The theme of this week’s column: New(ish) Titles from Vertical Comics. Up for review: The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home, an omnibus treatment of Konami Kanata’s beloved cat comic, and Tokyo ESP, a new series about mutant teens with superpowers who want to save the world.
When I first reviewed Chi’s Sweet Home in 2010, I described it as “a deceptively simple story about a family that adopts a wayward kitten.” I argued that “Chi is more than just cute kitty antics; it’s a thoughtful reflection on the joys and difficulties of pet ownership, one that invites readers of all ages to see the world through their cat or dog’s eyes and imagine how an animal adapts to life among humans.”
Revisiting Chi’s Sweet Home five years later, I stand by my original assessment. I still found Chi’s behavior adorable — or should that be adowable? — and her family’s amused and exasperated reactions true to my own experiences as a cat owner. At the same time, however, I appreciated the opportunity to read more of Chi’s story in one sitting, as Konami Kanata does a fine job of recreating the day-to-day rhythm of living with a kitten or puppy, from the obvious — accidents, clawed furniture — the to subtle — mastering the art of jumping onto a table or chair, examining strange new objects. As an added bonus, the Complete edition includes a sprinkling of chapters from Kanata’s first big hit, FukuFuku: Kitten Tales, and a larger trim size that gives Kanata’s playful, charming watercolors more room to breathe.
The verdict: Chi is an indispensable addition to any animal lover’s bookshelf. Look for Part Two (which collects volumes 4-6) on January 16, 2016.
On paper, Tokyo ESP sounds like The X-Men or The Fantastic Four: a group of Tokyo residents begin manifesting cool new powers — teleporting, walking through walks — after exposure to a supernatural phenomenon. Some ESPers embrace the criminal possibilities of these gifts, while others vow to use them for good, pitting the two groups against each other in epic fashion.
Perhaps mindful of the similarities between his creation and Stan Lee’s, Hajime Segawa makes a game effort to individualize his creation with an abundance of quirky details: a flying penguin sidekick, a night sky filled with glowing fishes. As a result, long stretches of Tokyo ESP feel more like a spaghetti-throwing exercise than genuine world-building; the reader is never certain if there’s an underlying logic that would explain what we’re seeing, or if Segawa is making it up as he goes along. By the end of volume one, you may remember the flying penguin more clearly than anything that actually happened in those first nine chapters, as the plot is standard shonen fodder: super-powered teens saving the world.
The verdict: Your mileage may vary; some readers will undoubtedly find the sleek character designs and out-of-left-field plot developments appealing, while others will find the storytelling too frenetic to be engaging.
Reviews: Sean Gaffney takes a fond look at the final volume of Oh! My Goddess, which arrived in stores this week. Over at Comics & Cola, Zainab Akhtar reviews the fifth and final volume of Taiyo Matsumoto’s bittersweet Sunny.
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