both comedy and shonen elements, but at the same time, it has some serious themes about the way cats are sometimes treated, and mistreated, by humans. One chapter can be light and funny, and then the next throws Cyan into conflict over his continued dedication to his old master. It was really hard to get past these two conflicting themes, which is probably why I found it so annoying. It also spend way too much time showing the characters as cat boys and girls. Fujima draws some really cute cats, especially Cyan. And if you’re not familiar with all the breeds, such as Korat, naming their breed and never showing them as such loses the benefit of using cats in the first place.
Free Collars Kingdom is a title I wanted to love, but in the end only found mildly funny with the otaku elements, and completely unsatisfying with other story elements that are brought up but never explored. Because of this, the ending, while making sense, wasn’t satisfying either. I can’t recommend this title for cat lovers, but fans of otaku culture, cat boys and girls, or moe characters may find something of worth from it.
It’s May and that means it’s time to show some love to our furry (and sometimes not so furry) friends! It’s National Pet Month, where the benefits of pet ownership is promoted and pet adoptions are supported. I wrote about some pet manga available in English before, but now it’s time for an update!
The most common way of getting a pet in manga is through taking in a stray. My Cat Loki was a Tokyopop original title that sadly didn’t get to finish its three-volume run due to low sales. It’s about a young man, Ameya, who withdraws from those around him after his long-time pet cat dies. But he soon takes in a stray who looks a lot like his first cat, that he names Loki. The two available volumes show Ameya and Loki first coming to terms with each other, and then Ameya coming out his shell and starting to live again. I enjoyed the volumes I read and was disappointed I wouldn’t see the third. I thought I would be put off with seeing Loki as a “cat boy”, as Ameya would sometimes see him as human, but it actually worked in the context of the story.
Milkyway Hitchhiking is a Yen Plus exclusive title from Yen Press about a cat with a coat that looks like the Milkyway. She is a special cat that has the ability to grant wishes. She wanders the world interacting with people and cats, both strays and pets, and sometimes even helps them. I’ve found this series to be hit or miss, and haven’t really enjoyed the stories where Milkyway is the observer and not really involved. The art is very pretty though, as being online, it gets to be in color, and is often done with a water-color look.
PoyoPoyo Observation Diary is a new digital manga from Jmanga, the Japanese publisher collaboration site. It’s a about a round, fat cat, that is found a woman who then brings his home. It’s a 4-koma, or comic strip style comic that shows Poyopoyo with his new family. I’ve bought the first volume, but haven’t had a chance to read it yet. But it looks very funny. There is also an anime available on Crunchyroll, which Jmanga links to as well. The anime episodes, much like the Chi’s Sweet Home anime are short, only about 3 minutes long, making them a great time filler, or sucker as your schedule will allow.
Guru Guru Pon-Chan gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “puppy love.” Ponta is the pet labrador retriever dog to the Koizumi family. The grandfather invents a bone that when licked allows the animal the power of human speech. Ponta eats the bone and is turned into a human girl. She falls in love with Mirai, a boy who saves her when she rushes out into traffic while in human form. Ponta enrolls in Mirai’s school so she can be near him as well as trying to learn how to be human. Del Rey released this 9 volume series back in 2005, so the series is out of print, but used copies may still be had.
While not specifically a pet manga, Fruits Basket, a book formerly published by Tokyopop, features several animals that are pets. This title is about a girl, Tohru, who gets involved with a family, the Sohmas, that are cursed by the Chinese zodiac. Everytime they are hugged by a member of the opposite sex not afflicted in the same way, they turn into one of the animals of the zodiac. The first three Sohmas that Tohru meets, Yuki, Kyo, and Shigure are the rat, cat and dog of the zodiac story. Momiji the rabbit and Ayame, the snake, also represent common house pets. In a bit of a reversal, Tohru is the stray that is taken in, and it’s her unconditional feelings that help to heal the Sohma family and break the curse. This is another series that is out of print, and it would behoove Kodansha to bring it back. Fruits Baskets is just too good of a series to stay out of print.
Continuing my ASPCA Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month coverage, I started to notice a pattern in some of the titles I’ve read. In manga, animals are often used to make a point about a character in the manga. They can help to define a character, be indicators from the past that explain the characters situations or used as plot devices. My big problem with some of these uses, is that I usually involves said animal being dead. And said animal is usually a cat.
This pattern started out rather innocently. In Fullmetal Alchemist volume 5, when Ed and Al go back to their teacher, Izumi, she is shown helping the kids in the village by fixing their toys using alchemy. But then, a little girl comes to her with a dead kitten, asking her to fix it. It’s a sad moment as Izumi has to explain why the kitten is not the same as a toy, but it works into the whole theme of the manga, so it fits in well. And we didn’t have to get to know the kitten first, so it’s more heartbreaking for the girl than the reader.
On the other hand, Karakuri Odette decides to get the reader involved. In volume 1, another inventor’s android, Asia, is staying with Odette and going to school with her. She seems to be more popular since she is more expressive with her emotions. Both she and Odette find a stray cat and start taking care of it. But it gets run over. The difference between Asia and Odette becomes clear when Asia starts playing with cat’s corpse while Odette is horrified, not just by the cat’s death, but by Asia’s behavior. I can’t blame her. I was too.
Sometimes, a character will have omens early on in life that things are going to go well for them, and for some reason, that means killing a cat. In O-Parts Hunter volume 1, when Jio was young, he had found a kitten to play with. The next day, he found it dead. It’s later revealed his alter ego, Satan, killed it because he wanted Jio to be lonely. In Jack Frost, No-ah lived a cursed lived life with everyone she ever cared about getting killed, including stray animals she shows kindness to. Adding insult to injury, in volume 3, the stray dog gets an off-screen death with a tire screech and a whine, while the stray cat gets a horrific death for the reader to see! Why? What did the poor cat do to deserve that other than being cute?
You want to show how vile a villain is? Do what Daniel X volume 2 did, and show them eating cats. You want to prejudice your leader against a rival? Then steal her kitten, kill and burn it, and incriminate your rival like in Ooku: The Inner Chamber Volume 2. You need to show how uncaring your character has become? Have him feed a stray cat and then show that same cat dead in the street a short time later for him to see as in Sprial: Bonds of Reasoning Volume 5. I’m sure there are more examples, but I’m good stopping here. I don’t really need to know about the ways more cats are tragically ended for a story to advance. Really, can’t dogs get picked on more? Or hamsters even?
When ever there is a disaster, whether it’s an earthquake, tsunami, or both in the most recent case in Japan, calls immediately go up to donate to the Red Cross, or any of the dozens of other charity organizations set up to send relief to the people affected by the devastating event. But there is another group that is just as affected, if not more, that rarely gets any attention. Pets.
May, among other things, is National Pet Month. It’s goal is to promote the benefits of pet ownership and support pet adoption. I know these benefits very well, and support them, as every dog and cat in our house was either from a shelter or a stray we took in. Manga is no stranger to pets either. Here are just a few titles that feature either the benefits of pet ownership, or shows strays finding a home, with humans or otherwise.
In manga, there are two ways to typically find a pet. The first is the obvious one; a pet shop. Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs is a Teen+ title from Viz Media. It’s about a girl, Suguri Miyauchi, who has an amazing affinity for dogs and gets a part-time job at the pet store “Woofles”. The stories often feature different dog breeds available at the pet store, and matching the right people to the right dog. Petshop of Horrors, another Teen+ title from Tokyopop also matches people to the most appropriate pet, but in a “comeuppance theater” sort of way. Count D has the perfect pet for every customer, and sees that everyone gets the pet they deserve, which doesn’t always end well for the for the people.
But can you really blame the animals for wanting some payback? More often than not, pets such as dogs and cats are shown being dumped in deserted areas or left in boxes with signs saying “Please take me home.” Many pets in manga start out as strays and find a home this way. In Kimi ni Todoke a Teen title from Viz Media, Kazehaya and Sawako find a puppy in the rain. Kazehaya takes the dog in, and he and Sawako share in its care. Rin, from the Teen title Dragon Voice from Tokyopop, gets adopted by a stray cat that he feeds once and then keeps coming back for more. My mother has acquired more than a few cats this way. In One Fine Day, the All Ages title from Yen Press, the cat Guru is lonely until he is befriended by Nanai the dog and Rang the mouse, and finds a home with them and No-ah.
Not all animals want to be adopted by humans though. Free Collars Kingdom, a Teen+ title from Del Rey Manga, portrays the world of stray cats, showing how they have to find food, shelter, and fight and defend their territory. While this title is more light-hearted in the way it shows this world, making all the cats otaku of some sort, there is a more serious theme at its core. Many of the Free Collar cats don’t want to ge back to being a pet to a human. They were abandoned by their humans, even the protagonist Cyan, though he is the only one that holds onto his faith in humans. The rest are jaded and disillusioned, a feeling you can’t help getting sometimes when looking at some of the animals at the shelter.
If you’re willing to take the time and care, the benefits of pet ownership can be very rewarding. Don’t think it’s going to be a walk in the park though. The All Ages OEL title Peach Fuzz from Tokyopop that shows some of the trials and triumphs of owning a pet. Amanda and Peach the ferret both have to learn to how to get along with each other, but once they do, they are like the best of friends. The same goes for Ryusei and Mr. Ken, the human-cat pair of Viz Media‘s Teen+ title Backstage Prince. Ryusei doesn’t like people, so it’s up to Mr. Ken to find him a friend. Akari, a girl from his school, becomes first a friend and then becomes his girlfriend. Cats can be really smart when they want.
For an as-close-to-real-as-it-gets look at pet ownership in manga, look no further than What’s Michael?, an All Ages title from Dark Horse Comics. Michael, the title character, is a large, orange-striped cat, who is portrayed as doing all the cats are want to do; eating, sleeping, playing, and generally causing trouble for his owners. What’s Michael? is truly a comedy, for most of the things Michael is seen doing are the EXACT SAME THINGS cat owners see everyday. It’s funny because it’s true. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find volumes of this series. Here’s hoping Dark Horse releases an omnibus very soon.
While cats are cute, kittens are cuter, and that exactly what you get in Chi’s Sweet Home, Vertical, Inc.’s first All Ages title, which will be released in June. It’s about a kitten that gets separated from her mother and siblings, and is adopted by a young family. Chi is really cute, but not in a saccharine sense, and the family has a lot to learn about taking care of a kitten, and most importantly, how much a part of the family a pet can become. Just like its title, it’s sweet and funny and heartwarming.
Like all good things, owning a pet isn’t always easy, but it’s always satisfying. If you are considering getting a pet, please consider adopting one from a local shelter rather than a pet store or breeder. Some of the best cats I have ever had never came with papers, and finding a purebred at a shelter is unfortunately just as likely as a mutt. You can also check out Adopt-a-pet.com for a shelter or rescue near you.
I make no bones about it. I love cats. I will read just about any manga that has cat in it, even that peripherally revolves around them. What’s Michael, Free Collar Kingdom, Cat Paradise, even Backstage Prince, Dragon Ball and Ranma 1/2 that only have supporting characters that are cats I’ll read and enjoy. But there just isn’t nearly enough to sate my appetite for titles about the four-footed furries. Vertical’s license of Chi’s Sweet Home is a BIG win, and I can’t wait to get my hands on Viz’s Natsume’s Book of Friends. But then, over on Twitter, Deb Aoki had to start showing off her cat manga purchases from Japan.
And I want to read them all! Especially Nekoe Juubee, since I love yokai so much, and yokai cats all the more! Ed Chavez commented:
There is a saying in the Japanese manga world… CATS SELL. Simple. Oh and always launch cat manga in the spring.
Oh, how I want the same to be said in the US! I need more cat manga! Come on Viz! Get Neko Mocchiri on the SigIkki site. I Am A Turtle is not enough! Someone, ANYONE, license the other two! There can never be too much cat manga! Want! Want! WANT!!
Kodansha Letting Licenses with Tokyopop Lapse
Brigid Alverson of the Manga Blog reported on Monday something that’s been suspected for a while in the mangasphere, and has finally been confirmed by Tokyopop. Kodansha, one of the big Japanese publishing houses, is not renewing its licenses with Tokyopop. David Welsh provides a quick, convenient, if possibly incomplete list of the titles affected at his own blog Precocious Curmudgeon. This news dominated much of Monday and Tuesday. Check the Manga Blog for a full roundup of commentary. This wasn’t an unexpected move, as Tokyopop’s relationship with Kodansha has been rocky at best. Two years ago, Kodansha made a deal with Random House and Del Rey Manga has been reaping the benefits. While this doesn’t come as a big surprise, it is kind of painful for those of us that were reading unfinished titles that are now left in limbo. I’ve been beating the drum loudly for Dragon Voice‘s last volume and lamented the incompleteness of Kindaichi Case Files. All we can do now is wait and see what Kodansha’s next move will be. Considering how long this took, it may be a very long wait for the next one.
Written by Erin Hunter and Dan Jolley
Art by Bettina Kurkoski
Publisher: Tokyopop (Harper Collins)
Age Rating: Y (10+)
Tiny, a small kit with a loving mother and two siblings that dislike him, at one point, visited the forest. He was attacked by the patrol from Thunderclan (Tigerstar attacked him) and Bluefur pulled them away. Tiny went to the city in fear of being thrown into a river. He then stuck a dog tooth into his coller, and told a lie, which made him change his name to Scourge.
I liked this side-issue. It completely changed how I thought about Scourge. Before, I thought of him as an ugly cat with hatred but from this manga, I learn that it was his bad past that shaped him and he’s actually kind of cute.
Did I like it:
100% sure. I definitely like it, Scourge is cute, but his past shaped him into what he had become. He may be small, but he proved his littermates wrong. He killed Tigerstar nine times over and Tigerstar deserved it.
Could there be anything changed:
Nothing, not from my eyes. The manga is as good as perfect, from what I see.
Is this for children:
There is a bit of death, and some blood. As far as I’m concerned, it might be for children if they can handle cats dying.