Nekopara – Episode 1

By: Chiaki Hirai January 10, 20200 Comments
Six catgirls in maid outfits stand in a line, smiling

What’s it about? Vanilla and Chocola live with Minazuki Kasho above his chic little patisserie La Soleil. As Chocola goes out to buy some ponzu sauce for some fancy tuna, she encounters a mysterious kitten who follows her home.

Content Warning: Fanservice, cisheteronormative-oriented gaze, potential incest, and potential bestiality.

It is I, Anime Feminist’s resident catgirl and catgirl-respecter Chiaki, and I am here to tell you Nekopara is exactly what I thought it would be and I fully endorse it despite all its faults. I implore you to watch this beautiful anime.

I have literally been waiting a full year for this anime. I even bought a subscription to Funimation so I could watch this.

Based on a series of visual novels, Nekopara has a questionable premise, at best. It takes place in a world where humanoid “cats” have become commonplace. They have tails. They have ears. They operate on natural instinct, but still possess a higher-than-average intellect (about that of a sixth-grader) and have opposable thumbs. The cats will call their owners “Master” and will wear collars on their necks. Especially smart and well-to-do cats are granted bells to wear on their collars to prove they are socialized enough to go out for errands without an owner’s supervision. 

Yes, most people will say that’s not a good look.

Two cat girls (Maple and Cinnamon) with bells on their collar smiling proudly on the train. Subtitle: So those cats must be, like, really smart!

The show spends much of the first episode introducing the viewer to this world. It gives a quick introduction to the six main cats of the Nekopara cast as well as Kasho and his sister Shigure. The basic world setting, the explanation of catgirls, and the basic background of how Vanilla and Chocola came to live with Kasho are crammed into the episode before finishing off with the introduction of a small kitten girl original to the anime series. 

Since the anime decided to hold off on the crux of its story till the very end, Nekopara instead spends its first episode exhibiting fanservice. It’s almost as if the creators were saying: “Watch Coconut and Azuki wrestle, check out Maple feeding a strawberry to Cinnamon, watch Chocola run through the city like a cat!” These moments appear to proudly announce that—yes— Nekopara is officially a full-cour of anime.

A catgirl (Chocola) runs through the neighborhood)
Check that out, action shots!

That said, while Nekopara flexes itself as an anime technically viewable by all ages (though it does run in the midnight time slot), there is no way to really hide the fact this is based on an erotic visual novel. Even if the anime takes the safe-for-work route and doesn’t have Kasho literally screw the pooch cat, this is a very horny show about girls who look like cats and act like cats living with a dude who may or may not be having sex with them.

Even with its rushed character introductions and a summary of the story thus far, the show takes its time to ensure each of the girls have a moment to appeal to fans through perceptively erotic situations.

Vanilla wakes up with Chocola at her side and the young catgirl kneads her sister gently on the stomach. When Chocola asks what she’s doing, Vanilla gives a tongue-in-cheek answer that she is simply doing something that is “part of our natural instinct as cats.” Similarly, Coconut later fights with Azuki and presents her crotch to the camera as she gets on all fours to hiss at the fellow cat. And then later still, Cinnamon fantasizes getting fed strawberries by Maple while wearing cute lingerie. Each of the three pairs of cats are given a moment.

A triplet of images showing fanservice oriented toward the cishet male gaze
Absolutely normal cat-like behavior

And yes, though catered toward cishet men, Nekopara pairs its cats off. Vanilla is possessive of Chocola, Coconut and Azuki are an odd-couple, and Cinnamon is a masochist to Maple’s whims. Though these depictions are heavily catered toward the cishet male gaze, I can’t help but think “better this than a harem dedicated to loving Kasho.” Otherwise, this show would focus on a grown man who is sexually attracted to his pet humanoid cat children.

Also a potential warning: Kasho’s little sister Shigure has also been portrayed as deeply affectionate toward her elder brother in the games. Though she has been present in the anime, she has so far not expressed any incestuous feelings. I hope the anime holds course there as well.

Kasho is present as Chocola and Vanilla’s owner, but he is not playing a particularly active role in this first episode. Now that Nekopara does not need to rely on his perspective as it did in the visual novel, Kasho is just some guy who offers some exposition while he cooks and bakes. Thus, instead of focusing the story on how an adult man interacts with a bunch of humanoid cats girls a tenth of his age, the anime appears to be aiming to tell a standalone story focusing on the cats. 

A catgirl (Chocola) looks back at a smaller catgirl
Kasho can’t possibly be lewd to the cats when a child is present, right?

This may have been a particularly smart move since Kasho, even in the games, is really a stand-in for the player to fulfill their fantasies of being doted on by cute anime catgirls. Everyone is here to watch the cats be cute and sexy; we don’t have to care about him.

That said, Kasho is an incredibly good cook. Nekopara, for an inexplicable reason, appears to feature some really good-looking food. Granted, the story does take place in a fancy patisserie, but the food in this anime, if a little lacking in detail, does actually look pretty good despite not being the focus of the animation. This is a welcome addition to the Nekopara franchise.

A shot of a fruit tart. Subtitle: Thank you for waiting! Here is your in-season fruits tart.
Came for the cats; stayed for dessert.

All said and done, I know this show isn’t for everyone. This may be my cat’s meow, but not everyone has devoted all their waking moments in life to being a feral catgirl. I just have to remind myself that just because this show was made for me doesn’t mean that everyone else has to watch it.

I can respect that. 

But you’ll still be hearing from me later when I pitch this as 2020’s problematic fave of the year.

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