Members of the Anime News Network staff appear to have taken issue with the sexual content and humor in the recently produced Nekopara anime adaptation, according to reviews published in their recent Winter 2020 Anime Preview Guide.
The Nekopara anime adaptation is based on an adult visual novel of the same name and follows the life of Kashou Minaduki as he attempts to run a bakery shop while surrounded and distracted by various ‘Nekos,’ anthropomorphic cat girls who live among humans and take on a variety of roles, from domestic pets to romantic partners. The series, animated by studio Felix Film and directed by Yasutaka Yamamoto, debuted in Japan on February 9th.
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Following the series premiere, four Anime News Network critics, James Beckett, Nick Creamer, Theron Martin, and Rebecca Silverman gave their personal ratings of the series. However, none of the critics rated the series above a ‘2/5,’ with all four citing issues with the series’ sexual themes.
Beckett gave the series it’s lowest rating, a 1/5, and found that the series was “not smutty enough to work as actual porn, it isn’t funny or charming enough to work as a sitcom, and it’s too weird and fetishistic to serve as a low-investment slice-of-life story.”
“There is an audience for Nekopara, and I do not begrudge any of them for enjoying what this franchise has to offer. Everyone gets something different out of their media, and far be it from me to judge someone for wanting to pick up what the show is putting down. I’m going to have to pass, however. It’s not smutty enough to work as actual porn, it isn’t funny or charming enough to work as a sitcom, and it’s too weird and fetishistic to serve as a low-investment slice-of-life story. If you have to go for an anthropomorphic animal comedy this winter, I guess Seton Academy is the better choice. That show is all kinds of dumb, but it at least makes an effort to appeal to an audience outside of the very specific niche that Nekopara is catering to.”
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Creamer, who rated the series a 1.5/5, considered the premier to depict a “nightmarish reality” after inferring deeper themes than likely intended for an ecchi anime, such as “dystopian eroticism [and] the relationship between pee fetishism and power dynamics.”
“There’s something almost impressive about Nekopara’s premiere, though not in terms of its own craft. It takes a certain kind of genius to take a concept as simple and obvious as “cat cafe where the servers are actually catgirls” and expand it into the nightmarish reality posited by this show. I expected lots of catgirl fanservice, but I didn’t expect to leave this episode filled with questions about dystopian eroticism, or the relationship between pee fetishism and power dynamics. Those thoughts aren’t going away now, though, so I guess Nekopara at least distinguished itself over the season’s utterly unmemorable premieres. Let my viewing serve as a warning, then: once you watch Nekopara, it is impossible to be unwatched.”
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Martin acknowledged the anime’s intended sex appeal and bestowed the series with it’s highest rating, a 2/5, and focused his criticism on theoretical questions raised by the game’s setting and his opinion that the series flip-flopped between framing the Nekos as “cute” and “sexy.”
“The premise also raises all kinds of questions that the series probably is not prepared to ever answer. Since these cats age rapidly by human standards, does that mean that they will only have the lifespan of a normal cat? Where are the male cats, or do these catgirl just reproduce with human males? Clearly they have inferior rights to humans, but how do they feel about that? This kind of fare is not at all intended to be deep, so I will be shocked if the series ever bothers to try addressing any of them. It does at least look like it’s going to deal with the matter of strays pretty quickly, so at least that’s something.
Overall, this is a series which feels like it might have worked better as 8-10 minutes shorts. It might have also worked better if the production staff had more firmly committed to one or the other of cute appeal and sex appeal.”
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Giving a rating of 1.5/5, Silverman concluded that “by anthropomorphizing them to this degree, it just comes off as an excuse to have girls touching each other with minimal consent.”
“Now look, I love cats. Three of my five were sitting with or on me while I was watching this episode. But Nekopara’s particular blend of catgirls and CGDCT antics resulted in a half-hour of weirdly uncomfortable television that seemed set on asking the question, “What if cats were only female and kind of sexy and all called you ‘Master?’” Its front of innocence feels very much like a façade, and the disconnect between the girls’ appearances and actions, along with the episode’s insistence that they’re cats, just doesn’t quite work. Probably the best example is when Chocola is sleeping on her back and Vanilla starts kneading her stomach. When Chocola wakes up and protests, Vanilla tells her that it’s a “breast kneading instinct we cats are born with,” before zeroing in on Chocola’s actual human breasts. (We don’t see what happens next, but it isn’t hard to guess.) Two cats getting annoyed because one wants to touch the other when the other doesn’t want it is one thing; by anthropomorphizing them to this degree, it just comes off as an excuse to have girls touching each other with minimal consent.”
Nekopara is currently airing in Japan, while Funimation has licensed the series for simuldub distribution and will produce an English dub of the series.