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There are a lot of tropes in anime the make me love the medium and surrounding otaku culture. It’s why I’m an anime fan, and why I have a website where I write about stupid crap like this. There are also tropes I hate. Today, we’re talking about one that falls on both sides of the fence. Today on The Anime Harvest, cat-girls/boys.

Cat-girl: a mostly human female character with cat ears, tail, and/or some other physical cat-like characteristic. Cat-boy: sexiest thing ever, especially when combined with bishounen. Here’s the thing, in case any of my fellow anime lovers haven’t realized this yet, we’re sorta a weird bunch.

Everyone has their kinks, but no fandom is so open and verbal about them than anime fans are with their love of feline females. And it’s not just cats- bunny-ear babes, squid girls, bishi bird boyfriends- we’re weird. And this stuff has become so prevalent in the culture, it really doesn’t need explanation. The problem is when explanation is attempted.

Particularly in visual novels, writers seem to think you can’t just have you characters have cat ears, and expect the reader to roll with it. They try to explain it, which doesn’t work because we all know the real reason they’re there. They’re there because you’re weird! And we’re weird! Nothing else needs to be said about it.

You’d think something like having cat ears would be a pretty significant thing in a person’s life though, and it should influence their character. And in a sensible world, you’d be right. But anime culture is hardly a sensible world. The attempts to rationalize cat-girls and bring attention to them from a realistic perspective has led to complex and deep characters, and has led to those same characters again, and again. And now cat-girl isn’t just a character design choice, it’s a handful of character archetypes.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love cat-girls. Like, I’ve thought about writing an article about the best fur colours for cat-girls’ ears and tails, and yes, I probably should be checked into a mental hospital. But the way they’ve been handled lately has honestly hurt their place in the medium.

Dig up any old anime from the 70s, 80s or 90s. What, you don’t have any? Well fuck you, you modern-anime watching and/or pirating bitch. How about Dominion Tank Police, a show that knew how awesome cat-girls are. No need to explain or waste their characterization on it, Dominion gives its two cat-girls some of the best personalities in the show, writes them witty dialogue, and leaves you wanting more.

These days cat girls only ever come up in anime as cheap, moe and clichéd, and are reserved for only the bottomest of the barrel.

What anime needs isn’t anything logical, it’s ball-to-the-wall fun and nonsense to convey a deeper story and themes. There’s a weird myth that something has to serious and no-nonsense to be good, or engaging, or to tell a deep story. That’s bullshit. Making something great doesn’t mean sacrificing fun, in fact, not being fun is usually a flaw. I want fun in my anime, and the best way anime’s done that historically is by slapping ears and a tail on a girl, and not giving two shits about explaining itself.

Don’t Lose Your Way