GRAPHIC NOVEL
Free Collars Kingdom
Volume 1

Author: Takuya Fujima
Artist: Takuya Fujima
Tanoshimi
RRP: 5.99, US $10.95
ISBN: 978 0 099 50670 6
Ages: 16+
Available 01 February 2007


Cyan is a contented, Abyssinian, house cat, the beloved pet of the young boy Kokoro. His life could not be more contented, that is, until one day Kokoro goes away and doesn't come back. Heartbroken, Kokoro's mother can no longer look at Cyan, without thinking of how things were, when her child was well. Unable to deal with the situation Kokoro's mother abandons Cyan...

Free Collars Kingdom is a new manga series by Takuya Fujima who had success with his previous strip, the futuristic Deus Vitae. The story is your basic rights of passage stuff. When we first meet Cyan he is a young pampered cat, it is only after being abandoned that we see him having to confront some of the realities of life. Unable to comprehend what has happened to him he determines to stay in the basement of his apartment block, hoping that his master will come to his rescue.

In order to enjoy this release, you have to suspend disbelief, as the book has a glaring problem. Obviously a comic strip about cats, that look like cats, has the potential to be extremely dull, so at the first opportunity Fujima depicts the cats in a more human form. The problem here is that the humans don't seen to have a problem with this, in fact in one of the stories Cyan even visits an establishment where humans come in order to pet pedigree cats.

In the first story, Those Who Wear Free Collars, we get our introduction to the young Cyan and his sad predicament. Thankfully things do not remain so bleak when he discovers that his basement is the base of a bunch of feral cats. To denote their emancipation, from what they see as human bondage, these cats control an area of land known as The Free Collars Kingdom. If that wasn't enough for Cyan to take on board, he discovers that there is a whole other cat culture. The Free Cats are in conflict with Siam for control of the apartment block, as legend has it that the block stands on the place where the collar of power resides.

Tale two, Her and the Old Guy's Situation and tale three, Nyan-Man Love, shows that this was never a book designed for children. The story takes a protracted look at Cyan trying to judge the various relationships in the Free Collar Kingdom. Due to his inexperience he mistakes the leader's (Amesho) interest in Scottie, an underage kitten, to be of a sexual nature. He goes off the deep end and accuses him of being a paedophile, only to learn the truth after being told how Scottie and Amesho met.

Meow of the Heart and O Holy Night's Caterwaul continue the story as Cyan is introduced to the wider world of catching food and, what can only be described as, Human/Cat Brothels.

The book appears to have had a lot of thought put into its production. The UK publishers have taken into account that this may be your first introduction to the world of manga, and have included passages on Japanese honorifics; a little note from the writer; eight pages giving the geographical and cultural background to the story; and a six page preview of volume two.

Overall, I thought the book cute - a book for cat fans written by a cat fan. As such, along the way, Fujima provides information on each type of cat that appears. This manga comes with a 16+ recommended reading age, mainly due to its sexual content. Not that it is full of graphic sex, but there are enough references to other things which might be cause for awkward conversations.

For anyone older there is enough in the book to keep you amused. Fujima does a fair script and some nice character design.

Charles Packer

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