Ramen Akaneko – Episode 1

By: Chiaki Hirai July 4, 20240 Comments
A cat wearing a bandana leers to the side while standing over a pot

Content Warning: OSHA violations

What’s it about? Tamako Yashiro has come to Ramen Akaneco after quitting her abusive old job. Her new employers are much nicer and doing everything above board; also, they’re cats. While she’s been hired to work at a ramen shop, Tamako’s job seems to mostly focus on doing what only a human can do: brushies!

And here we have a new installment in the wonderful genre known as CGDCT (Cute Gatos Doing Cute Things), and I’d be all for it if this show just….. looked better. Tamako’s animation looks wooden, the shading has no depth and the ramen… well, the ramen looks at home on Ex-Arm.

What I’m trying to say is, this show wants to be good and could be good, but I don’t think it got the tender loving care (money) it needed to make this the new Uchitama.

A bowl of ramen with hastily rendered bean sprouts, an egg that looks like glass, chashu that looks like a low-poly honeyglazed ham, and the broth looks like tonkotsu despite being touted as shoyu.
Oh, my favorite, shoyu ramen with an extra helping of crunchy Play Station 2 polygons!

I get it, you don’t have to have the most appetizing looking food, or the most well-animated characters. Hell, I’ll even discount Tamako’s clunky movements, but for the fact the cats all look pretty alright, far as I can tell. But all you’ve got going for this show is cats and ramen, and your ramen looks like this! And the animation is reused in the opening sequence!

I don’t think even Ken Watanabe can save you.

All that said, what’s more to discuss about a show that’s mostly just a ploy to give you your weekly dose of feline cuteness?

I guess we can say it’s all quite in vogue with what we see from anime these days. An overworked and traumatized woman seeks refuge working among cute little cats. She is amazed the cats have bothered to follow labor laws and give her health insurance when her previous workplace had been such a mess she couldn’t even really quit without jumping through some hoops. 

Seen collectively, this is just another show that screams (perhaps from the underpaid and underappreciated animators themselves), “please deliver us from the horrible yokes of late-stage capitalism.”

A woman brushes a giant tiger while sitting on the tatami mat of a back room office.
If I could quit my job and just spend my day brushing a tiger, I would.

That said the show has a little edge, I suppose, and it quickly makes sure to joke that, while Tamako is protected by Japan’s various labor laws and regulations, ensuring her a comfortable work-life balance, cats most certainly do not fall within Japan’s labor laws. It thus implies that Bunzo is running his whole outfit on trust, and trust alone within a community, because he himself noted that there aren’t a lot of people out there willing to think cats as being capable of commercial enterprise.

Add to that the fact the big loveable tiger Krishna is, by name, Indian-coded, this show begins to potentially look like an immigrant’s tale.

The cats must deal with hoodlums trying to extort money from them and offer up their cute (exotic) selves as a selling point to sell their ramen to survive in a catpitalist system, and that dire reality is papered over with the disarmingly cute tropes of cats being cats.

Four house cats of various colors sit around a ramen shop counter wearing aprons while a bengal tiger stands off to the side. A young woman in a track suit sits next to them: Cats don’t have labor laws.
I think we need to get one of these cats to get a law degree and run for local city council

I don’t think this show has the chops or the introspection to become a full-blown parable on civil rights, nor do I think anyone is expecting this to happen. I’m just here asking why then this show was greenlit for a full-length series this cour.

There’s nothing quite offensive or bad about the show, but I’m lacking on stating what really will keep me coming back each week aside from my orange-cat-genes screaming “CAT!” (and even then I can get my full serving of “CAT!” this season by playing the critically acclaimed MMORPG Final Fantasy XIV which just released its latest expansion Dawntrail, featuring the best catgirl Wuk Lamat, join Eorzea (and travel to Tuliyollal) today!

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