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Take Me To Church

Cat Temple’s Miss Chion, volume 1

By Makoto Ojiro 

6 Dec, 2023



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2016’s Cat Temple’s Miss Chion, Volume One is the first tankōbon in Makoto Ojiro’s manga series. It was serialized as Neko no Otera no Chion-san in Weekly Big Comic Spirits from May 2016 to October 2018. There are nine volumes in total. There is no authorized English edition of which I am aware1.

Suda Gen is unhappy living with his family and decides to transfer to an out-of-prefecture high school near a Buddhist temple, one that’s run by relatives. Although he knows that he stayed at the temple as boy, he remembers nothing about the temple or his kin.

The temple is rundown and possibly doomed due to a dwindling number of parishioners. It is maintained by two women: nineteen-year-old Koterasawa Chion and her formidable grandmother. There are also many cats.

At first Chion seems cool and aloof. Gen soon learns that she has a puckish sense of humor; she briefly convinces him that the temple is haunted. Gen belatedly remembers that a much younger Chion was a prankster when he first lived at the temple. She is still a prankster.

It does not take Gen long to notice that his cousin is an attractive woman. Teenage boys tend to be perceptive in such matters. He is too shy to make any advances, even when angry hornets force the pair to shelter in a small closet. Or when he encounters an embarrassed, half-dressed Chion.

Chion’s grandmother takes care of the advances for him.

The current situation at the temple is barely tenable. The two women and now Gen can handle cleaning and maintenance, but in the long term the temple needs a male guardian2. The grandmother proposes that Chion marry appropriately; she provides pictures and dossiers of prospective bridegrooms. Chion is willing to go along with the plan, but doesn’t like the choices she has been given.

Chion’s grandmother comes up with another plan: why doesn’t Chion marry Gen? He’s related, but distantly. He could marry Chion and keep the temple in the family.

Chion doesn’t say yes; neither does she say no. Gen is wordlessly embarrassed.


This manga was created by the same artist who writes and illustrates Insomniacs After School. I would usually finish one manga before tackling another manga by the same author. But I liked Insomniacs, knew that Ojiro had written and illustrated Cat Temple, and I was curious. Would Cat Temple be as good?

Yes. The art is just as good and the characters and storyline kept me reading.

I did notice that the artist frequently focuses on Chion’s bottom. This may be because Gen is the viewpoint character and he is a teenaged boy.

Rumiko Takahashi fans will be upset to discover that Ojiro eschews many of the stock romantic comedy tropes. Chion volunteered to help her granny rather than being strong-armed into the job. She accepts that getting married could be part of the deal. Also, while granny proposes that the pair get married, it’s a pragmatic suggestion, not an order or something arranged when the kids were young. The teens do not loudly protest how much they dislike each other while being clearly smitten. The manga is mostly a mundane tale of daily life in a small temple. There’s not much in the way of zany humor or comedic misunderstanding3.

I was intrigued by the unfamiliar approach taken to running temples. I’m most familiar with denominations that are run by large, well-heeled organizations. This temple is more like a mom & pop corner store. There’s no parent organization to subsidize the temple; it has to depend on a dwindling congregation and may well fold4. (Something to keep in mind if you ever found your own religion.) Many details are left to the reader’s imagination or research skills. Either the author assumes the reader is familiar with them or is only focusing on the specifics that matter to her story.

If you aren’t interested in anthropology of religion, you may still be interested in the will-they-or-won’t‑they romance, everyday life in a Japanese rural area, and of course, the cats. It’s a pleasant read.

A pleasant read if you can read Japanese or are a person of low morals who reads fan scalations. There is no authorized translation … yet.

1: I am a person of many resources.

2: It would be reasonable to conclude that the male head needs to be a priest. The pictures of prospective bridegrooms (in Buddhist robes) support this. However, that specific term is not used as far I can see in the fan translation. I don’t know if this because the translation is flawed or if the author was for some reason being oblique. It might be, for example, that the need for a priest is so obvious to a Japanese person that the author does not need to spell it out.

It’s also interesting that there are apparently no religious activities going on at the temple, no statues, and no altars. The only sign that this is a temple is a large temple bell which must be rung twice a day.

3: There is some humor to be found in an ill-timed erection when Gen and Chion are hiding from hornets in a small closet.

4: The temple also seems to be a much less disruptive neighbor than the Christian churches I’ve lived next to. The old lady is formidable, no doubt keenly protective of the temple’s prerogatives, but she doesn’t seem the sort to try to slip forty bags of garbage in with a neighbor’s two bags in an attempt to avoid paying for garbage removal or to routinely park at least one car in a way that blocks a neighbor’s driveway … despite an abundance of available parking spots that are not someone’s driveway.