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Unread 09-29-2006   #1 (permalink)
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Default What's Michael? Volume 11: Planet Of The Cats (What's Michael? (Graphic Novels))

Described as "Japan's version of Garfield, Heathcliff and Krazy Kat all rolled into one," Makoto Kobayashi's What's Michael? mixes slice-of-life cat reality with out-of-this-world cat fantasy into one tasty dish of laughter that even cat haters will find delicious. This, the final volume of the collected series, includes the What's Michael? epic, "The Planet of the Cats," a sci-fi feline farce that will put you into comedy orbit!
Customer Review: We're at the end of an era, no more sharpening our arrows, no more praying that we never hit the things that we were shooting at
*sigh* It brings me a bit of sorrow to be reviewing this book. It's not that it's a depressing volume in the What's Michael? legacy, or that it's not funny or anything. But it's the fact that it's the final book- the last time we'll ever see Michael, Popo, Catzilla, Bear, Dracula, the Fugitive, the photographer looking for THE PERFECT SHOT, Yakuza Member K, or any of the other dozen memorable characters. I didn't want to believe it, but when Amazon's product description mentioned that this was the last volume, I wanted to cry. What's Michael? is the perfect comedy series. I've never been so attached to characters in a comedy series before. Even Calvin & Hobbes pale to the guys here for me. In a sense, I suppose it's best that the series ended so soon. Would you really like to see Kobayashi turn the series into repetitive lame gags like what Jim Davis did with Garfield 10 years ago, and keep it going? I wouldn't. If you've read any of my reviews for the other WM? books, you know how much I love the series. It pains me a bit to say that Planet of the Cats, the grand finale of WM?, isn't the best book of the bunch. It's not even in the top 5. It has more weird and cute stories than it does funny ones, and the epic Planet of the Cats story, which spans for nearly half the book, isn't as good as I thought it could've been. Needless to say, this isn't the best book to read if you're new to the series, but it still deserves 5 stars, if only for making me laugh with mere facial reactions from both cats and humans. The first half of volume 11 here is a mixed bag. Starting out with Do You Know This Cat?, we're introduced to a new character: a cat with a split ear who travels around Japan, getting attention from strangers. One of the people who knows him, finds out just how far the cat travels, and wonders how great its owners must be. The conclusion is sort of abrupt, and could've been dealt with differently, getting either sympathy or a good laugh. 'not a good start, but that's ok. The next story deals with Mini-Mike being in love with a cat that's not allowed outside its apartment building. She shows affection for him, and when he goes to show affection for her, something happens that I'm sure we've all experienced. It's very heartbreaking, but also very sweet. Dracula returns in the next story, which is cool since his appearances in previous volumes always had me laughing at how shocked he'd get over the littlest things. He's out looking for blood, as usual, and tries some new things from help books. He even gets one girl to flash him her panties in the process! But even panties won't get him close to this girl, as they have a design that terrifies him. If you've read other volumes with Dracula, you'll know what I mean, and are probably already laughing. The next couple of stories bring back characters from other volumes that had minor roles, and one brings back a story from one of the earlier volumes, which was a great twist. Keiko and Norio still can't seem to get time alone together, Alyce the southern belle is still a spoiled brat, and Tamami is still demanding. Then there's Konbayashi land, which confused the hell out of me, but had some wonderful images that had me smiling along. It's so bizarre, and some things in it reminded me of Yutaka Saito, which is always a plus. Planet of the Cats is, obviously, a Planet of the Apes parody. It's divided into eight chapters, making it the longest story in WM? history, and never feels like it's taking too long to develop. Unfortunately, this one ends rather abruptly as well, but some of that is most likely due to me not wanting the book, and story, to end. It's full of some laugh out loud moments, like when Michael and Popo compare one of the humans to a picture of an elephant seal, coming to the conclusion that they look identical. Catzilla also speaks with a French accent, which got a little on my nerves, trying to read a written accent, but I managed to pull through. As usual, the translation and art style in this volume are perfect. What else would you expect from Kobayashi? I was disappointed though, that there wasn't a big letter or special picture from Kobayashi, thanking everyone for the support over the years or anything. All we get is a "Thank you, Kobayashi-Dono!" below "The End" under the last panel. I was really hoping for something special, and even flipped the the last page when I first bought this volume. Sure, WM? isn't as big as some other series, but it has just as much, if not more heart, and substance to it. Having read all but one volume in this series, it gives me an empty feeling knowing that I won't be seeing Michael and the gang again. It also hurt not getting to see some other great characters like the photographer looking for THE PERFECT SHOT or even Bear in here, making their last appearances, or even getting some closure to their stories (especially the Fugitive). Maybe they'll pop up in some other future series by Kobayashi. But perhaps I'm being selfish. I want to thank Makoto Kobayashi for everything he's done, and especially for giving me a new favorite comic series. It took me almost 10 years to track down this series, and it didn't disappoint me one bit. I'm always going back to the older volumes, and reading them over and over each week, eager to buy the next volume I need. But now, with one volume left, I almost want to wait even longer to get it, knowing it'll be the last "new" one I read. But reading one that you know is the absolute last, is just the same. It was a blast seeing Kobayashi's art style mature over the years, and seeing his writing skills expand to new levels that I didn't think could be reached in a "mere comedy" series. WM? has made me an even bigger cat fan than I already was, and given me even more appreciation for both cats, and the little things in life. Yes, I realize I'm being more emotional over the end of a comic series than should be possible, but I love WM? so much, and it's over now. Now I understand how all the fans of shows like Cowboy Bebop felt when they saw the last episode, or other similar things. Thanks, once again, Mr. Kobayashi. You've done an outstanding job, and may you have the best success with future titles. I salute you.

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