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Provocative Nekomimi (NSFW)

Kuroneko

Shance and Yi composed a fun post on nekomimi which I enjoyed reading. Surprisingly, I didn’t see mention of Azusa Nakano and her kitten dynamics from K-ON! She is an interesting character to investigate in progressively bolstering cat ears, which she amusingly grows into after resisting Yui’s aggressive play (resistance is futile an all). Kuroneko is equally interesting for different reasons, primarily her stature being more cat than kitten yet still very adorable.

But my fascination with all this cat business stems from a quote:

Cats have been known to be very curious animals. Because of this innate curiosity, subsequent characteristics of the cat come into the fray, such as childish playfulness, agility, and mischievousness. Add in the already mentioned cute look, and you have a very genki character that sprouts cat ears whenever these cat-like characteristics surface.

I believe cat ears are purely aesthetic and symbolic of nekomimi-mode, which arises out of character personality or context. And I feel the playfulness we find amusing and adorable is driven mostly from the Japanese adornment of cute. But my undying fascination is provoked when we move into a sexually appealing realm of the play.

Kuroneko no Tango

Mm. We have to take caution in this arena, for with most sexually heightened portrayals in the Japanese style, there is a tendency to mix youth and eroticism. While there are examples of elegant framing, where beauty is more prominent than eroticism, mixing cute with sex is still the peculiarity of interest. There may be playful kink, but it is purposeful nonetheless. And here is where we see such a contrast to the Western anthropomorphism of cats.

“Maybe you can help me find the woman behind the cat.” – Catwoman

I would argue that the most exquisite example of sensual cat-play in Western fiction is Catwoman. And look no further than Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns (1992) with her fearsome tongue and tight bodysuit, whipping heads off mannequins. Her entire image – dominatrix, stitched leather, whip, provocative body language – radiates sexual prowess and powerful woman. Intimidating, thrilling, terrifying? It’s an aesthetic men may shy away from, while I somehow feel the character is a hit with the ladies.

Catwoman is no more or less like her Japanese counterparts in terms of cat characteristics, but we rarely [if ever] see characters that embrace female sexuality as such. We may argue that such a character grates against the gender-bias inherent to classical Japanese culture, though I am optimistic a character like Catwoman would have a footing among modern fans. But I believe the trouble comes with the sensual allure of cat girls and the pandering of predominantly male fans.

Can we achieve nekomimi-mode with a sexual intensity and gender-free respectability? I’d love to see Japan try, at least.

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9 Responses

  1. I think the different characteristics that are applied to cats in West and East have to do with folkore in the first place. Asians have the fox as the femme fetal while Westerners have associated cats with powerful and dangerous females (see more here http://pio.tripod.com/magicpaw/catmyths.html) I remember watching a documentary when I was younger that narrated a story about a woman turning into a cat at night, much like kitsune are said to do.

    As for your last question, I think Loveless is a good example where both males and females have cat ears. Though there cat ears still are associated with ‘purity’ – they are a sign of virginity (which might relate to the fact that good shamisen are made out of ‘uninjured’ female cats).

    • I’m not sure the relation between cat myth in the East traverse to current visual culture of Japan. Although if the Eastern fox supersedes the cat, I could understand why female prowess may not exist for Japanese cat girls. Yet some examples do exist: Saber and Black Hanekawa. Foxes are distinctly different, but a “foxy lady” is well-known in the West, I’m sure of that. ;)

      Loveless sounds intriguing, and I have thought about reading it before. The one miss is that embracing sexuality removes the animal features, instead of emphasizing sexuality using the features. I might read it anyway for the premise alone.

      • From the little I’ve seen/read about cats in Japan, it seems that examples like Black Hanekawa may be associated with power but not directly with sex. Kitsune were said to lure, seduce men, sleep and marry them, not only deceive, hence their sexual nature.

        Hihi thx for your compliment, but I’m not so sure about how big ths reputation is lol

        My bf has watched Loveless so I just know the basics. No expert here either. But yes, you are right with your remark. I also remembered this http://www.pixiv.net/member_illust.php?mode=manga&illust_id=14762872 but it’s still on the cute site even if the cat has the ‘seme’ role. No dominatrix streaks either.

        • The seductive nature of kitsune is probably a little different than what I imagine for a bold sexual prowess. I think it’s in attitude, where just a look shows confidence in self and sexuality. Catwoman’s dominatrix image is a little overdone on that point; still sexy.

          That pixiv manga is cute, my kanji skills are extremely lacking and rusty, but what a nice scene.

  2. I believe some eromanga and eroanime can give you the answers you need, Ryan. As you have said, the play has an important part on these material. However, instead of exhibiting the predatory and dominatrix-like qualities of a cat, the majority of the shows that employ them usually exudes a submissive feel, which only adds to a girl’s sex general appeal.

    • Right, but depending on the context the submissive feel does not empower these characters. I think a character can have a sexually confident feel without dominatrix qualities and avoid being submissive. I’m really searching for equal ground at a minimum, and maybe ero is where to look. I’m not sure, depicted sex isn’t a necessity to really emit sexuality. But maybe it’s not possible with the cutesy effect of nekomimi, heh.

  3. Japan already did try. Check out some stuff that’s more than 5 years old, specifically Dominion Tank Police. If you say the Puma Twins aren’t sexual in nature…somethings wrong.

    Kitsune HazardApril 19, 12 @ 7:52 am
    • Thanks for the direction, I’ll have a look. “Sex dolls” gone bad might still objectify the characters, but I’m optimistic about the law enforcement twist. One show that did well with a confident, sexual investigator was Ryoko’s Case Files, but without cat play.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. [...] You might also want to check Ryan’s excellent response to the post. [...]