By Konami Kanata. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Morning. Released in North America by Vertical.
We don't really see all that many cute animal manga over here. Neko Ramen, while it is a manga starring an animal, is not what I'd call cute. But Chi's Sweet Home is primarily about a cute l'il cat and her sense of wonder in everyday life. Japan loves its cat manga - there's a manga magazine out there that's entirely devoted to cat stories - but Chi is a cut above these, managing to just avoid being cloying and precious. Just. It does come close at times.
We're introduced to Chi, one of a family of kittens who is being led around the neighborhood by their mother. Unfortunately, Chi is easily distracted and winds up separated from the rest of her family. One thing the author does very well is to convey Chi not forgetting about her old family - Chi's motivation for the first half of this volume is to get out and get home, and the only thing stopping her are the many distractions along the way.
Incidentally, the way that Chi's naming is conveyed is a tribute to Ed Chavez's excellent translation. This is not a manga that needs footnotes or translation pointers, being primarily very simple - except for the chapter dealing with Chi being named (and toilet trained). Kanata's art and the dialogue, though, make it easy to note through simple repetition that 'chi' is the Japanese word for 'pee', and that while she's being toilet trained (the young boy in the house is as well), she learns to respond to this name. (Chi also means small, so I figure that it won't be a stigma on the cat later in life.)
I was also pleased with how well the family Chi ends up with were presented. Managing to have character traits yet not be caricatures, the family has a weight to them that pleases me. The worry with these sorts of stories is that the humans are just there to be the straight men for the animals, yet here you see the Yamada family as a young couple with young child, living their own lives which happen to have a cat in them. The mother seems more stressed out and worried about the 'no pets' policy, while the dad seems more laid-back and accepting (loved the gag about his vintage jeans). And the child is written as your typical 2-3 year old kid.
This manga was colored and flipped for its North American release, but you'd never guess it. It feels natural and smooth, and the color is great. I understand that the artist approved it herself, and was also full of praise for it. I also approve of the decision to do so - despite appearing in the men's magazine Weekly Morning, there's nothing in Chi that can't be read by a family, and marketing this book to a ) families, b) cat lovers, then c) manga geeks makes perfect sense. I hope it does very well for Vertical, and look forward to further cute cat adventures.