Ep. 76: Chi’s Sweet Home, by Konami Kanata
Is Chi just a cute little kitty, or a personification of the bittersweet memories of growing up and away from your innocence? Deb asks this, and the other Big Questions on this week’s episode of Mangasplaining! After the break, the team recommends some great manga and some tunes to listen to while you’re reading…!
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IN THIS EPISODE
00:00 Chi’s Sweet Home vol. 1 & 2
43:20 THE BREAK
43:36 SHOUT-OUTS: Manga, music and plus some dog manga!
Chi’s Sweet Home vol 1 & 2
By Konami Kanata
Translated by Ed Chavez
Production by Hiroko Mizuno and Glen Isip
Published by Kodansha / Vertical. Available in print / digital
Audio editing by David Brothers. Show notes by Deb Aoki & Christopher Woodrow-Butcher
BEFORE WE GET STARTED
[Deb:] Sorry to take sooo long to post the show notes for this episode! Chris is in the midst of a big move, so I said I’d take on the show notes duty, but that was maybe an ambitious promise, since I also have a bunch of other things on my docket this week. Anyway, sorry to take a while to get this out.
[Christopher:] Hi readers! I’m just catching up and as that happened Deb had some personal stuff go down that demanded her attention, so I jumped in to finish up. Since we both wrote this one back and forth so much, we’ll do-away with the Deb/Chris labels for the most part, except where we’re in conversation with each other.
These past few weeks have been a good reminder that we’re all real people with real lives, and sometimes that gets in the way… but we’re so grateful that you’re all so cool when we need to take a skip week when things get delayed. Thanks so much. <3
ABOUT KONAMI KANATA
There isn’t a lot of information out there about Chi’s Sweet Home creator Konami Kanata. Working under a pen-name, you get the sense that she wants to keep her work life and private life very separate, and we can respect that. She was born in 1958 in Nagano Prefecture, and according to her Japanese Wikipedia Page, her blood type is ‘O.’
Kanata is known almost exclusively for her works featuring cats as the main characters. She made her debut in 1982(!) with the one-shot Buchi Neko Jam Jam for Nakayoshi (a shojo manga magazine published by Kodansha), which was popular enough to become an ongoing serial. Her works in English include Fuku-Fuku Kitten Tales and Sue and Tai-chan, both from Kodansha, as well as her smash-hit Chi’s Sweet Home. Interestingly, Chi’s Sweet Home is published in the Western reading order (left-to-right) in English, and like all printed editions of the book (even in Japan), it’s released in full colour, a true rarity for any manga. The series is also enormously popular in France, which got its own licensed line of figurines and statues, and is even credited with leading to a boost in cat ownership in the country!
In addition to these popular manga series, Chi’s Sweet Home has spawned four seasons of TV anime, and an OAV (Original Animated Video). You can find Chi’s Sweet Home Seasons 1-3 on DVD from Diskotek Media, and the fourth season, Chi’s New Address, which features events after the family moves to a new home. You can also watch Chi’s New Address on Crunchyroll.
Interestingly, the anime has taken on a bit of a life of its own, and received a CGI spin-off series, Chi’s Sweet Adventures, which is a fully CGI(!) animated series that is currently running on Amazon Prime. AND! There’s a comic series, Chi’s Sweet Adventures that’s written by Konami Kanata and drawn by Kinoko Atsume, available now from Kodansha. This one seems to be written to be sweeter, gentler and suitable for even very young readers.
Check out more cat manga by Konami Kanata, all available in English from Kodansha:
Fuku Fuku Kitten Tales – A prequel series that tells the tales of when Fuku Fuku first came to live with his elderly woman companion.
Sue and Tai-chan – Tai-chan, a mischievous black kitten, comes to stay with a bachelor and Sue, his older, somewhat grumpier cat.
And now, on with the show!
00:00 Yes, can you believe this is our first episode about a cat manga?
01:20 ABOUT CHI’S SWEET HOME
Description from Kodansha:
Chi is a mischievous newborn kitten who, while on a leisurely stroll with her family, finds herself lost. Separated from the warmth and protection of her mother, she feels distraught. Overcome with loneliness, she breaks into tears in a large urban park meadow, when she is suddenly rescued by a young boy named Yohei and his mother. The kitty is then quickly and quietly whisked away into the warm and inviting Yamada family apartment …where pets are strictly not permitted.-Kodansha/Vertical
02:20 Garfield vs. Marmaduke. Chip went right in on Garfield. Anyway, I can’t imagine anyone in the world needs a refresher on Garfield versus Marmaduke, but go check out the latest from Garfield and Marmaduke from GoComics / Andrews McMeel Universal.
04:00 The book starts off with Chi ‘speaking’ in a very heavily edited baby voice, or in the case of the internet memes to which we are referring, a bit of an uwu voice. It was surprising on re-reading this for the first time in many years.
04:30 David doesn’t like the “I can haz cheezeburger” meme? Apparently, he can not haz cheeseburger then.
This particular cat meme lead to the creation of a “web empire,” as this New York Times article describes it.
04:55 Chip calls-out the dad for being irresponsible for owning a pair of jeans that cost more than their couch.
Christopher here, and I’m gonna have to side with the Dad on this one–Japan has some of the best denim in the world, especially their indigo-dyed denim jeans. Like, maybe buying an $800 pair of jeans is a bad look for a dad, but those things last for life and he probably bought them pre-Yohei, let alone pre-kitten… Like Chi is cute and all, but have you ever had a perfect pair of jeans before, and knew you could never afford to replace them…?
05:30 By the end of the second volume, Chi’s baby voice starts getting toned down quite a bit. As Deb mentions it might be because Chi is aging a little bit, but I think both the writer and translator might have moved the needle a little bit to not be too annoying.
06:30 Chris found it to be a sad, dark book at a Best & Worst manga panel, and everyone on the panel was aghast.
[Christopher:] The idea of being randomly separated from her mother, and then gradually forgetting her mother’s face… or that she had a mother at all… It’s just existentially devastating, isn’t it? I dunno. I was probably going through some shit, it didn’t hit me as hard this time, but it still did hit me and it still resonated. Maybe this is why people really loved Chi’s Sweet Home though, that it had a bit more depth than a purely cute-comic does?
This whole part of the Chi series did remind me of something but I couldn’t remember what… until Chip mentioned how it related to Garfield earlier. Then I remembered a Garfield animated special, when our fave feline is reunited with his own mother, remembering the circumstances that caused him to end up in Jon Arbuckle’s care. It’s called Garfield on the Town, and you can watch it on YouTube.
I haven’t re-watched it, I don’t know if it holds up, but I do remember finding it very affecting as a young boy who probably watched it when it originally premiered in 1983… it does remind me of Chi.
07:30 Konami Kanata’s (only?) North American appearance was at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in 2012. Here she is, posing with a piece of original artwork she created for a special print that was sold at the Festival.
08:50 Having done a little bit of research, we find that in Japanese the big black cat… doesn’t have a name at all. He’s generally referred to at the beginning as ヒグマ猫, or “Brown Bear Cat”. It looks a little like an Asian black bear. So him being called “Bear-cat” in the English translation when he first appears in the story makes sense. Other characters refer to the cat as “Kuroneko” or “Kuroino”, basically just “black cat” or similar, and Chi refers to him as “Kuroi” which is a familiar, nickname type of way of referring to a black critter. So “Blackie” is probably an accurate translation (it’s also what the anime uses), but maybe it isn’t the best one? Still, it’s clear that Kanata-sensei and all involved didn’t have ill intent. Chalk it up to cultural differences.
09:18 So there you go, now you know where Chi got her name from–she’s named after peeing/weeing, because that’s what she did all over their house.
10:20 Makoto Kobayashi’s What’s Michael? starts as a ‘normal’ comedy series about a cat, and then gets progressively more absurd as it goes, with Michael taking on more and more human traits, and doing weirder and weirder things. Here’s some sample pages (thanks, Amazon!) from the beginning of volume 1, that will… ease you into the series.
There’s a new edition of What’s Michael out now – it’s the What’s Michael Fat Cat Edition from Dark Horse, which you can find almost anywhere now. We REALLY need to do this on the podcast, but it’s only in print, so poor Chip is going to have to buy ANOTHER physical book out in the woods.
10:40 “How big is cat manga?” Big, very big. In addition to cat serials that appear in many, many manga magazines, there’s a manga magazine that’s just cat manga, Neko Punch / Neko Panchi, a monthly manga magazine that has been published by Shonen Gahosha since 2006.
If you want to get a taste of that Neko Punch here in English, check out Plum Crazy! Tales of a Tiger Striped Cat by Natsume Hoshino, published by Seven Seas.
[Christopher:] Funnily enough, I actually bought a copy of Neko Punch on one of my first trips to Japan in 2009. It basically blew my mind that there was a whole manga anthology of Cat stories. Here’s some pictures in glorious 2009-vision. 😉
11:10 As we mention, the end of Chi’s Sweet Home volume 2 has a crossover with one of Kanata-sensei’s OTHER cat manga series, Fuku Fuku Nyan (or Sweet Fuku Fuku) about an elderly lady and her calm and wise cat.
Besides Fuku Fuku’s cameo appearance in Chi’s Sweet Home, Konata created a spin-off series called Fuku Fuku Kitten Tales (or ふくふくふにゃ～ん 子猫だにゃん Fuku Fuku Nyaaan Koneko da Nyan in Japanese), that tells cute stories about when Fuku Fuku the adult cat was once a mischievous kitten. While Fuku Fuku Nyan isn’t in English yet, here’s a sample page from Kodansha / Vertical’s edition of Fuku Fuku Kitten Tales.
12:00 Chi’s Sweet Home is a huge seller. I asked a publishing buddy to look it up, and the series has sold over 1 million copies worldwide. Not like, Naruto numbers, but still insanely great.
12:25 [Christopher:] I think David hits the nail on the head here: This feels like a Newspaper comic. Maybe more For Better or For Worse by Lynn Johnston than Garfield, but still, very much in the tradition of a ‘family’ comic strip.
Oh, For Better or For Worse is a popular, Canadian-originating newspaper comic strip about a family that aged in real time over a few decades. Chip is a big fan. Here he is, the first(!) time he got to meet Lynn Johnston, the strip’s creator.
12:45 “What a strange thing to include!” – David calls out the inclusion of the floorplan of the Yamada’s apartment from the back of volume 1.
[Christopher:] Speaking personally, I totally loved this, as it makes the home and family seem more ‘real’. I am the one-in-several-million that David mentioned. Also I’m currently apartment-hunting, and my life would be SO MUCH EASIER if more listings had clear floorplans like this instead of timly lit photos taken with an iPhone 6s. Holy hell, you’d think real estate agents doing this sort of thing professionally could take better photos…
ANYWAY! Here’s that “Baxter Building Cutaway” thing we mentioned, where occasionally for bonus pages in annuals or specials, they’d include fun non-story pages like showing what the building’s like where the Fantastic Four lives. I ate these up as a kid.
14:26 “It’s wild that it’s in color and in left-to-right”. It’s a heck of a production choice to take Chi’s Sweet Home, which runs in its manga serialization in black and white, and then watercolor it for the Japanese tankoubon releases. Furthering the ‘heck of a production choice’ trend, Vertical took the rare decision to print the color book in color (I’m seriously so sad whenever American manga publishers reproduce color pages in muddy black/white/grey tones), AND flipped the book to make it easier to read for young readers and older readers alike. Lots of thought went into this one, and it paid off in spades.
15:02 [Deb:] When I was growing up in Hawaii, we had several Blackies, and Rustys, and even a Whitey! Not to mention Offramp, because Grey-ie just didn’t work? I think my brother said he found him on the side of the road as a tiny kitten, ergo the off-the-beaten-path name. He was my favorite of our family cats. But we had a lot of cats and still have many that enjoy my mom’s tendency to feed any living creature who comes by to visit.
16:55 As hinted at a few times now, Chi’s Sweet Home was originally published in Kodansha’s Morning, a seinen manga magazine. While seinen manga typically means ‘young men’s’ , Morning seems like more of a general interest magazine with some select ‘traditional’ young men’s stories. Currently running hits in this magazine include the venerable Cooking Papa (untranslated) by Tochi Ueyama, about a dad who cooks and eats food and has been running for 161 volumes (since 1985!), Fumi Yoshinaga’s What Did You Eat Yesterday?, about a gay couple’s daily life; the soccer manga Giant Killing by Masaya Tsunamoto;, and forthcoming Mangasplaining picks Space Brothers and Kosaku Shima, among others! It’s an eclectic magazine, and you can see how Chi’s Sweet Home might fit in nicely there.
17:40 The series does tease that Chi might eventually be reunited with her mom, with a number of near-misses like this page from volume 2, page 120:
17:50 “I’m not a cat. I’m a Chi!” It can rock your whole world to find out that you are, in fact, a cat, and being a cat has certain responsibilities. It’s a fun sequence.
18:35 [Deb:] I’ve spent A LOT of time with my cat Timmy these past 2 years, so we’ve gotten to know each other VERY well. A side note: While we were in the midst of working on the show notes for this episode, Timmy fell ill unexpectedly and I had to let him go. He really was the bestest of best friends, and I miss him a lot.
Meanwhile, Chi does some very typical cat-like things, like enjoying boxes and plastic bags more than “cat toys” and how her pupils dilate when she’s really intrigued by something.
19:32 Chi’s Sweet Home is life-affirming in a way that most manga for kids aren’t. It’s very mature without being rated R – for example, this scene where Chi gets her temperature taken from a very uncomfortable spot!
20:25 – There’s stuff for adults to enjoy, like when Chi kneads dad’s chest and falls asleep in a ball. Hearing a heartbeat and having a memory of the past… This sure isn’t Teen Titans Go!
21:58 In her own way, Konata explains cat behavior with flashbacks that connect what Chi feels now with fond memories of her mother – like how being stroked on the head and back reminds her of being licked by her mom, or being picked up by the scruff of her neck by Blackie is similar to how her mother would carry her.
23:06 – While it’s not as wacky as What’s Michael, there’s a moment or two in this series that reminded us of What’s Michael – like this scene when Chi bites a cabbage! That’s a pure What’s Michael expression!
24:00 In What’s Michael, Dracula bites the woman on the neck, and Michael and Dracula lock eyes! We’re not gonna reproduce it here, but go check out our pal Minovsky’s tweet about it:
24:51 So a shout out to Dark Horse’s Super Manga Blast magazine. Launched in 2000, Super Manga Blast offered a mix of stories, kind of like how Japanese manga magazines offer a mix of stories and art styles in one anthology package. Super Manga Blast had some of their most popular series like Oh! My Goddess, 3×3 Eyes and of course, What’s Michael. It ran for 59 issues, with its final issue published in 2006.
[Christopher:] This was a weird, weird mix of titles, btw. This was the early days of the manga boom where publishers were still trying to figure out what worked, and magazines like Super Manga Blast from Studi Proteus and Dark Horse, and Gutsoon’s RAIJIN both had increasingly odd mixes of titles as they tried to shift from the seinen-sci-fi-action-boobs manga that they THOUGHT American audiences wanted, to include more general interest shonen titles that were burning up the charts thanks to Tokyopop, and eventually VIZ Media. While that kind of diversity clearly worked in Japan (as we can see from the Morning example above), it’s pretty clear that the very iterative version of U.S. Shonen Jump is closer to American fan tastes. It was a weird time for manga. I’m glad we got some cool outliers like What’s Michael, but huge sections of the industry simply couldn’t adapt to the disruption of Tokyopop, and the deeply unexpected success of U.S. Shonen Jump.
25:06 Perhaps based on the success of What’s Michael, Dark Horse also picked up Club 9 by Makoto Kobayashi. This one, maybe partly because of its risque humor and being out there when there was a glut of manga available at that time (and a much smaller audience for adult manga), it didn’t really catch on with readers. Dark Horse published 3 volumes in print, but the entirety of the five volume series can be read in English if you find back issues of Super Manga Blast, where it was also serialized.
Kobayashi draws gag expressions that are similar to what you see in another Mangasplaining fave, City, but a bit more realistic. Still they are very elastic, expressive faces that are almost like cartoons from the 1950s.
“I just assumed Cat People were Into that.”-David Brothers
27:42 – Blackie tells Chi, “Don’t trust humans too much,” then turns around and heads home to eat dinner. He’s totally cynical about his relationship with his humans, but sees it as “I give them what they want, they give me what I want” kind of thing.
28:25 Here’s Chip’s cat, Mr. Sweetpea!
31:00 FUKU FUKU KITTEN TALES – Kids definitely think this is called F**k-You F**k You Kitten Tales. Yiiiikes. I appreciate that changing the name MAY NOT have been an option, but Cali Cali Calico Tales was sitting right there.
32:00 – And Chi, being a kitten, is really cute, and has many funny expressions.
This scene of Chi typing on Daddy’s computer spawned a meme that pops up when people want to show that they’re sooo busy on the computer!
32:26 – Chi, unlike some other cats, isn’t all that keen on dogs.
32:42 – In Kiki’s Delivery Service – cats and dogs get along just fine. There’s a scene where a notices Jiji is in the house, and instead of a fur flying dust-up, the two critters co-exist peacefully. It’s one of my (Chris) fav scenes in the movie.
33:07 – Chi has some very surreal nightmares sometimes.
34:09 – Deb mentions a whole bunch more cat manga which are on the market now.
Yon and Mu: Juni Ito’s Cat Diary (Kodansha) is one of the best in the sub-genre of cat manga, where manga artists share stories about their lives with their real life cats.
Here’s a photo of Junji Ito wearing cat ears at Crunchyroll Expo panel about cat manga, proving that he is the goodest good sport as manga creators go.
There’s also horror manga with a cat spin, The Walking Cat: A Cat’s Eye View of the Zombie Apocalypse by Tomo Kitaoka (Seven Seas), where a cat wanders around a zombie-infested dystopia with it’s human companion.
Another upcoming release is Night of the Living Cat by Hawkman and Mecha Roots from Seven Seas. I found this one on BookWalker in Japanese a few months ago, and it looks like a lot of fun. In this version, the world is overrun by cats, simply because if anyone touches a cat, they turn into cats! Go check it out – it debuts in October.
On the lighter side, there’s Nights with a Cat by KyuryuZ, out now from Yen Press, about a guy who enjoys hanging out with his sister’s cat.
Want some hot older guys with fugly cats? A Man and His Cat by Umi Sakurai (Square Enix) delivers some slice of life humor as a lonely widower adopts a cat that is so fugly it’s cute, kinda? As the series continues, there are more cats and more guys introduced. It’s funny and heartwarming.
There’s a manga trailer for this series! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmJ-ukKELq
Chris’ pick is The Cat With Seven Lives – Le Chat Aux Sept Vies by Jin Shirakawa, a series that sadly, is only available in French from Glenat.
[Christopher:] I;m not as much of a cat person as Deb or Chip, but when I saw this on our France trip just before the pandemic, I was instantly captivated by those covers. And the interior art in black and white is really gorgeous too. It’s one of those series’ where I can’t believe it isn’t licensed in English yet, being only 3 volumes, and beautiful. It’s a bit sad, maybe that’s part of it, but really good.
35:57 Put together “nyan” (meow) with “yankees” / delinquents and you get Nyankees by Atsushi Okuda, from Yen Press. In this fun hybrid of macho street thug action with silly cat antics, the story switches between depicting the characters as humans and cats, and it’s really neat to see how the human characteristics / personalities get interpreted as cats.
Here’s even MORE CAT MANGA:
Cat + Gamer by Wataru Nadatani (Dark Horse) – This one got a recent shout-out on Mangasplaining, but it’s worth mentioning again. It’s about an office worker by day, hardcore gamer by night who adopts a kitten. Super cute story that cat and gamers alike will find to be a fun read.
The Cats of the Louvre by Taiyo Matsumoto (VIZ Media) – I can’t believe we didn’t mention this one, given how much we love Taiyo Matsumoto’s work here at Mangasplaining. This one-volume fantasy/mystery takes place in the back rooms of France’s world-famous museum, centered around child that went missing many years ago.
All About Kuru by Izu Takemoto – Another in a series of cat manga where the manga artist shares stories about their cats! It’s a very slice-of-life story that really doesn’t have much of a plot, but just those moments when you think, “Ah, right. That’s how cats are…”
Want some dog with your cat manga? With a Dog and a Cat, Every Day is Fun by Hidekichi Matsumoto is another series about a manga artist sharing stories about their pets, but this time, it’s about a very cynical, tsudere cat and a slightly dumb but energetic poodle. Check out a preview on Kodansha’s website, or watch the anime adaptation of this series, now streaming on Crunchyroll.
37:00 Shout out to Vertical! Twin Spica by Kou Yaginuma is a series about a young girl who dreams of becoming an astronaut. Print copies might be tricky to find, but it is available as a digital release via Kindle / Comixology. Chances are good that we’ll reference this series again when we talk about Space Brothers in a few weeks.
39:00 Chi’s Sweet Home is available in a lot of formats! Box set! Omnibuses! Digital! Comixology unlimited!
39:40 Konami Kanata made what might be her first public appearance at an event ever in 2012, at The Toronto Comic Arts Festival. She was warm and funny, and it was during that event that Vertical Inc. Publisher Ed Chavez credited her with “saving” Vertical, which, though the company was putting out very influential manga (especially on us Mangasplainers!) wasn’t lighting the sales charts on fire. Out of context, Chi could still be seen as a very unconventional pick, but it was a huge success, and good on Ed for recognizing it and publishing it.
41:05 [Deb:] It’s hard to recommend manga for kids! So many manga created for kids in Japan have elements that aren’t quite so kid-friendly in a N. American context.
[Christopher:] Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey has shifted the discourse a little in North America to make things a little less uptight, but my goodness there’s a LOT of poop in Japanese kids manga.
[Deb:] Stuff like the murder scenes in Case Closed / Detective Conan by Gosho Aoyama is one familiar example. It’s a popular series with tweens and teens in Japan, but given that it’s a murder mystery manga, the level of gore that sometimes shows up in the series (albeit mild compared to other similar stories) prompted VIZ Media to give it an OT-Older Teen rating.
But what makes Chi’s Sweet Home a seinen manga? When you compare it to Chi’s Sweet Adventures, there’s more of a narrative, dramatic edge in Chi’s Sweet Home. There’s a bittersweetness about Chi’s separation from her mother and siblings that you don’t see in Chi’s Sweet Adventures, and there’s more humor around how Mommy and Daddy have to deal with having a cat in a no-pets-allowed apartment. Also, while a lot of Chi’s Sweet Home is charming and episodic, it does have an underlying story thread such that when you get to the last volume – the ending is very satisfying. Try reading both and see if you can see what we mean here.
And that’s it for our first (but definitely not last!) episode about cat manga, starting with the first great English-language success, Chi’s Sweet Home! What cat manga should we read next? Add your recommendations in the comments!
43:20 THE BREAK
43:36: SHOUT OUTS
DAVID picks Tesla Note, an X-Files-ish sci-fi action series by Masafumi Nishida and Tadayoshi Kubo and illustrated by Kouta Sannomiya that’s also got some fun bits of humor. The basic premise of the series is that genius inventor Nikola Tesla preserved records of all his inventions inside things called “Shards of Tesla” that are scattered around the world, and a cadre of secret agents are tasked to find them.
There’s also an animated version of Tesla Note streaming now on Funimation.
David sent us a few scenes that he especially liked from recent chapters. There’s 5 volumes out from Kodansha now, so you can get in on it while it’s relatively new.
CHRIS picks sequel album Funk Wave Bounces II by Calvin Harris. Beautiful, cruising, sunshine through your window music.
[Christopher:] Since these show notes are coming out so long after the episode, I’ve given Fun Wav Bounces vol 2 a good listen, and while it has some nice notes it’s a bit more inconsistent than the first one. Some of the rhymes go really hard which works against the vibe, IMO. Luckily we still have the first, listen to that one as well:
DEB picks Chihayafuru – last chapter came out in Japan in August. This long-running josei manga series about high school students who get into competitive karuta, a Japanese card game where players have to snatch up the card that matches the first half of a famous poem that’s read aloud. It sounds like a very niche sport, but the author makes it accessible and exciting. Go check it out on Kodansha (digital only), or watch the anime on Crunchyroll – there’s 3 seasons of it!
BUT WHAT ABOUT DOG MANGA?
47:25 Is there a dog manga? Yes, there are, but not as many cat manga out in English. Here’s that manga about the “excitable shiba inu” that we mentioned, Lovely Muco!
Lovely Muco! by Takayuki Mizushina is about a shiba inu who lives in the countryside with his human companion who is a glassblower. Muco is just so eager to please while also being kinda clueless about what his human Komatsu is thinking, it makes for a funny, all-ages friendly read for pet lovers. The first volume of Lovely Muco is coming in April 2023 from Kodansha. The anime series is now on Crunchyroll.
47:33 A classic dog manga, Silver Fang: Shooting Star Gin by Yoshihiro Takahashi is available in English from Manga Planet. An epic story set in the frozen north of Japan, we see Gin the puppy grow up to be a fierce hunting dog that helps his humans track down giant bears that dwell in the mountains. There’s a sequel manga with a similar looking dog, called WEED released by Comicsone WAAAAY back in the day that some of you might recognize, but Silver Fang is one of the OG dog manga in Japan, and is still fondly remembered there.
On the lighter and more fantastical side, there’s also Sherlock Bones by Yuma Ando and Yuki Sato, an all-ages series published by Kodansha where the legendary sleuth is reincarnated as a cute puppy.
Inu-Baka: Crazy For Dogs by Yukiya Sakuragi was published by VIZ Media, but since it’s now missing from its website, it’s officially out of print. This series is about a young woman from the countryside who loves dogs and through a series of mix-ups, ends up working at a pet store in Tokyo where she meets dogs of all shapes, sizes and personality types.
Yuzu the Pet Vet by Mingo Ito from Kodansha is another all-ages friendly manga – this time, it’s about a girl who helps out at her uncle’s veterinary clinic. Lots of cute pets, but fair warning, there’s also some sad moments in this series too.
47:54 Star-Gazing Dog by Takashi Murakami (NBM Comics)- As Chris puts it, “it’s Grave of the Fireflies for dog manga.” This one-volume manga follows an elderly man as he goes on one final road trip with his beloved dog. It’s beautifully drawn, but it is definitely a tear-jerker. It’s not on NBM’s current list of books, but it’s not that hard to find if you check second-hand booksellers.
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