Life continues at Le Soleil, as it has since Chocola and Vanilla sneakily packed themselves away to join their master. While the two are the only ones actually living there of the Minaduki catgirls, the rest also put in shifts at the cake shop.
And then, the place gets another resident when Chocola, while out shopping, meets up with a stray kitten girl. After giving her some candies, Chocola suddenly has to deal with the fact that the little kitten followed her home. How to break that to Kashou? Would he even let them? Can Chocola even raise a little kitten? Where did she come from? Was she abandoned like Chocola and Vanilla once were, before Kashou and his sister found them?
Well... don't expect the show to answer those last two questions. Much like the OVA, putting the focus on the hows and whys of catgirl lore is not exactly high on the priority list. They're both cat and girl, in the way that their appearance might be around 90% human, their behavior is more like 60 or 70% cat.
If you're reading this, it's also fairly likely you read the review for the original, kickstarter-initiated OVA. I wasn't particularly kind to that OVA, mostly because it felt kind of... dispensable if you aren't into the brand of cuteness that makes up the bulk of this show, and also because the way it treats its feline cast could be rather... inconsistent. The most ominous part, which the show made sure to explain to us again, is their bells. Said ornaments still serves as proof that a catgirl has taken their "independent action permit" exam, and although the original OVA (and the game it was based on, presumably) stated that only 10% of the exam-takers managed to pass that test, yet even Chocola -- who the show portrays as kind of an idiot -- manages to pass it. Granted, none of the girls save maybe Maple isn't exactly coming across as the sharpest knife in the drawer, and I'm also not sure how much you can excuse that with general cat behavior. Partially because Kashou's sister Shigure is... well, a bit weird. This leaves Kashou himself as the only normal person in the show, since most of the random people seems to be there solely to explain stuff or gush over the cuteness of the catgirls.
It was probably a good idea, then, to make the newest member-to-be of the Minaduki household a kitten -- even if I feel kind of weird to use that word about a humanoid -- because for one thing, it makes her general behavior a bit easier to digest. Of course, she's the quiet type, so don't expect her to provide much of a personality growth outside of a few things she does throughout the show. She eventually gets the name Cacao, which is a bit of a departure from the show's general habit of naming the catgirls after something related to their haircolor, and her general kitty behavior is even kind of muted compared to the others. Then again, she is a stray, however that works in this world, so her reticence is understandable.
Honestly, this is the part of the show that still makes the least amount of sense. Unlike Chocola and Vanilla, who were found in a box and thus being willingly abandoned by someone, Cacao was found on a playground in the neighborhood, and she seems very much unaware about the concept of a home or a master. This isn't entirely unheard of when it comes to real cats, as Japan apparently has its share of strays, but that doesn't change the fact that someone still had to have given birth to her. If she was all by herself, how did she survive before Chocola encountered her? These are questions you probably shouldn't feel you need answers to if you're planning on enjoying this to the fullest.
On the bright side, as big an idiot as Chocola can be at times, having her adopt the stray catgirl actually worked to the show's favor. Granted, at worst, the girls in the show could get a bit unruly, and while Chocola was -- as established -- not particularly smart, she takes to the little kitten with an admirable amount of care. And in return, Cacao slowly opens up to everyone and everything. There is a particularly sweet scene when Cacao is visiting one of her human friends, and takes a hint from her wall on how to show Chocola how much she appreciated being taken in by her. By and large, Cacao's behavior is mostly pretty accurate child behavior, so even her kitty habit feels a bit more natural, almost constant deadpan stare aside.
Unfortunately, the humor still doesn't fare much better than in the OVA. In fact, since we now have twelve episodes to go by, you really start to realize how stumped Nekopara is from a comedy perspective. Having Azuki and Coconut fight all the time gets really tedious really quickly, and you can only hear Cinnamon commenting on "becoming wet" so often before the eyerolls set in. And that's not even getting started on the episode where the girls have to endure a storm; with Shigure gone, they have to entertain themselves for a day, and the stories that comes out of their mouths are the oldest jokes in anime draped over random folktales. All this only serves to make me appreaciate Cacao more, as most of the things she does are kind of adorable, just not in that cloying way you'd get from the other girls. She even influences Chocola for the better.
As a production, the Nekopara TV series even fares a bit better than its OVA counterpart. While the animation in this series isn't necessarily fantastic, it looks a bit more professional and tends to avoid the animation goofs that plagued the OVA at times. The scenery isn't really all that great, though, mostly being limited to the town where everyone lives, which is pretty rudimentary as living arrangements go. The fact that the girls are usually seen wearing the same thing all the time even has me wonder if they have a set of identical clothes in their closets, which would actually serve as a funny gag in this case. But if the main currency in a show is cute girls, it would be nice to have them broaden their fashion sense is what I'm saying. Couldn't hurt, right? The music is doing its job well enough, and while I can say I didn't much care for the OP theme -- the overly cutesy Jpop theme just really, really not my thing -- it suits the show well enough, especially for those who like this sort of thing. The ED theme, on the other hand, I thought made for a rather sweet coda, coupled up with childhood footage of all the girls. Well... catgirls. The dub is pretty decent too. Which is to say the voice actors can only do so much with the trite dialogue, but the dub still takes the edges of some of the shriller voices in the dub, mainly Chocola's.
Like I mentioned in the review for the OVA, you really have to be on board with this kind of cutesy behavior if you plan on getting the most out of Nekopara, but the addition of Cacao does an admirable job of making it a bit more palatable for those who aren't, even if she's uncharacteristically well-behaved for a child. Whether it's enough to salvage the show, however....
If I consider the OVA a weak two, then the TV series a strong two. The show is still too stuck in its roots, and most of its cast act far too childishly for their teenage appearances, so I can't in good conscience grant it a three-star rating. Do that only if you see no problem with any of this. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: The TV series is a little bit spicier than its prequel OVA, mainly with the fanservice. There is at least part of an episode dedicated to the girls' medical examination, which has them spend that entire time in their underwear, and also sees Cacao start kneading their breasts for some reason. Outside of that, expect Cinnamon to proclaim that she's wet as a running joke that never really works, and you have... some fairly mild mature elements that isn't really a huge problem.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Wakanime, sub and dub.
Review Status: Full (12/12)
Nekopara © 2020 Felix Film.
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