The creator of Cat Paradise, Yuji Iwahara, reveals an excess of energetic imagination in his new work, not to mention an uncanny ability to make the strange palatable and appealing.
In its own way, Cat Paradise works on two levels -- it offers both well-defined fantasy elements while at the same time it ably parodies the genre, thanks to the cat-centric theme. The story opens when pretty Yumi Hayakawa joins a school that allows students to keep a pet cat with them in the dorms. Yumi's joined by her cantankerous cat, Kansuke, who has more personality than most shonen heroes. Yumi seems like a fairly normal girl, lightly touched by the weird -- she likes to dress up Kansuke in little outfits she knits herself, which offends his masculine sensibilities.
The two haven't been on campus even a few hours before they come face to face with a demonic minion of an ancient cat demon, now ready to resurface after a thousand years and wreak havoc in order to pave the way for the resurrection of his demon cat lord. Well, much to Yumi and Kansuke's surprise there is already a protective force in place at the school. Each member of the school's student council is paired with a cat and these pairings actually share power of some kind that allows either the cat or the human to derive power from the other in order to fight demonic forces. (Seriously, this kind of reminds me of the fighting teams from Loveless....except instead of catboys and catgirls there are actual cats.) Kansuke and Yumi are given the option to gain the power to help in the fight so long as they accept that once they do they will now be destined to fight the ancient cat demon, Kaen.
For his own reasons -- he has some wish he wants to fulfill -- Kansuke accepts the proposition immediately (He shamelessly shouts "Give me the Power" just like our favorite shonen heroes. Next he'll be saying he has someone he wants to protect!). Hilariously, Yumi's power is related to knitting and the little outfits she creates for Kansuke. Once he steps into one of her outfits, Kansuke becomes human-ish and has the ability to fight on his partner's behalf.
The powers of the student council members that are revealed in this first volume are just as odd, andn the fact that the fighting pairs are cat-human is likewise incredibly odd, but everything is odd in the most entertaining and endearing way. It is worth noting that right now that cats have much more defined personalities than the student council members, but I suspect part of the fun will be seeing how these humans will synchronize with their feline partners. I can in no way take the danger from an ancient demonic cat demon very seriously, but darn it, this book was fun and charming in its own very weird way.
Review Copy provided by Yen Press.