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Lil' Leo Manga Review

Lil' Leo Manga Review

-Written by: Will

Oh, Lil’ Leo, how cute is your manga? One day, I was about to enjoy a nice time outside when it started to rain. With no way to enjoy the summer weather, I decided to read this book instead. This book acted as my ray of sunshine. The art has a retro charm to it, even though this book originally came out in Japan in 2009. Leo and the supporting cast are very sweet. The story and sentence structure are simple, but this is a children’s manga. If you’re a fan of classic children’s picture books, this book is for you.

Leo (left) and his human friend Tatsuru (right) arrive at the school (Lil' Leo, Ch. 1 Pg. 11).

Set in a world where cats can talk to humans, the main cat is, of course, Leo, a two-year-old domestic shorthair wanting to explore the world. This manga includes eight short stories showing off his escapades, ranging from attending school to creating a manga. Recalling my memories of classics like Curious George, Lil’ Leo likes to have fun while also teaching simple lessons to kids.

For example, the first story has Leo go to school. His human friend goes to school, and he says they always have a delicious lunch. Knowing this, Leo begs his motherly owner to buy a backpack so he can attend. She gives in, and Leo learns the reality of academics. It’s a fun story that teaches school rules such as in other children’s books. This also provided insight into an elementary Japanese school day.

Leo attends his second marriage interview. (Lil' Leo, Ch. 3 Pg. 75).

The stories can get out there, but it’s all in good fun. There’s one story where Leo goes to marriage interviews. The situation is totally ridiculous, and the author plays it up for laughs. The interviews always end in some punch line or set Leo off onto a new adventure. Another story is told from the perspective of Yamato, a girl who was in Leo’s class. She develops a crush on him and it’s super sweet. It’s portrayed as those innocent feelings we all felt as kids. The author, Moto Hagio, is a shojo manga veteran, so these stories could also be seen as a parody of the romance genre. In fact, she’s been at it for forty years and is one of the most popular and influential shojo manga creators. Reading up on her work, it’s great we’re getting more of her manga in the States.

As a veteran, Hagio has an excellent and retro art style. The character’s eyes are expressive, and there’s nice detail on every page. I can imagine drawing a striped cat like Leo isn’t easy, but he’s always on point. What’s more, all of the characters look distinct from each other. I’ve noticed that many female characters often have a set body type and facial structure and are often differentiated moistly by hair. So it’s nice that a book like this comes along and shows a cast that comes in all shapes and sizes. They’re all memorable too, even though some of them only appear in a couple of pages. That’s thanks to the simple but effective character work.

The characters are straightforward but act realistically. For example, one story has Leo trying to help a mangaka and her assistants finish a manga chapter. “Trying” being the important word, because Leo is always messing up. Other kid’s books may make the adult characters tolerant or kind to Leo’s mistakes. Instead, the mangaka sternly corrects him. She didn’t want Leo to help anyway, but they’re tight on a deadline so we might as well use the extra, erm, paw. The adults are never mean, they just have a simple motivation that Leo is an innocent obstacle towards. It’s this way that the book further appeals to kids and adults.

Oh, Lil’ Leo why did you have to end? This was the innocent, simple, feel-good manga I needed. Leo’s innocence made the stories extra sweet, and the adults’ genuine reactions grounded the manga’s lessons. If you’re like me and need that feeling of childhood gentleness in your life, Lil’ Leo is a treat.

Lil' Leo Manga

Lil' Leo features story and art by Moto Hagio.

Two-year-old Leo is not your average house cat. One day he notices his young neighbor Tatsuru on his way to elementary school and he then decides to follow him and enroll himself! After finding his own backpack and school equipment, young Leo realizes that anything Tatsuru can do, he can do as well! And best of all, since he is a feline he can do it all with a style and flair all of his own. Leo can go to school! Leo can live on his own! Leo can find a part-time job or even be a chef! Eventually, Leo's life is full of wonderful memories, but it could have taken a very different turn if not for those who loved him.

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