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Nine year old Noburu Yamada is a pretty typical kid. He likes to play video games, knock a ball around, ride his bicycle, and has a soft spot for cats and dogs. His life becomes far from typical one day when he encounters a strange little robot who introduces himself as PET, which he explains stands for the mouthful PolyEthylene Terephythalate, which is a type of plastic. PET has decided his mission in life is to be Noburu's hero, as he is a self proclaimed Super Robot programmed to protect Noburu at all costs. Whenever he thinks Noburu is in trouble, he transforms, plugs in, and rushes in to the rescue. Unfortunately, he frequently has not got a clue as to what is actually going on, and causes much more of a ruckus than any potential trouble would have.
In fact, he frequently inconveniences Noburu greatly, but this is no deterrent to the friendship building between this unlikely pair. For as Noburu himself has discovered, he himself is somewhat responsible for the creation of this pint sized wannabe superhero robot. For one day, Noburu saw a boy kicking along an empty bottle of orange juice, picked it up, and put it in the recycling bin where it belonged. It was recycled and made into PET, who wanted to repay his friend for being an eco hero. Will PET ever learn what being a hero really is about, and will Noburu ever find his life peaceful again? One thing is for certain, no recyclables will be left on the streets as litter or languish in the bins and landfills, for the true mission of these two has just begun!
This is a cute children's manga that is suitable for readers aged 5 and up. As you can guess from the premise, it is a comedy with a message. Several messages actually, as Noburu learns more about true friendship as well as recycling and teaching our children along the way. Packed inside chapter style are linked short stories interspersed with recycling tips for children as well as games and activities related to recycling. And for children interested in how a mangaka's workplace looks, at the end there is even a little drawing of his office space at home, complete with a view of the author drawing.
Kenji Sonishi takes what could be a very dry subject and creates a set of stories that are warm, funny, and visually appealing. While perhaps better known for his grown up four koma (four panel) comic Neko Ramen (about an ill-tempered cat who is a terrible cook trying to run a noodle café), he nonetheless succeeds at using his preferred four koma page layout and style of humour into something children will not only enjoy but look forward to reading more of. Just why he decided to move into kodomo (children's) manga is quite clear, for his author information states "Kenji Sonishi was born in 1969 in Sapporo, Japan. He has liked crafts since he was a child and now enjoys making things out of plastic bottles".
With the fairly recent emphasis on community recycling and an ever increasing number of communities rolling out expanded kerbside recycling programmes and fewer non recyclable rubbish collections, this is a timely release that not only entices children to spend time reading and learning, but offers an invaluable insight into how these small actions of theirs makes a real difference. My own son quite loved the recycling labels that could be scanned, enlarged and coloured and then helping me organise the B and Q kitchen recycling bins with his art. My daughter (aged 8 ½) also quite enjoyed the book and now she and her brother vie for who gets to put in the recycling and clamour to help me take it out to the kerb on recycling day.
Nor is the educational value left at just ideals for healthy friendships and the need for recycling. No, there are little titbits of scientific and cultural information painlessly tucked in as well. PET has a little poem in the preface that he explains is a haiku and what that is, as well as little bits of interesting information such as how Japan has different recycling symbols for different materials, unlike the USA and UK. There is even a little easy to understand note explaining what DNA basically is, so it is indeed a surprisingly varied set of stories, all linked with the common theme of Noburu and PET's friendship and misadventures.
It is an unexpected little gem of a book, and one I think would benefit any child aged between 5 and 13. It is the first book of a series, so fans can get more of their fill with succeeding volumes, laughing and learning along the way.