Kobato Hanato, a simple teenage girl, is all alone in the world except for a feisty dog-like sidekick named Ioryogi. He is aiding Kobato in her quest to earn a bottle and then fill it with healed hearts, so she can go where she wants to go. Through a series of misguided but eventually successful attempts at helping people, Ioryogi deems Kobato worthy of the special bottle she needs. Kobato also befriends the staff at a local kindergarten where she gets a job, determined to help heal their wounded hearts and fulfill her wish.
Originally published between 2005 and 2011 by the legendary manga artists CLAMP, Kobato. is a bizarre, light-hearted series with some fantasy elements. From the beginning, Kobato’s quest is kept intentionally vague in the first three volumes. It’s also unclear whether Kobato is human, since she is incredibly naive about the world and clueless about human interaction, despite looking like a teenager. Despite this gullibility, she is incredibly kind-hearted and sincere in her actions, so it’s easy to want her to succeed, whatever it is she actually wants to do.
Ioryogi, the disgruntled sidekick, serves as her foil. Even though he can be protective of her, he constantly berates Kobato and is mostly annoying. It is slowly revealed that he is serving as her protector and reduced to a small, dog-like form as some sort of punishment. He and the other animal creatures he interacts with exist in a parallel world, as none of the other human characters appear to see him.
The other characters provide a bit of groundedness to the story. Fujimoto, the stoic male lead who works several part-time jobs to help out the kindergarten, and Sayaka, the sweet kindergarten teacher, help Kobato on her journey. They are not without some drama of their own, as we learn that the kindergarten is in debt to the Japanese mob. This story exists somewhat in its own reality-based universe, with Kobato and Ioryogi orbiting around it with their own eccentric energy.
The art is up to CLAMP’s usual high standards with plenty of gorgeous character designs, adorable chibi moments, and abundant sound effects. The covers and full-color title pages are especially enchanting.
While this is not a particularly ground-breaking or engrossing story, it should appeal to fans of CLAMP or manga readers looking for something fanciful and light-hearted.
Kobato., vol. 1-3
Volume 1 ISBN: 9780316085366
Volume 2 ISBN: 9780316085403
Volume 3 ISBN: 9780316085410
Yen Press, 2010
Publisher Age Rating: T (13+)