THEM Anime Reviews
Home Reviews Extras Forums
[Nekopara OAV]
AKA: ネコぱら
Genre: Slice-of-life/MOE.
Length: OAV, 58 minutes
Distributor: Currently the results of a successful Kickstarter campaign, released as such. It's also available on Steam, along with the Extra OAV.
Content Rating: TV-13 (Mild fanservice.)
Related Series: Nekopara Extra (prequel OAV), TV series (sequel)
Also Recommended: Cat Planet Cuties, Is the Order a Rabbit?, Strike Witches, Chobits.
Notes: Based on a series of Visual novel games by Sekai Project, of which this OAV covers the story of the first game, more or less.

Nekopara OAV


Leaving his family behind to focus on starting his very own confection store, Minaduki Kashou still finds himself dealing with his two catgirls as they stow away on a moving car and arrives by way of postal boxes.

The two catgirls in question, Chocola and Vanilla, were discovered in a box outside while they were just children/kittens, presumably abandoned by their former caretakers. Kashou and his sister Shigure adopted the two of them on the spot, adding them to an already growing catgirl family of four.


Out of the three shows I've supported by way of Kickstarter, Nekopara is probably the only one of the three that has sort of a franchise history to it. I'm not entirely sure what made me notice said franchise in the first place, but I vaguely remember it being one of the first VN games that gave its character portraits animation, which put it several steps ahead of the more static images of earlier VN games. Granted, I can't exactly brag about having played a lot of them -- in fact, the only notable one I've ever played is the infamous Katawa Shoujo, made by a group of 4chan'ers going by the team name Cloversoft -- but I remember finding the more dynamic movement of the catgirls in Nekopara very helpful in alleviating the static tedium of reading dull script text for a very self-indulgend story. (The aforementioned Katawa Shoujo being an exception, as it was pretty well written, especially for its kind.)

Outside of that, I remember that the Nekopara games garnered some controversy for being an outright porn game despite its ridiculously cute look, and then garnered some more controversy when Steam chose to change its erotic releases into all-ages ones instead. And then the Kickstarter for the OAV happened, which presented me an opportunity for a relatively safe option to take this franchise in myself, as I'm not really a huge fan of playing VN games in general, even well-written ones like Katawa Shoujo.

As for Nekopara, it's... well, it brings to mind my feelings about another show I watched some years ago called Girl Friend BETA. By that, I mean the show isn't really terrible, but it's not really very interesting either. It's a show solely made to be cute, and if you're into that sort of thing, I'd say the show does its job pretty well. Of course, I said the same thing about Girl Friend BETA, so if you read that review and saw what I rated it, you can also probably see where I'm going to go with this review before you reach the end of it.

Granted, it needs to be said that Nekopara does something Girl Friend BETA never had the courage to, and that is actually trying to approach this absurdity with the catgirls with a certain semblance of seriousness, but that is also where the show stumbles the most. Despite Nekopara treating its catgirl cast as if they were parts of cute animal videos on Youtube, particularly when it comes to the girls' kitty habits. While this is hardly anything new, Nekopara plays out both their cat dynamics and human dynamics to a level where it often makes no sense, or just raises more questions than it answers.

For instance, we learn pretty much from the start that Chocola and Vanilla were abandoned. Since they were found lying in a box, I think it's safe to say that someone were "owning" the two of them before they ended up at the Minaduki household, and Nekopara is hardly the first anime I've seen that has kittens abandoned in boxes -- it's just the first one where said cats look like humans. And therein lies the biggest rub of the show: the girls are both cats and humanoids, and it doesn't really mesh all that well within this oddball society where they can be both pets and contributing members of society. As far as I'm concerned, the girls are more human than pet; clearly they are able to converse like any human, and while a lot of the comedy is centered around Chocola and Vanilla's somewhat lacking self-control, none of the girls you see in the show are acting all that far outside of their age range, something which would continue into the TV series. Yet, despite this, catgirls are apparently required to undertake an exam and earn a bell that is their "free pass" for moving around outside without their caretaker, which is hardly a requirement we even place on real cats, pets or no.

Also, the girls also seem to age as fast as cats do, which honestly makes me wonder whether whoever wrote the story for the games thought this through. Both Chocola and Vanilla look like little children when Kashou takes them in, but by the time this OAV's main storyline is taking place -- which is, in my estimate, somewhere between one to three years -- they're all basically teenagers. When you take into account that the average lifespan of a cat, even in our modern society with all our medical advances, are still a mere 15 years, the show does come across as (probably unintentionally) grim. Granted, I doubt Nekopara wants us to think too hard about it, but anyone who's ever had cats in their lives aren't necessarily going to completely ignore the somewhat depressing undertone here. On the flip side, the girls' default physical abilities are easily a match of even the most top-trained human athlete, and they can also eat human food or snacks without any ill effects, which is something you should not do to real cats.

On a more lighthearted note, I'm also puzzled by the fact that a cat would ever refer to their human caretaker as "master". Granted, cat personalities tend to vary to very large degrees, so I don't necessarily find Chocola and Vanilla's personality traits all that unsuitable for even normal cats. Chocola being very physically affectionate and emotional, while Vanilla is more the calm, collected type, is very "cat" in some ways. Although you kind of have to assign some of their behavior to "human" as well, as cats generally aren't very keen on moving to new locations.

Even weirder, our main male lead isn't a terribly interesting personality as main leads go, but on the other hand, I don't think the OAV itself -- never mind the follow-up TV series -- could have been any less interested in having him in it. Despite that, he actually makes for quite a responsible adult... most of the time. I mean... the guy has opened his own cake shop, and the show makes it quite clear that his family -- little sister aside -- is not very supportive of this, although they don't really sabotage it either, since they don't show up in the show at all. While he's also fond of his sister, he also sticks to his principles about not letting her make it any easier for him. In that sense, he's actually quite above average as male leads go, and it also helps that he's probably the one who treats his catgirls the most like human beings... with one or two exceptions. And.... well, out of him and his sister, that is. Honestly, the show would have been better off having everyone do that, and instead letting the girls' kitty traits being the little differences that makes them different from regular human beings. In fact, that's exactly what Asobi ni Iku Yo/Cat Planet Cuties did, which is a show that serves as the best way to have actual cat girls be a perfect mix of cat and girl, and those girls were aliens on top of that.

From a storytelling perspective, I'm also a bit puzzled that Kashou would leave the girls behind like that, even if he sort of explains it. Oh, I know why it was done -- crying Chocola is pretty heartachingly cute for a lot of people, I'd imagine -- but given how close they are, it would make more sense to just bring them along anyway, especially when it took fairly little time for them to convince him to let them stay. I can also only hope that the ass-raging arrogance the guy gives off at that time with the lines "So I'm not the one to dictate happiness" or "To think, a human not being able to give a retort to a catgirl", as if they really are second-rate citizens in this world, is more an issue of the original phrases being hard to translate properly. Despite his general maturity, he becomes weirdly jerk-ish or condescending when the plot calls for him to be deep, and as much as a dingbat Chocola can be at times, hearing some of the things that are said about her or the other catgirls is a bit too much. It's even more confusing when I later watched the TV series, where Chocola basically took in a stray, and nobody really thought twice about that. Hell, even the aforementioned requirement for catgirls to be able to move around freely as they please has a condescending and dystopian name: "Independent Action Permit". Can you even imagine the look a real cat would give you if they understood human speech and you told them they needed a permit like that to go outside?

The story in this OAV is mostly made up of little vignettes; Chocola and Vanilla convinces Kashou to let them stay. Chocola and Vanilla ponders and takes the catgirl exam that earns them their bells. Chocola and Vanilla is rewarded with a trip to the fairground. Chocola and Vanilla needs to help their feverish owner. It's fairly low-key fare, but while I do like my low-key slice-of-life like any other slice-of-life fan, Nekopara simply doesn't seem like it wants to put in the effort of making this oddball human/pet dynamic work. It's too disjointed for one thing, and it either doesn't care to embellish on the many plot threads or characterisations it introduces for another. It's also sadly too in love with its own jokes, but few to none of them are all that great, and one that would bleed over far too much in the TV series is Coconuts and Azuki's tendency to be at each others' throats all the time. Or Shigure's rather.... excessive interest in the girls -- or her own brother -- in general.

I remember the promo video I had the chance to watch having pretty decent animation, though, as shows go, but after having watched the whole OAV, I'm more of the opinion that they probably took out all the best bits and made a trailer out of that. The character designs are generally decent enough, and does a good job at portraying Sayuri's adorable artwork, but I can tell that the lion's share of the budget wasn't exactly spent on the animation. The fairground trip made me wonder if Nekopara was gonna take a page out of Chobits's book and let the girls wear a large variety of absurdly flamboyant -- but admittedly beautiful -- outfits, but outside of that one outing, you'll more often see the girls in their maid waitress outfits. And the animation quality is all over the place, a particularly bad example being the scene where Kashou chases Chocola and Vanilla around the bedroom. Well, animationwise, that is -- while the scene does lead to an accidental breast grab, that's about the extent of how far the show will go. It is an all-ages version, after all.

In the end, Nekopara was a bit of a dud for me. While I don't mind cutesy shows -- heck, I'd welcome more Is the Order a Rabbit? any day of the week -- this show was simply too invested in its own brand of cutesy, and if you're not 100% invested in that, you're going to be left behind. That being said, much like with Girl Friend BETA, I have a weird sense of respect for how consistent it is about itself, even with its flaws and general personality.

Too brainlessly cute, and its comedy more often than not didn't work for me, nor did the weird "treat the girls as you would a pet" thing. If you're really into this kind of thing, though, you can safely add a star or two. This really is more a question of taste.Stig Høgset

Recommended Audience: Accidental breast grab and mild fanservice does not an inappropriate show make. While I'm glad this is not outright porn, the show still has a lot of leeway to go before it would be considered even close to mildly inappropriate.

Version(s) Viewed: Kickstarter Bluray, Japanese with English subs only.
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Nekopara OAV © 2017 Felix Film, Neko Works.
© 1996-2015 THEM Anime Reviews. All rights reserved.