Wednesday, October 5, 2016

nekomimi 猫耳 (Cat Ears in Anime)

In Japanese, nekomimi 猫耳 means "cat ears," and can refer to an actual cat's ears, to the cat ears of a cat girl or cat boy character, to cat ear headbands used to cosplay as a cat girl or cat boy character, or to other things that resemble cat ears, but technically are not. It's also spelled without kanji, as nekomimi ネコミミ.

Examples of nekomimi 猫耳, "cat ears," in anime.
Source: various.


The word nekomimi 猫耳 is a compound noun formed by the animal word neko 猫, "cat," and the body part mimi 耳, "ear." The word is seldom used to refer to an actual cat's ears, since it's obvious a cat's ears would be cat ears, as they're the ears of a cat.

  • neko no nekomimi
    A cat's cat-ears. (nobody says this.)
  • neko no mimi
    A cat's ears. Cat ears.
    (see: no-adjectives.)
Nekomimi 猫耳, "cat ears," diagram, featuring Hakase はかせ and Sakamoto 阪本.
Girl: Hakase はかせ
Cat: Sakamoto 阪本
Anime: Nichijou 日常 (Episode 5)

Similarly, it wouldn't be used to refer to the ears of an anthropomorphized cat character.

A furry cat girl, unnamed news anchor.
Anime: Beastars (Episode 6)
  • Context: a kemono character who is a cat.
  • mimei no shokusatsu jiken, han'nin tousouchuu
    Early morning [devouring] incident, perpetrator on the run.
    • shokusatsu
      To kill by eating. To devour.

The nekomimi is a type of kemonomimi 獣耳, "animal ears." Like other kemonomimi words, nekomimi means only the cat ears, but characters that have cat eats normally also have other cat features.

For reference, how to say "cat girl" in Japanese:

  • neko-musume
    Cat girl.
    • This term normally refers to a character from Gegege no Kitarou ゲゲゲの鬼太郎.
    • musume
      Girl. (because every girl is somebody's daughter.)
  • nekomimi musume
    Cat-ears girl. Cat-eared girl.

And how to say "cat boy" in Japanese:

  • neko-danshi
    Cat boy.
    • Warning: neko is also a gay slang for "bottom" in a homosexual relationship.
  • nekomimi-danshi
    Cat-ears boy. Cat-eared boy.

And lastly, gender-neutral terms:

  • nekomimi-kyara
    Cat-ears character. Cat-eared character.
    • nekomimi-kyarakutaa
      (same meaning.)
  • neko-kyara
    Cat character.
    • This is an actual cat that is a character, not someone wearing cat ears.
  • nekobito

    Cat people.
    • If you see this word, it's probably referring to a race of demi-human characters in a fantasy world, isekai 異世界, or something, not to actual cat-eared characters.

The word is sometimes spelled with katakana, as nekomimi ネコミミ, to avoid ambiguity with real "cat ears." Similarly, "bunny ears," usagimimi 兎耳, are abbreviated to usamimi うさみみ, and kemonomimi is abbreviated to kemomimi ケモミミ.

You can attach nekomimi to other words, too. For example:

A nekomimi 猫耳 headband.
Anime: K-On!, Keion! けいおん! (Episode 9)
  • nekomimi-heabando
    Cat-ears "hairband." (wasei-eigo 和製英語)
    Cat-ears headband.
  • nekomimi-kachuusha
    Cat-ears "katyusha."
    Cat-ears headband.
  • nekomimi boushi
    Cat-ears hat.
    Cat-ears cap.
  • nekomimi huudo
    Cat-ears hood.
Nike ニケ, and Kururi ククリ turned into cats. In the series, they say unyoraa ウニョラー and toppirokii トッピロキー instead of human language.
Left: Nike ニケ
Right: Kukuri ククリ
Anime: Mahoujin Guruguru 魔法陣グルグル (2017) (Episode 14)
  • nekomimi paakaa
    Car-ears hoodie.


For reference, some examples of nekomimi 猫耳 and their different types.


Cat girl characters normally have cat ears attached to their bodies. Since they're cat ears, they're nekomimi.

Eris エリス, example of "cat ears," nekomimi 猫耳.
Character: Eris エリス
Anime: Asobi ni Iku yo! あそびにいくヨ! (Episode 1)
  • Context: an alien race of cat girls.
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)
Misha ミーシャ, a cat girl, being petted by Edgar エドガー.
Left: Edgar エドガー
Right: Misha ミーシャ
Anime: Hataage! Kemono Michi 旗揚!!けものみち (Episode 10, Stitch)
Felicia フェリシア, example of monster cat girl.
Character: Felicia フェリシア
Anime: Vampire Hunter (1997, OVA) (Episode 3, OVA)
  • Context: despite this monster girl clearly having a physical body with cat features, her cat ears look like a headband for some reason.

Naturally, the same applies to cat boys.

Okamoto Tama 岡本タマ, example of anthropormorphized cat boy.
Character: Okamoto Tama 岡本タマ
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)


Some cat ears are gained when a character transforms into a cat girl.

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)
  • Context: a magical girl whose transformation is a cat girl.


Even if you weren't born a cat girl, that doesn't mean you can't dress up as one. Cosplay featuring cat ears also counts as nekomimi.

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)
ニャーッて言ってみて ニャーッて に・・・にゃ~~・・・? はっ!!つい!! あだ名はあずにゃんで決定だね!!
Manga: K-On!, Keion! けいおん! (Volume 2, Page 31)
  • Context: Nakano Azusa 中野梓, a new club member, puts on cat ears.
  • nyaa tte itte-mite, nyaa tte
    ニャーッて言ってみて ニャーッて
    Try saying "meow," [say] "meow."
  • ni... nya~~...?
    M... meow~~...?
  • ha'! tsui!!
    Ah!! [I did it without thinking]!! (in the sense of not intending to say it, but getting carried away.)
  • ada-na wa Azunyan de kettei da ne!!
    [It] is decided: [your] nickname will be Azunyan!! (Azusa plus "meow.")
Ayasaki Hayate 綾崎ハヤテ, example of W sitting.
Character: Ayasaki Hayate 綾崎ハヤテ
Anime: Hayate no Gotoku! ハヤテのごとく! (Episode 8, Stitch)
Konoe Subaru 近衛スバル, example of girl crossdressing as a cat boy.
Character: Konoe Subaru 近衛スバル
Anime: Mayo Chiki! まよチキ! (Episode 4)
  • Context: Subaru crossdressing as a cat boy.


Sometimes characters have cat ears that aren't actually cat ears, they just look like cat ears, but, in reality, they're something else.

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.
Tamaki Kotatsu 環古達, example of "naked apron," hadaka epuron 裸エプロン.
Character: Tamaki Kotatsu 環古達
Anime: En'en no Shouboutai 炎炎ノ消防隊 (Episode 10, Stitch)
  • Context: Tamaki wearing a naked apron, with cat ears made out of fire.


One sub-type of pseudo-nekomimi is hair. The hair of the character just stands up in such way that it looks like the character has cat ears, or animal ears in general.

Rokudou Rin 六堂鈴, example of hair nekomimi 猫耳.
Character: Rokudou Rin 六堂鈴
Anime: Keijo!!!!!!!! 競女!!!!!!!! (Episode 3)
Tsukimiya Utsugi 月宮ウツギ, and Koyuki Seri 小雪芹. Example of cat mouth, cat ears.
Left: Tsukimiya Utsugi 月宮ウツギ
Right: Koyuki Seri 小雪芹
Anime: Boku no Tonari ni Ankoku Hakaishin ga Imasu. ぼくのとなりに暗黒破壊神がいます。 (Episode 1)


Sometimes, characters from futuristic settings wear robotic nekomimi. These cyber cat ears may or may not have a practical purpose. Maybe they're functional, and just happen to look like cat ears, but maybe they're useless, and the character is just cosplaying as an android cat girl or something.

Tsugumi ツグミ, example of robotic "cat ears," nekomimi 猫耳.
Character: Tsugumi ツグミ
Anime: Guilty Crown (Episode 5)


Some characters have two sets of ears: cat ears and human ears, i.e. they have yotsumimi 四つ耳, "four ears."

Naturally, characters who are cosplaying or wearing cat ear headbands look like they have two set of ears, their real human ears and the fake cat ones. However, here we're talking specifically about characters who appear to have two sets of real ears, attached to their bodies somehow.

Aoyagi Ritsuka 青柳立夏, Soubi Agatsuma 我妻草灯, example of double ears: human ears plus "cat ears," nekomimi 猫耳.
Left: Aoyagi Ritsuka 青柳立夏
Right: Soubi Agatsuma 我妻草灯
Anime: Loveless (Episode 1)
  • Context: In Loveless, only virgin characters have cat ears.
Opera オペラ, example of cat ears, pointed ears.
Character: Opera オペラ
Anime: Mairimashita! Iruma-kun 魔入りました!入間くん (Episode 10)
  • Q: "Do you like cat ears or elf ears?"
  • A: "Yes."
Animal Words Faces & Expressions

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