Such a simple idea, so well executed as well. Unbelievably this was the first time I’ve read any Chi, I’ve meant to for a long time, had it on the wants list for the school library for a long, long time, yet never managed to get it on one of our orders. Fast forward to getting hold of this and I can see what all the fuss is about.
Having said that, this volume’s not the best one to start with, dealing as it does with Chi realising her ‘family‘ of humans isn’t her proper family, her proper family is out there close by, both human and her proper cat ‘momma‘ and we’re suddenly caught up in something equally sweet and rather heartbreaking, with Chi caught up in the middle.
A quick google and I’m up to speed, you may already know all this but bear with me; Chi the kitten managed to lose herself back in volume one whilst out walking with her momma and her two siblings and ended up being taken in by her new family, the Yamadas.
That’s been the status quo for ten volumes. Here everything changes.
When part of Chi’s family heads off on holiday and leaves Chi home alone with Dad she’s worried. When they don’t come back by morning she’s panic stricken. Her friend Cocchi doesn’t help, with tales of cats that are “taken away” and that means “someone else makes them their own“. Scary thoughts playing on her mind Chi starts worrying that her own ‘family‘ have been taken away and then starts thinking about herself and where she came from. Poor little Chi.
But Kanata manages to mix these darker thoughts in with fun, allowing the reader to smile awhile before being made to think about just what a cat must go through when families are split apart, the abandonment issues, kittens missing mothers, mothers with a gap in their lives.
I don’t know if previous volumes do the same mix of silly cat fun and sentimentality, but I’d imagine the sense of heartbreak that comes from the realisation of momma cat that her kitten is found will be pretty hard to top in the snuffling stakes, her plaintive call of ‘Sarah?’ is heartbreaking, genuinely lovely, powerful stuff where you really don’t expect it.
The remainder of this volume deals with the fallout from these two lost families, leaving everyone and especially Chi with some very difficult decisions to make.
It’s a simple thing is Chi’s Sweet Home, loads of fun as well even in this volume which I’m guessing is far from the emotional norm. The simple but ever so fun idea of having Chi’s words shown both as audible ‘Meows‘ and translated versions is fantastic, the naturalistic capture of cat behaviour perfectly done as well.. the slippers, the box… you can see why Chi is loved by youngers and those who love cats.
The art from Kanata is sweet and cutesy when you first see it but closer examination shows so much skill, the art of making something so darned simple and effective is a fine, fine thing in and of itself. Take for example this simple page
The emotion and expression shown in justthose few lines is superb, the jumpy kitten, all flappy legs and excitement, the older cat wandering along ‘lope, lope, lope’ followed by Chi, legs working overtime and the simple cleverness of that ‘DASH—–‘ sound effect is grand.
Yes, I can see why Chi is loved. This volume delighted and impressed but also pulled all the right emotional strings. I can see the school library receiving a full set of Chi’s Sweet Home volumes sooner rather than later, I know they’ll fall in love with these funny and thoughtful tales of a sweet little cat.
There’s also an Anime version of Chi, all the same sorts of thing, just not as much style as the comic, still worth a look though…