It seems like I woke up one day and all my Facebook friends were playing Neko Atsume, a cat-collecting game so addictive, they were all onto it before it was even available in English. Now that there’s an English-language app, Viz is jumping on the bandwagon with two super-cute Neko Atsume books, which got me thinking about the many manga cats hanging out on my shelves. Here’s a look!
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Neko Atsume Kitty Collector Haiku—Seasons of the Kitty
Where Am I Meow?
These two Neko Atsume-themed books bring the virtual cats from the screen to the page. Both are handsome square-format paperbacks with lovely production values. Neko Atsume Kitty Collector Haiku is, as advertised, a book of haiku, nature-themed and grouped by season. The poems are about cats, not specifically Neku Atsume cats, and the theme is carried through in the illustrations, which have a simple Hello Kitty vibe. The book also includes pages of “Kitty Files” with information on specific Neko Atsume cats, as well as stickers in the back. Where Am I Meow? is more tuned in to the game, with picture puzzles featuring various kitties scattered around delightfully complicated environments—a pipe maze, a cushion lounge, the beach, even the Imperial Palace. This book also includes cat info and stickers. Either one of them would be fun even for cat lovers who don’t play the game, although Where Am I Meow? does ask readers to find specific cats—fortunately, there’s a Cat Dictionary in the back.
Chi’s Sweet Home, by Konami Kanata
This is probably the best known cat manga, and the color illustrations and left-to-right orientation make it an easy book for anyone to pick up—even children or those with no experience with manga. Chi is a super-cute kitten who gets separated from her mother and is taken in by a loving if somewhat clueless family. The book is divided into short chapters but there’s a bit of a story running through it, as Chi and her family adapt to one another and Chi’s memories of her mother slowly fade. Chi is all cat, but she talks like a human—the humans can’t understand her, but the reader can. The stories are sweet and often funny, and this is a great read for cat fans of all ages.
FukuFuku: Kitten Tales, by Konami Konata
FukuFuku: Kitten Tales is also by Konami Konata, and this manga also reads left to right, but it has a very different feel. FukuFuku is a mischievous kitten, but unlike Chi, she doesn’t talk in a human voice—she just goes “Meeee!” a lot. Her owner is an older woman who wears a kimono and lives in a traditional Japanese house, and the book features very specific cultural references—in one chapter in volume 2, FukuFuku gets into a bag of bonito flakes and her owner finds her personal seal, which she had mislaid near the bag. Japanese holidays and customs come into the story as well. Still, there’s a universal quality to stories about a cute cat and a loving owner. Unlike Chi’s Sweet Home, FukuFuku Kitten Tales is in black and white, which nicely shows off Konata’s graceful linework.
Plum Crazy: Tales of a Tiger-Striped Cat, by Hoshino Natsumi
If you still haven’t hit your cuteness quota, check out this series, another domestic slice-of-life story centered on a cat. Plum is a tiger-striped cat who lives with a Japanese dance teacher and her teenage son. Plum isn’t the only cat in this series for long, as the owner soon brings home a kitten, Snowball, and later rescues a cat that is suffering from heat exhaustion. Snowball is a lot of trouble, as kittens tend to be, while Plum is more chill. While we aren’t privy to the thoughts of the cats, the people talk to them as if they should understand, and the cats seem to obey. Which, if you have ever spent any time with a cat, is pretty laughable.
She and Her Cat, by Makoto Shinkai
Adapted from Shinkai’s short animated film (his first), this one-volume manga is really more about the “she” than the cat—but it’s told from the cat’s point of view. Miyu, a young woman living alone in the big city, finds a cat on a rainy day and takes him in, naming him Chobi. Over the course of a year, Chobi watches as Miyu does her laundry, fixes dinner, works late on a project, deals with an awkward office romance, and reacts badly to the news that her mother is getting remarried. It’s a mix of the mundane and the (mildly) dramatic. Chobi narrates this all, fascinated by Miyu’s actions even though he doesn’t understand many of them—most of what goes on is clearer to the reader than to Chobi.
Cat Paradise, by Yuji Iwahara
Enough with the cute cats and cute girls—time for some serious cats-versus-monsters action! Cat Paradise is a five-volume series about kids at a private school who team up with their cats to fight evil creatures, as they were tasked to do 1,000 years ago by a princess and her cat. The lead character, Yumi, has a cat named Kansuke whom she rescued from an accident, and Kansuke is so devoted to her that he sticks with her even though she makes him wear the little outfits she loves to knit. Naturally, when Yumi and Kansuki get their monster-fighting powers, they work by Yumi knitting an outfit that changes Kansuki into a human. Iwahara, the creator of Chikyu Misaki, King of Thorn, and Dimension W, has a deft, descriptive style that uses a lot of hatching rather than screentones. It’s easy on the eyes, even though there’s a fair amount of detail, and the cats are convincing and have a lot of personality.
Nekogahara: Stray Cat Samurai, by Hiroyuki Takei
Nekogahara is a fairly standard samurai story, except for the fact that all the characters are cats. Besides allowing for some really interesting (if occasionally hard to read) artwork, this also adds another layer to the story—the tension between stray and kept cats, which is a pretty obvious metaphor for the trade-off between security and freedom—as well as a host of entertaining details regarding bells, litter boxes, and other feline accoutrements. Norachiyo is a lone samurai who wanders into a town filled with crime and corruption. He dispatches a greedy landlord, dodges an assassin, and gets into way too many fights, and along the way we learn of his dark past. Takei is the creator of Shaman King, and he brings a lot of energy to the art and story of Nekogahara.
Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu, by Junji Ito
Junji Ito is a master of horror manga, and he hews to his spine-tingling style in this slice-of-life manga about himself and his wife and their two cats, which results in a really funny slice-of-life cat manga. While he skips the gore and body horror of manga like Uzumaki and Gyo, he keeps a psychological edge, particularly with the facial expressions—which in this situation are comically exaggerated. This is a fun read for anyone who has encountered cats, whether or not they were actually horrified by them.
Any favorite manga cats we missed?