Chae, then 26, grew up on a farm with animals and had always wished to have a cat. She brought the sister cats to her house and named them Bbotto and Zzagoo.
|Cartoonist Chae Yu-ri and Zzagoo|
To cherish every moment with those adorable creatures, Chae started to draw them in a cartoon. Named after the kittens, “Bbo-Zza-toon” was first published on Chae’s blog in the same year.
Fourteen years later, “Bbo-Zza-toon” has now become one of the most popular pet webtoons in the country. Its simple plot and Chae’s unique drawing style have captivated cat lovers, with the webtoon published in five volumes and re-created into character goods.
“I believe that sympathy is the most appealing aspect of the cartoon,” Chae said in an interview with The Korea Herald. “People who have pets can easily be immersed in the subjects I draw since they also have a similar experience. I illustrate those thoughts, feelings and episodes without any fabrication or exaggeration.”
|The comic book version of “Bbo-Zza-toon” and Zzagoo|
More than 40,000 copies of the webtoon’s comic book edition have been sold so far -- a significant figure given the broader weakness of the publishing industry.
The publishing rights of “Bbo-Zza-toon” have even been exported to China and Taiwan.
After going through some heartbreaking farewells and new adoptions, Chae’s family now consists of four cats: Bbotto, Choco, Forby and Bong-gu.
Chae writes down ideas that she comes across in her daily life with her cats. The captured moments turn into the cartoon’s subjects and details.
Chae is currently taking a break after finishing the sixth season of the webtoon series. She had uploaded “Bbo-Zza-toon” on Daum, a major web portal here, every Thursday.
While working on the series, Chae tried to maintain a tight work routine to meet her deadlines. Before Monday, the cartoonist would choose what to draw and make a script. It usually took two to three days to sketch, color and edit the cuts. The final version was then sent to a webtoon producer on Wednesdays.
Chae’s signature drawing style, which precisely depicts cats’ movements and traits with soft lines, is highly praised by readers on social media and online communities.
The cartoonist, who first started doodling when she was 3, said she feels comfortable when she draws cats.
“Except for the excessive amount of hair they shed, almost every part of cats is lovable. They know how to mingle with humans, but they keep independent characteristics at the same time. They wash through a grooming routine and recognize the exact place to pee without toilet training,” Chae said.
Despite the charming features of cats, Chae had to overcome negative perceptions of cats when she first adopted Bbotto and Zzagoo. Ten years ago, she was frequently asked why she decided to raise cats, not dogs.
“I think a prevailing notion at the time was that cats could never be a companion animal of human beings,” Chae said, recalling the not-so-distant past when cats were often called “wicked animals.”
“Many people held misconceptions about cats. Some told me I have to cut the cats’ tails to prevent them from running away. Others even said that the cats would eventually take revenge on me someday,” she said.
Fortunately, Chae does not have to worry about such views any longer, as they are increasingly accepted as one of the most popular pets in Korea. The latest fad of raising cats, however, has spawned a serious problem: a growing number of abused and abandoned cats.
“Taking responsibility for a pet’s life is not a thing you can take lightly. I wish people who maltreat the weakest animals are treated the same,” she said.
To help homeless cats, the cartoonist voluntarily participates in rescue operations. Chae also makes donations every month to animal-related groups such as Korean Animal Welfare Association, Korean Organization for the Protection of Cats and World Wide Fund for Nature.
“When readers say they have overcome their prejudice toward cats after reading my webtoon, I feel a sense of pride,” Chae said.
The new season of “Bbo-Zza-toon” is slated to start in fall. The cartoonist, now 41, plans to draw her webtoon on her favorite feline companions as long as she can, even if she can’t publish it on major portals. “Our story will never end as long as we live together.”
By Park Ju-young (firstname.lastname@example.org)
|The comic book version of “Bbo-Zza-toon” and Choco|