Moto Hagio is a hugely influential and award-winning shoujo manga creator who’s works have received wide spread acclaim. Her ground-breaking series, like The Poe Clan and The Heart of Thomas, pushed boundaries and explored complex topics, contributing to the expansion in the kinds of stories that were told in shoujo manga that occurred during the 1970’s.
Despite how beloved a creator Moto Hagio is, until recently I hadn’t read any of her work. This is because, as far as I could tell, the examples of her manga that are currently available in English are all – how best to put this – huge downers.
But that all changed with the publication of the English edition of Lil’ Leo.
Leo is an adorable tabby cat who enjoys eating flan, chasing mice and being pampered by his human mommy. Occasionally, he’ll get a wild idea in his head – like how he should have the staring role in a movie – and will go after it with gusto. Unfortunately, he rarely thinks his plans through and they almost always go poorly for the well-meaning, but disaster-prone, kitty.
Lil’ Leo is a whimsical, humorous and cute manga that follows the misadventures of an anthropomorphized cat as he tries, and fails, to imitate humans. Leo is able to talk, walk around on his hind legs and perform complex human tasks, like making coffee or assisting with the creation of a manga, though not particularly well. Despite his apparent intelligence, Leo is still a cat. He grooms himself by licking, prefers to go to the bathroom outside and has a childish way of looking at things.
Leo has a series of silly, episodic adventures in this book. Some chapters focus on more mundane issues a cat might face, such as litter training or having the dead mouse he so thoughtfully brought to his mommy thrown in the trash. Other stories revolve around Leo trying to take on some kind of human task, to comedic results. My favourite story in the book revolved around Leo attending marriage interviews with a series of human women. The interviews usually start out well, but then hilariously fall apart due to the fact that he’s, well, a cat.
While I found Leo’s antics to be funny, I did start to feel a little bad over the fact that nothing ever seemed to go the intrepid cat’s way. For example, at one point he tries to attend elementary school after hearing about how delicious school lunches are from his neighbour. Once there, he proceeds to mess up constantly. Leo has trouble sitting still, drops his school supplies everywhere and gets reprimanded for licking his butt during class. If you’re someone who gets second-hand embarrassed for characters, all of these constant screwups might become a little much after a while. But, at least his loving mommy is always there for him when things go south.
It seems that the character of Leo was based off of Hagio’s real-life cat and, despite all the trouble the character gets himself into, you can tell that the mangaka had a lot of fondness for this little feline, foibles and all. The result is a very sweet and charming portrayal of a quixotic hero. Things might not always go the way Leo imagined, but he doesn’t let that get to him and he continues to dream big.
If you’ve been interested in checking out some of Moto Hagio’s work and want to start with something that isn’t too heavy, then Lil’ Leo is a great title to pick up. I really enjoyed it, and now I’m more excited than ever to read Hagio’s sci-fi classic, The Were Eleven, when it’s released next year!
Final Score: 8 out of 10.
For more information on this manga, visit Denpa’s website.
What did you think of this manga? Who else is psyched about the upcoming release of They Were Eleven? Let me know in the comments!
Also, be sure to check out my reviews of these other great cat manga:
- Wonder Cat Kyuu-Chan Vol 1-2 Review
- I’m the Catlords’ Manservant Vol 1 Review
- With a Dog and a Cat, Every Day is Fun Vol 1 Review
- What’s Michael? Fatcat Collection Vol 1
- A Man & His Cat Vol 1 Review
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