Now that Chi lives in a pet-friendly apartment, she is free to go out and explore the world past the sliding glass door. In addition to continuing to find trouble at home, Chi goes out and explores the area around her new home. She meets old friends and makes new ones, but will she meet her Mama?
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.
Taisho was a former kitten model, who ran away from home and had a hard life on the streets…until the day he was saved by a kind ramen shop owner who later served as his mentor. Now Taisho takes pride in his noodles…and is easily angered when customers are dissatisfied! So step aside, Soup Nazi – there’s a new cat in town!
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.
April is the ASPCA’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. Human cruelty to animals is nothing new. Our faithful companions can become the focus of our anger and hate. So it’s not surprise that the problem has come up in manga. Matsuri Akino’s title Petshop of Horrors often has stories and themes of animals exacting their revenge on cruel and thoughtless humans. In the pages of Milkyway Hitchhiking, an online-only title in Yen Press’ Yen Plus, cats are often see enduring some torture at the hands of kids who view it as a fun past time. Other titles get right to the heart of the matter and help to give the animals a voice.
Genju no Seiza – This is another title by Matsuri Akino that sadly was never finished in the US. It is about a boy, Fuuto, who lives in Tokyo, and also seems to be the reincarnation of the Holy King of Dhalashar. In volume 4, the first chapter is “A Wordless Voice.” There have been a rash of mutilations and killings of stray animals in Fuuto’s neighborhood. With the help of his guardian animal friends, he decides to find the culprit, and is surprised by the identity. This chapter doesn’t pull any punches about Akino’s opinion of people who abuse animals. Kurgahara at one point says “Only a coward would harm a defenseless animal that can’t even ask for help.” Amen to that sister.
Free Collar Kingdom – This title is a three-volume series from Del Rey Manga’s early days. I picked it up because it had otaku cats. Can you really get a better combination than that? While the story has plenty of humor as it pokes fun at otaku and has the requisite fan service to keep most males interested, it also has a more serious underlying theme. Cyan, the hero of the story, was owned by a boy named Kokoro, who gets sick and has to go to the hospital. His parents, not knowing what to do with the cat since Kokoro can’t keep it at the hospital, and aren’t even sure if he will pull through, just leave Cyan in the basement of their apartment complex. There he meets the Free Collars, a gang of former pets who were abandoned by their owners and have banded together to survive. The point of their name is made most poignantly, when Cyan, after staying with the Free Collars for a while, starts to feel his collar tighten. He has continued to grow, but his collar has not. He could be choked by it. The ring left by the too-tight collar becomes a symbol of their release from their former human’s abandonment.
Apollo’s Song – While this title by Osamu Tezuka isn’t about animals, it does show some graphically violent moments of animals being mutilated and killed. Shogo Chikaishi can’t stand to see any showing of affection. Whenever he sees animals doing it, he goes into a rage and kills them. Worried that his rage will be turned on humans, he is admitted into a mental hospital. While the other titles in this post only imply the abuse, or show before and after scenes, Tezuka shows the violence for what it is; cold and brutal. It was harsh enough that I couldn’t read these scenes for a second time. I had page past them. Leave it to the God of Manga to not pussy-foot around the issue.
Hell Girl – This manga, based on the anime, is about tweens and teens going to a website to get revenge for some betrayal done to them or someone close to them. Enma Ai, Hell Girl, gets the request and decides if the person is worthy of her help. There is a catch for getting her help though. The person asking for the revenge will be cursed to hell as well as the person they curse, they just get a longer life. In volume one, the fourth chapter called “The Inaudible Scream,” is about a veterinarian who only helps the pets of rich people. When the beloved dog of an orphaned girl dies because he doesn’t operate, she calls on Hell Girl for help. Enma Ai obliges, and gives the greedy, heartless vet a taste of his own medicine. It’s scary to think that there are people that we put our trust in to care for our pets that might betray us. This is an example of one or worse kinds of abuse an animal can endure.
I know this isn’t a fun or happy theme, but it is an important one to get out. Pets can become just as important as loved ones, often filling a void when one is lost, keeping us company, and bringing a little light to some of our darkest hours. It is really important that we return that favor and keep them from being abused and abandoned. We must give them a voice.
If you’re any kind of reader of this blog, you’d notice by now that I like themes. I like creating posts based on some theme, and I like to feature posts on the blog based on a theme, usually from the current month. While I already have a few for April already, Easter and April Fools Day, I’m always on the look out for more. While clearing out my email, I discovered a new one. April is the ASPCA’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month. I’m a big animal lover, so this is something I take very seriously. Our last two rescues were dogs that were obviously abused. The are very submissive, and for a couple of months one of them would cower and roll ever when I just walked by him. So, to show my support, I have made what changes I can to both my blogs to incorporate the color orange into it.
I will also be writing a couple of posts here involving manga and the mistreatment of animals. Sadly, as in real life, it can and does happen in manga. Fortunately though, in manga, the perpetrators also usually get what they deserve. That’s not always true in real life.
There’s no Manga Wrap Up once again this week, but there will be the next week. I’ll be finishing up the last few volumes of Honey and Clover and Sand Chronicles. I had hoped to have Honey and Clover done this week, but no such luck.
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.