Season 1 (episodes 1-26): Mr. and Mrs. Yamada face a tough decision when a girl in Hokkaido offers to take Chi. Their apartment doesn't allow pets, but they are to the point where they feel like Chi is a member of the family. Finally, they opt to move to a pet-friendly apartment. There, they introduce themselves to their new neighbors, and Chi meets the neighbors' pets: a large bunny, a parakeet, a friendly dog, and a regal longhair Scottish fold cat. Chi briefly gets lost exploring her new neighborhood, but she manages to find her way home again.
Season 2 (episodes 27-52): Chi explores her new neighborhood some more, gets to know the neighbors' pets (including the parakeet), and meets several other cats. The Yamadas continue to learn how to better take care of Chi, which includes figuring out how to brush her teeth and learning how to best travel with her.
Season 3 (episodes 53-78): More of Chi in the new neighborhood. I don't think there's anything specific that defines this season. Chi spends a lot of time with local cats, including one that behaves in an almost motherly way towards her, but I think these local cats showed up in Season 2 as well. The season ends with the entire Yamada family, including Chi, going to Hokkaido to visit Juri (the girl Chi was almost given to in Season 1) and her family.
Season 4 (episodes 79-104): Chi and the Yamadas spend time in Hokkaido. Then the whole family goes back home and has their usual day-to-day experiences - the biggest thing I can remember is that, for what may be the first time, we finally get to see Mr. Yamada doing work-related things. Near the end of the season, Chi accidentally hitches a ride on a truck and gets horribly lost. The Yamadas begin to lose hope that they'll ever see Chi again, but, luckily, Chi finds help along the way.
Initially, I had planned on writing separate posts for each season. However, the individual seasons didn't seem to be different enough from each other to warrant that treatment.
I have still only read one volume of the manga, and, when I realized that Chi's Sweet Home: Chi's New Address was actually the sequel to the anime Chi's Sweet Home (which I haven't seen and which is also 104 episodes long), I was worried that I might be lost. It was quickly apparent, however, that Chi's New Address was newbie-friendly. All you needed to know was that the Yamadas lived with a kitten named Chi in an apartment where they couldn't have cats, and, even then, the Yamadas move almost immediately after the start of the series. Later on, the series also brings in an old friend of Chi's. I hadn't yet gotten to the point in the manga where he was introduced, and his and Chi's reunion might have been richer for me if I had, but at no time did I feel lost or confused.
You could, in theory, watch all four seasons of this series in one or two sittings. It is amazingly easy to say “Just one more episode,” only to realize that you said that five episodes ago. Just like the manga, this slice-of-life series is filled with warm fuzzies and animal cuteness, with the added bonus of equally cute movement and sound (seriously, I couldn't stop myself from going “awww” every time Chi yawned). All that cuteness and sweetness is why I wouldn't recommend watching the series all at once, however. It gets to be a little much, or at least it did for me, which was why I broke up my Chi viewing periods with Uraboku, an angst-filled fantasy series chock full of bishounen (pretty boys). It was a good decision, I think.
Chi and the Yamadas inhabit a world where nothing ever goes seriously wrong. No one gets sick, the Yamadas never have money problems, and Chi regularly runs around the neighborhood without a collar and nothing ever happens to her (well, almost nothing). The series begins with the Yamadas sadly contemplating giving Chi away because their apartment doesn't allow pets. The idea is so devastating that Mr. and Mrs. Yamada decide that they'll move to a place that does allow pets. Brilliant! Except that this means that everything they went through previously in order to keep Chi in their apartment was all for nothing. Why hadn't they decided to move earlier? The money? A lack of available apartments? No explanation is ever given. Anyway, as soon as they decide to move, the universe aligns itself so that a sign advertising pet-friendly vacancies appears.
Like I said: for the most part, nothing really bad happens. The series reaches its darkest point when Chi is lost near the end of Season 4 and has collapsed face first in a puddle. However, even then, Chi has a friend who arrives in the nick of time to help her out.
I could say that I disliked how sanitized everything was, but that wouldn't be the truth. Sometimes it's nice to watch something and know that there will be zero heavy drama. I didn't want to see Chi in any serious peril, and the show delivered that in spades. I happily wallowed in episode after episode of Chi being an adorable, energetic kitten. My cynicism only poked its head out occasionally, usually over something to do with the Yamadas. I liked Yohei, but there were times when I thought he was almost too well-mannered for his age. I shook my head in disbelief when the Yamadas packed up and moved right at the beginning of the series, after (I'm guessing) spending an entire 104 previous episodes trying to hide Chi in a “no pets allowed” apartment.
Still, the focus was primarily on Chi and the rest of the animals, so I was willing to overlook humans with too-easy lives. Cat lovers will be most happy with the series, which, in addition to Chi, includes a Scottish fold and several recurring stray cats (my favorite is Tama – I wish she and her sister had been reunited before the series ended).
I don't know if another season/series is planned, but part of me hopes not. While I adore Chi and believe I could easily watch another 104 episodes of her without growing bored, I'm not sure I'd want to watch Chi (and Yohei) grow older. I'd also dislike it if the series went on and on without any of the characters being affected by the passage of time. If this is where Chi's story ends, I think I'm happy.
Watch-alikes and Read-alikes:
- Azumanga Daioh (manga) by Kiyohiko Azuma; Azumanga Daioh (anime TV series) - This series is even less grounded in reality than Chi's New Address, but those who'd like to try another slice-of-life series that includes a bit of comedy might want to check it out. Also, for those looking for more cute animals, you may enjoy one particular character in this series, a quiet, cool-looking girl who secretly loves animals. Unfortunately for her, almost all animals hate her, but that doesn't stop her from trying to befriend them.
- Yotsuba&! (manga) by Kiyohiko Azuma - Those who'd like another slice-of-life series that focuses on a cute, innocent character might want to try this. Yotusba is a strange young girl who, despite her strangeness, manages to make everyone she meets smile. Although she lives alone with only her father, their life isn't a lonely one - Yotsuba and her father end up with several friends they visit fairly often. Ok, so reading too much of this series at once might make your teeth rot, but the same could be said about Chi's New Address. It's a very cute, sweet series, a great read when you're feeling blue.
- Fruits Basket (manga) by Natsuki Takaya; Fruits Basket (anime TV series) - This series also has cute animals, including a cat. The premise of the series is that the Sohma family has been cursed so that certain members of the family turn into an animal from the Chinese zodiac when they become weak or are hugged by someone of the opposite sex. Tohru Honda, a normal high school girl whose mother died a while back, ends up living with several of the Sohmas. This is somewhat a slice-of-life series, but, as the series progresses and the more twisted aspects of the Sohma family are revealed, it gets a bit darker. Those who would like something that's about more than just day-to-day life might want to try this.
- The Cat Returns (anime movie) - If you're a cat lover and would just like something with lots of cats in it, you might want to try this. The main character of this movie, an ordinary high school girl, saves a cat from being hit by a truck. In return, she receives several rewards, including marriage to the crown prince of the Cat Kingdom. With the help of the Baron, another cat, she enters the Cat Kingdom and tries to prevent her marriage.
- My Neighbor Totoro (anime movie) - If you'd like another mostly light-hearted, cute story, you might want to try this. Two young sisters and their father move to a new home in a fairly rural area, a home closer to the hospital the girls' mother is in. While waiting for their mother to get better, the girls explore their new home and discover strange, amazing, somewhat cat-like creatures that they then befriend.
- Dark Side Cat (anime) - If you'd like another series, with very short episodes, that focuses on a cat, you might want to try this. It's more action-filled and funny than cute, but it may still appeal to those who liked Chi's New Address. Currently, you can watch this series for free via Crunchyroll. I have written about it.