As a huge fan of Chi’s Sweet Home, I was super excited to see that the author/illustrator had a new series out…also about a cat! And this new series does not fail to deliver those heartwarming moments familiar to all cat owners in a very similar style but with some noticeable differences.
The opening of the first volume introduces a chubby, older version of Fukufuku, looking back with her owner on photos of her kittenhood. The rest of the two volumes are vignettes of different memories from when she was young.
I couldn’t help but continually compare FukuFuku to Chi, and the very first thing that stood out to me was that we get none of Fukufuku’s inner monologue in this manga. In Chi’s Sweet Home, half of the charm came from Chi’s innocent commentary on her environment. The only insights we are given into Fukufuku’s thoughts are through her expressions and a plethora of cat noises and other onomatopoeia. In fact, the only dialogue we are given in Fukufuku Kitten Tales is that of Fukufuku’s owner, an unnamed elderly woman. I find this an interesting choice and one that could work particularly well for emergent and beginning readers. Children can use the illustrations and simple words to decode the story on a preliminary level not achieved even in most graphic novels.
The other most obvious difference between Fukufuku’s life and Chi’s is the family dynamic. Chi lives with a young family consisting of a mother, father, and little boy, residing in a modern apartment with all sorts of wonders to explore (like the Roomba-esque robotic vacuum cleaner). Fukufuku belongs to an older lady who lives alone in a fairly traditional Japanese minka. This is another reason for the reduced dialogue in this manga, but it also changes the feel a bit. Whereas Chi’s life is sometimes chaotic and messy, Fukufuku’s life (for the most part) seems peaceful and cozy. Chi definitely has those moments too, but the overall feel of Fukufuku Kitten Tales is one of (mostly) quiet companionship.
Apart from these differences, all of the things readers love about Chi’s Sweet Home and that cat owners find relatable are still present in FukuFuku. The grumpy cat glares, the playful excitement of discovering a new toy, the mischievous curiosity, the abrupt mood swings, and the irresistible cuteness are all conveyed so perfectly through Kanata’s illustrations.
I hope there will be more in this series, although I can’t find any word at the moment of anything other than these two volumes. But either way, I strongly recommend this adorable manga for your own library’s collection. It can be so challenging to find appropriate manga for younger readers, and with a built-in fan base from Chi’s Sweet Home, these volumes are sure to circulate.