Free Collars Kingdom is certainly alluring. Lets face it, catgirls/boys are a staple of the anime fan diet, and rarely lack appeal. This is something Takuya Fujima seems to understand, and FCK serves up a beautifully drawn feline fantasy.
The tale begins with the young Cyan, an abandoned pet who must suddenly fend for himself in a wide new world, where rival cat-gangs battle for control of the Nyan-Nyan Mansion territory, where young Cyan finds himself. There, he meets the Free Collars, a gang of cats that believe in their own independence, and the power of the legendary Wild Cat, whose collar gave him immense powers. The battle, it seems, is on. And Cyan is in the middle..!
The characters themselves are flashy but pretty shallow stereotypes - the bizarre old man who loves video games and leads the group steals most of the best lines, whilst spunky Char, the Free Collar's token alluring female, gets a little character building in the last chapter, but the rest have yet to recieve much attention. Hopefully later volumes will address this, as the rival gang, lead by the rather sexy Siam, is currently far more interesting.
Exciting as that sounds, the story isn't the manga's greatest asset. There are some interesting ideas but the story doesn't really gel all that smoothly. One thing that's never explained is why the cats seem to change from cat to humanoid - at first I thought it was just the cat's "spirit" we were seeing, but when you see the characters playing guitars and weilding weapons, they're obviously supposed to be human. It lends a bizarre quality to the series, but I don't think its a tale that ever aimed for realism.
The real seller is the artwork. The lines are never less than sharp, and the generous use of screentone gives the book a polished, weighty look. For anyone looking for great poses and sharp lines to help inform their own artwork, this is a perfect handbook. There's not a panel out of place or an imperfect pose in it. I just wish I could find some wallpapers online for it.
Whilst I couldn't wholeheartedly recommend the book on the strength of the story, it looks magificent, and if you're looking for a fantasy-lite, you could do far worse than check this out, and at 3 volumes, it really won't break the bank.