Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Cat Girl

A "cat girl," or neko-musume 猫娘 in Japanese, is a character in manga or anime that has cat-like features, such as feline body parts"cat ears," nekomimi 猫耳, "cat eyes," nekome 猫目, "cat mouth," nekoguchi 猫口, and a "cat tail," neko-shippo 猫しっぽ—and ending their sentences in nyaa にゃー, "meow."

Momomiya Ichigo 桃宮いちご, a magical girl transformed into the cat girl Mew Mew Strawberry ミュウミュウストロベリー.
Character: Momomiya Ichigo 桃宮いちご
Anime: Tokyo Mew Mew, 東京ミュウミュウ (Episode 2)

In Japanese

There are two ways to say "cat girl" in Japanese: nekomimi ネコミミ, and neko-musume 猫娘.

The word neko-musume 猫娘 means "cat girl" in Japanese. Literally, it means "cat daughter," however, musume, "daughter," can also mean a random "girl," since any girl is somebody's daughter, so neko-musume means "cat girl.".

This is similar to how ojousama お嬢様 literally means "daughter," but can also mean "rich girl."

One problematic thing, though: Neko-musume ねこ娘, with neko officially spelled with hiragana, is the name of a certain character from an extremely well-known series: Gegege no Kitarou ゲゲゲの鬼太郎.

Neko Musume ねこ娘, example of "cat eyes," nekome 猫目.
Character: Neko Musume ねこ娘
Anime: Gegege no Kitarou ゲゲゲの鬼太郎 (2018) (Episode 2)

Consequently, if you google neko-musume 猫娘, you'll get many results featuring her, and turns out she doesn't even have cat ears, which makes the term utterly worthless.

Instead, the better term to refer to cat girls is nekomimi ネコミミ, "cat ears," because pretty much every cat girl is going to have them. Of course, nekomimi doesn't refer to the girl herself, it refers to the feature, to refer to the girl, you could say:
  • nekomimi kyara
    猫耳キャラ
    Cat-ears character.
    • nekomimi kyarakutaa
      猫耳キャラクター
      (same meaning.)
  • nekomimi joshi
    猫耳女子
    Cat-ears girl.
  • nekomimi musume
    猫耳娘
    (same meaning.)
  • nekomimikko
    猫耳っ娘
    (same meaning.)
  • {{nekomimi wo tsuketa} onna no} ko
    猫耳をつけた女の子
    A child [who] {is female [who] {attached cat-ears}}. (literally.)
    A girl wearing cat-ears.

The same idea applies to kemonomimi 獣耳 characters.

Types

There are various types of cat girls that can be found in anime.

Natural

Normally, "cat girl" refers to a character who was born with cat-like body parts, or that transforms into a cat girl, such that the cat parts are physically attached to her body.

Race

In fantasy and isekai 異世界 anime, cat girls often manifest as some sort of fantasy race that's basically human, but happens to have ears of a cat and maybe tail, just like elves in anime are just humans with long ears and a long lifespan.

Shera L. Greenwood シェラ・L・グリーンウッド, and Rem Galeu レム・ガレウ, example of elf and cat girl, respectively.
Left: Shera L. Greenwood シェラ・L・グリーンウッド
Right: Rem Galeu レム・ガレウ
Anime: Isekai Maou to Shoukan Shoujo no Dorei Majutsu 異世界魔王と召喚少女の奴隷魔術 (Episode 1)
  • Canonically, Rem is part of the hyoujinzoku 豹人族, "leopard-people race."

Alien

Among natural cat girls, some of them are aliens.
  • Eris (Asobi ni Iku Yo!)
    An alien cat girl from planet Earth, but not our Earth, a different planet, also called Earth, in which a race of cat girls exist.

Catherine キャサリン, example of alien cat girl.
Character: Catherine キャサリン
Anime: Gintama 銀魂 (Episode 12)

Anthropomorphized

Some anime cat girls are actually moe anthropomorphizations of real cats. In other words, they're seen and treated as actual cats by the world, but drawn as cute anime girls. See also: moe-gijinka 萌え擬人化.

Hanasaki Momo 花咲モモ, example of anthropomorphized cat girl. Left is her actual form, right is the anthropormophization.
Left: Hanasaki Momo 花咲モモ
Right: same character
Anime: Uchi Tama?! Uchi no Tama Shirimasen ka? うちタマ?!~うちのタマ知りませんか?~ (Episode 1, OP)
  • In Uchi Tama, cat and dog characters are drawn as animals when interacting with humans, but drawn anthropomorphized when interacting with each other.
  • In Nekopara ネコぱら, cats are cute anime girls.

Cosplay

There are also characters who aren't natural cat girls, but are simply cosplaying as a cat girl, wearing a hairband with cat ears and a tail attached to their clothes.

Suzukaze Aoba 涼風青葉, cat girl cosplay, example of nekomimi猫耳.
Character: Suzukaze Aoba 涼風青葉
Anime: New Game!! (Season 2) (Episode 2)

Pseudo

Some cat girls look like cat girls, but aren't actually "cat" girls, because that would make no sense—cat girls don't really exist, don't be silly—and things that don't make sense don't belong in anime.

Instead, they just happen to look like cat girls for some reason. For example:

Ibaraki-douji 茨木童子, example of cat girl with heterochromia.
Character: Ibaraki-douji 茨木童子
Anime: Onigiri 鬼斬 (Episode 3)
  • Those two things that look exactly like cat ears on top of her head are, canonically, her horns, because she's half oni.

Incomplete

Some characters that look like cat girls aren't really complete cat girls: they're lacking something.

Generally speaking, a cat girl has both cat ears and a cat tail, so lacking either of those features creates something that's arguably a cat girl, but every time you say it's a cat girl someone shows up on the internet to correct you saying she's not really a cat girl.

Neko ネコ, example of nekoguchi 猫口, heterochromia.
Character: Neko ネコ
Anime: K (Episode 4)
  • Despite being a cat, Neko ネコ doesn't have cat ears in her human form.

Monster Girl

Generally speaking, cat girls, and kemonomimi characters in general, don't have fur on their bodies. All they have are animal ears and tails practically glued on the design of the character, and that's it. However, there are exceptions.

A juujin 獣人, "beast-person," character is half-person half-beast. In anime, this term refers to characters that do have fur, or scales, feathers, and so on, on their bodies. A cat girl of this type counts as a monster girl.

Felicia フェリシア, example of monster cat girl.
Character: Felicia フェリシア
Anime: Vampire Hunter (1997) (Episode 3, OVA)

Example of cat girl that's a juujin 獣人, "beast-person," "beast-woman," type of monster girl. Character is an unnamed receptionist at Nyan-Nyan Tengoku ニャンニャン天国
Character: unnamed receptionist.
Anime: Ishuzoku Reviewers, 異種族レビュアーズ (Episode 1, Stitch)

Transformed

Some cat girls are actually human girls who physically transform into cat girls for some reason.

Leone レオーネ, a cat girl.
Character: Leone レオーネ
Anime: Akame ga Kill!, アカメが斬る! (Episode 6)
  • Leone transforms into a lion girl to become stronger in battle.

Furry

Some cat girls are more cat than girl. These, who have muzzles and faces covered in fur, are said to be furry characters, kemono ケモノ, rather than said to be cat girls.

A furry cat girl, unnamed news anchor.
Character: unnamed news anchor
Anime: Beastars (Episode 6)
  • Context: in a world where carnivores and herbivores are people.
  • mimei no shokusatsu jiken, han'nin tousouchuu
    未明の喰殺事件、犯人逃走中
    Early morning [devouring] incident, perpetrator on the run.
    • shokusatsu
      喰殺
      To kill by eating. To devour.

Tropes

For the sake of reference, some common tropes surrounding cat girls.

Nyaa

Cat girl characters, like other feline characters, sometimes end their sentences with nyaa にゃー, which means "meow" in Japanese.

In Japanese, it's common for peculiar characters to add some random phrase at the end of the sentences that doesn't mean anything. The term for this is gobi 語尾, by the way. If it was a dog girl, she would end the sentences with wan ワン, which means "woof."

Master

Cat girl characters often have a character whom they call "master," goshujinsama ご主人さま.

This term is extremely problematic because it has various meanings, including: your "husband," a pet's "owner," a maid, servant or slave's "master," and even the "summoner" of a genie or other magical creature, among other meanings.

Maid

A high number of cat girl characters are maids. As mentioned previously, goshujinsama is the word to refer to the owner of an animal and also to refer to the master of a servant like a maid.

Café

In Japan, maid cafés are establishments where the staff is dressed up as french maids. Although they're technically uniforms, the whole idea is basically cosplay. It's not unusual to see a maid café with a cat girl cosplay event, turning into a maid cat girl café.

Collar

In Japanese, "collar" is kubiwa 首輪, literally "neck-ring."

Cat Bell

Some cat girls wear cat bells, often attached to their collars. The term for the small, ball-shaped bells is suzu 鈴. Another word that translates to "bell" is kane 鐘, but this refers to those large bells found in churches, not to small, wearable bells.

Example of cat bells, suzu 鈴.
Anime: Nekopara ネコぱら (Episode 1)

Inspection

Natural cat girls are sometimes inspected by skeptical characters who don't believe that cat girls are real and there's one in front of them.

Eris エリス, a cat girl alien, having her ears and tail checked by Kinjou Manami 金武城真奈美, and Itokazu Maki 糸嘉州マキ to make sure they're real.
Anime: Asobi ni Iku yo! あそびにいくヨ! (Episode 1)

Petting

Sometimes, cat girls are treated like cats, and end up getting petted.

Misha ミーシャ, a cat girl, being petted by Edgar エドガー.
Left: Edgar エドガー (guy)
Right: Misha ミーシャ (cat girl)
Anime: Hataage! Kemono Michi 旗揚!!けものみち (Episode 10, Stitch)
  • atama no naderu
    頭を撫でる
    To caress [someone's] head.
  • atama ponpon
    頭ポンポン
    Head patting.

    Heterochromia

    Many cat girls have eyes of different colors. The common term for this in Japanese is oddo-ai オッドアイ, literally "odd eyes."

    Coconut ココナツ, example of cat girl with heterochromia.
    Character: Coconut ココナツ
    Anime: Nekopara ネコぱら (Episode 1)

    The technical English term for it is heterochromia iridis, which translates to Japanese as kousai-ishoku-shou 虹彩異色症, "iris different-color syndrome."

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