Mayoi Neko Overrun Episode 1 – Cat Power
Seriously, I’d rather be watching the next episode of B Gata H Kei, or finishing Senkou no Night Raid, or watching something that isn’t anime, like Doctor Who. But I’m writing this, because I love you, the reader, and because I know it isn’t going to get any easier to write as time goes on, and because this is a show worth writing about.
Look, I don’t know how much you know about anime, but you’ve probably heard at least whispers of a few weird things about anime or anime culture. Like catgirls, human bodies (plus ears and tail) inhabited by the soul of a cat. Or cosplay, where anime fans dress up in 3D as their favorite 2D characters. Or the weird tendency of anime fans to fetishize anime characters to the exclusion of interest in real girls. Or tentacle rape, which exists and I can’t even begin to explain why.
See, Mayoi Neko Overrun has all these and more, minus the tentacle rape. It’s so steeped in anime convention and culture that I can’t even begin to explain it without defining a half-dozen weird and unusual things, and while I want to explain it, I also don’t want to turn this post into an anime lexicon.
But, here goes.
Mayoi Neko Overrun is about a typically dull, slightly geeky but otherwise utterly unremarkable male anime protagonist named Takumi with three friends, an older sister and an enemy, all of whom are all stock anime characters.
One is the heir to a martial arts school, a stoic, reserved boy who hearkens back to a bygone era when anime protagonists were all martial artists, had secret magical powers or somehow fulfilled a fantasy of pre-teen or teenage boys. Now, the protagonists of anime are all slightly geeky but otherwise utterly unremarkable male point of view characters who complain about how much their life sucks, while their martial artist/magical girl/ninja assassin catgirl bodyguard/crush/best friend is busy slaying demons in the background.
Second is an otaku, an anime nerd, which is pretty evident because he stays up watching late-night anime, which is the only time animation companies can afford to broadcast the really weird shit that only nerds like. It is when every single show I’ve written about so far has aired, except GIANT KILLING and including Mayoi Neko Overrun, so the fact that Ieyasu is an obnoxious weakling whose only role in the episode is to proclaim loudly how he only loves 2D girls is a pretty low blow at the show’s main audience.
Third is Fumino, the main female character, who is an orphan like Takumi. Just about every anime protagonist is an orphan in practice if not reality, because it’s hard to have awesome adventures to complain about if your parents make you go to bed by 10, but these two are the real deal. It even seems to be a part of the main story, since the first episode begins with a flashback of Fumino being abused because she doesn’t have any parents, and their orphaned nature seems to have a pretty significant effect on their development as people.
Fumino is also a tsundere, which is a Japanese term for a girl that outwardly appears aggressive and feisty but on the inside has a sweet and tender side that just wants to be hugged by the main character. Tsunderes tends to alternate between these states depending on their mood and the whim of the author, which means that your average dull, slightly geeky but otherwise utterly unremarkable male protagonist is usually more confused and put off by them than filled with the desire to hug. Anime fans like them, though, and pleasing anime fans is the sole reason for 90% of all anime, so they’re everywhere. For his part, Takumi’s got her number, flat out telling the audience that everything Fumino says is the opposite of what she actually wants. Although, Fumino is one of the angriest, most violent tsunderes I can think of, so it’s really not that hard to figure out.
His sister is Otome, a girl who runs a cake shop and is famous for helping strays, and anyone else in need. The almost-legendary status the first episode creates for Otome, who doesn’t appear until the last shot of the episode, is probably its greatest achievement. Everyone obviously has huge a huge amount of respect for her (Ieyasu, for example, claims she’s the only 3D girl he admires), which makes you impressed with her even before you meet her. I’ve no idea if she lives up to her reputation, but I want to find out. It’s a nice touch, and it would almost be subtle if the show didn’t also tell you that everyone has a huge amount of respect for her.
Their enemy is Chise Umenomori, a rich girl who is heiress of the fictional Umenomori family and the weirdest character of them all. See, besides the fact that she’s a spoiled brat, you can tell she’s rich because she’s followed around by two maids at all times. Maids are another weird, overused anime trope, but they’re pretty much in the background here so I’m not going to pay too much attention to them now.
Chise is a rich otaku who in this episode abuses her privilege to try to force Fumino and Takumi to dress up like characters from some old giant robot anime (Mazinger Z, I think). Fumino blows up, and the two have a big fight. This is really her horribly warped way of trying to make friends, which becomes abundantly clear later. First, it’s hinted at in a manner that would almost be subtle, if her maids didn’t immediately tell Takumi as much outright.
The people who made Mayoi Neko Overrun seem to hate otaku. All their otaku characters are ugly, obnoxious stereotypes, and the show insults its presumably otaku audience’s intelligence as much as possible, by making their characters cliches, then telling you outright anything you could probably already guess from their demeanor already, even if you weren’t yourself into this sort of thing.
Oddly, though, that makes it a good introduction to this particular type of anime, the otaku-focused anime for people who like anime cliches. It’s a weird, hard to define subgenre that has a little bit of everything: comedy, fantasy, adventure and a little bit of romance. It’s everything that is great and awful about the medium, rolled into one, but usually heavily balanced in favor of one of those two extremes.
And for all the hate I’ve been giving its over-reliance on convention, Overrun is pretty solid for its genre. Its characters may not be original, but they’re well-developed, even if that development happens with zero subtlety. I can’t tell from this one episode where the plot is going, but what the first episode gives as backstory hints at something more involved to come. And the rather-touching end of the episode (which I won’t spoil) shows that it’s got heart. All that makes it above average for the kind of show it is and, really, anime in general. It’s not for everyone, but it’s worth a try.