From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays, No.162
Hello and welcome back to our all-ages comics column From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays! This week we have a title of east-meets-west flavor for you, with Viz Media’s first all new Hello Kitty graphic novel. Interestingly, this week in my spare time I was reading the first volume of Kodansha’s Sherlock Bones (which sounds like an all-ages title but isn’t, it is more aimed at teens due to context), and where the new Hello Kitty takes the Japanese character and reinvents her in North American comic form, Sherlock Bones takes the British Sherlock Holmes and gives him a manga twist, so it was neat reading to compare these two things side by side in my own weekly comics intake, and teen/adult readers may want to do the same with these two titles if looking for a fun afternoon for a few hours. Anywho, let’s get down to it!
Without a doubt, Hello Kitty is one of the most marketable characters in the world, a licensing frenzy that like Mickey Mouse has spawned dozens of adaptations from TV to comics. Our latest version of the character comes to us with Viz’s first original Hello Kitty graphic novel, Here We Go!, but unlike the translated manga we have known Viz for, here we get all new North American comics! Just as surprising as the fact Viz opted to license the character and create homegrown, is that the comics are pretty entertaining.
To sum up what goes in this collection, there’s a ton of Hello Kitty adventures. From traveling to the corners of the Earth, to hanging with mole-people at its core, to fighting ninjas as a spy, to adventuring through books, and more, a ton is happening across a handful of short comics packed in these pages.
The charm of the comics comes though in its form: pantomime. Aside from sound effects, no spoken dialog appears on these pages, hence it is comic storytelling in its purest form. Pantomime is not an easy task for writers and artists, and so is avoided frequently and used occasionally as a gimmick to fill in an issue here and there. In fact for long running series there are very few good examples, with the notable exceptions of comic strips Henry, The Little King, and Ferd’nand, and perhaps the ultimate pantomime comic ever created, the manga series Gon. Here we see Hello Kitty in all her all-ages adventures splendor told in this fashion.
Art side compared to the normal thick-line Sanrio art style, the lines of Hello Kitty and friends seems a little thin under the pens of Chabot and Moniongo. The thin-line versus think-line style isn’t that bothersome, even reminiscent of some of the animated character design styles we’ve seen in the Hello Kitty TV and OAV series, and thus when combined with both color and the sheer amusement of pantomime storytelling, it works for even the grumpiest Hello Kitty-purest just fine.
However, when it comes to the shorts by Ghahremani, although interesting art, it looks nothing at all like our friends, and the stories are so short it becomes questionable why they are sandwiched with Chabots and Moniongo’s commendable work. Artistic filler? Perhaps, but if so is that really what is needed in a comic aimed more at little kids than adults, who may be lost and wonder why Hello Kitty looks like she has black suns over her eyes and has a misshapen head?
Still, aside from the imperfection and miscalculation of Ghahremani’s work, which would be better suited in an adult aimed tribute to Sanrio, the first volume of Hello Kitty from Viz has a lot going for it. As much as I would just love to see some of the original manga translated here, like Viz did with other Sanrio-universe character Fluffy, Fluffy Cinnamoroll a few years back, they do a great job with some home grown comics, and the fact that it gives it a solid 100% attempt at the pantomime storytelling is a reason alone for any comic reader, fan of the kitty or not, to pick it up and give it a thumb through. You may find yourself smiling more than you’d expect.
Hello Kitty: Here We Go! is available in print and digital from Viz!
That’s it for this week, see you next!