Anime cat girls have a special place in everyone's hearts!
Cats are famous. From Hollywood films like Garfield to internet memes like the nyan cat, no one can deny the popularity of these tiny adorable creatures. Anime has them, though most are a little bit different than your average felines. Some talk. Some fly. And some anime cats even guide magical girls in sailor suits, proving the boundless possibilities of this medium. It also seems like there's a trend of creating cats that act like humans - enabling them to talk and think like the rest of us. It makes them more adorable and easier to understand. It may seem fun to know more about these fable-like characters, but let's put that aside for now because in this article, we'll be talking about when it's reversed. Let's explore the world of people acting like cats - the nekomimi.
What are Nekomimi?
Nekomimi literally means cat ears in Japanese, but it is also used as a slang term for cat girl. Cat girls are also refereed to as neko musume (cat daughters), nekojin (cat people), and plain old neko (cat).
Nekomimi are humans with cat ears, a cat tail, or a feline personality. Someone wearing fake cat parts or a whole costume can be considered a cat girl too. Since cat ears are not gender specific, in the rare instance there is a cat boy, he can also be called a nekomimi.
History of Cat Girls
Bastet, a cat goddess of ancient Egypt, is the first known cat girl in history. She existed as early as 2890 BC and was worshiped in temples - an interesting fact because cat girls today are still worshiped, but now in the internet and in some otaku rooms. This trend of mythical man-cat hybrids even found its way to far eastern countries like Japan. The rich folklore of Japan has several cat yokai that are said to have shape shifting abilities. A Nekomata, an example of a Japanese cat yokai, can allegedly assume a human-like form. They use this ability to catch people off guard to either abduct or eat them - pretty scary stuff for a timid creature. These stories were passed down for generations and gave the early Japanese writers the idea of a man-cat. In the year 1924, Kenji Miyazawa wrote "The 4th of Narcissus Month." It was the first modern story with a cat-eared character. Then in November 1949, the first anime movie with characters with kemonomimi (beast ears), Osama no Shippo was made by Mitsuya Seo. The characters were drawn as humans but with fox ears and fox tails. It was the first of that kind in Japan and it prompted even more shows with kemonomimi characters. Now by that point, the birth of nekomimi was just a matter of time. Two of the the early anime cat girls were Annapuma and Unipuma from an '80s anime Dominion Tank Police. Although unofficial, you can call them the first cat girls of modern anime.
Levels of Anime Cat Girls
Level 0: The Cat Impersonators - The lowest level of an anime cat girl looks nothing like a cat, but rather imitates them in their way of speech or actions. They wear no costumes or any accessories at all, just regular clothes. So why zero, not one? It's because they don't have the ears that are the most essential part of being a nekomimi. Below is a scene from Non Non Biyori where little Renge imitates a cat with her famous "nyanpasu" catchphrase. This is moe in the making!
Level 1: The Cosplayers - They are human characters that act as a cat when they wear a cat costume. Costumes may vary from just a nekomimi headband to a full body costume. Some wear them with tails, with giant paws, with maid suits, or almost anything that complements. They are abundant in anime but of course, some of them stand out. Azusa from K-On!'s cosplay proves that simple is best.
Level 2: The Shape Shifters - They are the characters that are normally human, but have the ability to transform into anime cat girls. They are pretty common in combat anime. Converting into a cat form is somewhat a power up for them, usually allowing them to gain enhanced senses and strength. After activating her teigu, Leone from Akame Ga Kill turns into a powerful fighter that resembles a tiger, one of the biggest kitties in the world.
Level 3: The Full Time Cat Girl - Pretty straightforward to their name, full time cat girls are the ones that are permanently feline. They cannot change to any other form. Some are cursed and transformed into that form, while others are of a completely different race. If you haven't seen Asobi ni Iku yo!, you can never call yourself a true cat girl fan. Eris, one of the main characters, is an alien nekomimi. She's just one of the many cat girls on her planet. Just imagine that world... it must be a nekomimi paradise!
Now that you know what anime cat girls are, why not check out some of the most famous nekomimi cuties of all time!
Top 10 Anime Cat Girl and Nekomimi Characters
From Acchi Kocchi (TV)
From IS: Infinite Stratos
From Soul Eater
From Kiss x Sis (TV)
From High School DxD
From Show by Rock!!
From Yozakura Quartet
Japan and Cats
Japan's fascination and love for cats comes from the country's history and present way of life. Japan is a country abundant with rich farming soil. Back in old days, when mouse traps had yet to be invented, Japanese people used their pet cats to drive mice away from their storage houses. It's not that hard to get used to cats, especially when you gain something from having them in your house. Another historical explanation comes from the arrival of Buddhist monks around 600 AD. Cats were considered sacred and were respected by the early Japanese. These roots will probably explain why they are adored even in the present, but here are some more reasons now using the circumstances of modern Japan.
・Convenience You can keep cats inside small apartments, whereas dogs would require more space.
・Practicality Cats are quieter than most domestic animals, so no need to worry about complaints.
・Privacy They're independent and are fine spending time alone, unlike dogs which will go crazy if you ignore them.
・Cuteness They're just so kawaii!
So if most everyone in the world loves cats, why do Japanese people stands out the most? The answer is obvious. It's because of the Japanese people and their "inventiveness." As you may already know, they've got a lot of weird things going on. I haven't visited yet, but the internet gives us glances and my oh my, it's crazy. From their products to their shows, everything is so unorthodox. But that's not really a bad thing. Personally, I would love it if my country was a little bit like that. The Japanese people sees more in things. They're not afraid of doing what's uncommon, and that leads to exciting discoveries. Now to show you what I mean, let's see some such "discoveries" the Japanese made, inspired by cats.
If you're an avid fan of the featured articles section here in MAL, you might have already read some cat related articles like the Nekoashi chair socks or that cat day tribute one. Yes, chair socks exist and yes, there's a cat day in Japan. But this is just the beginning of a beautiful cat obsession. Here are a few more things Japan made neko style:
・Cat cafes - These are small restaurants that let you eat light meals or drink coffee while playing with cats. These themed cafes started in Japan, but even far places like Paris has them now.
・Cat Keyhole Bra - This innovative lingerie features a cat-shaped cut in the center. Originally sold by a clothing company in China, Japan made it even more interesting by dressing their anime characters with it.
・Necomimi - This accessory uses a sensor that reads your brainwave signals. It'll then transmit the data to the device that will command a specific movement to the fur-coated artificial ears.
Need I say more? With all these things, we can say without a doubt that the Japanese people's affection towards cats is worthy of its fame. They don't fantasize passively and they will rather do some bizarre things to explore these emotions they're feeling. It's definitely better than being apathetic so kudos to the inventive Japan!
・Kemonomimi - This term refers to characters that are human but have some animal part(s). Some popular kemonomimi are nekomimi (cat ears), inumimi (dog ears), kitsunemimi (fox ears), and okamimi (wolf ears).
Thank you for reading this article-nya! Here, have some vitamin C (Catherine) before you go!