Home > Episode Reviews, Mayoi Neko Overrun > Mayoi Neko Overrun Episode 2 – Why Must There Be Catgirls?

Mayoi Neko Overrun Episode 2 – Why Must There Be Catgirls?

Most TV shows and movies take place in worlds that, although they may look or sound like real life, really bear very little resemblance to it. The world doesn’t have a lot of good-looking 20-somethings who have crazy adventures, suave advertising executives with troubled pasts, secret agents with superhuman abilities or sinister ancient conspiracies in service of alien horrors beyond our ken. It’s part of what makes television so entertaining: the escape from everyday reality.

I think one of the things that makes anime hard for people to get into is the sheer unreality of it. Even for a population born and raised on unreality, there’s still something uncomfortably alien about the medium. I know most anime apologists get really defensive about calling them ‘cartoons’, but they really are. They may be free of anvils and painted doors, but they still operate according to the alien logic of an unreal world. There’s something very foreign about a lot of anime. And, although Japan produces a lot of weird, foreign stuff, I don’t think it’s because it’s Japanese, per se. I think it’s the fact that a lot of anime is made by people in a close-knit subculture for people in a close-knit subculture, or another, equally close-knit subculture across the ocean.

You see, you can learn a lot about people from the kinds of escapism they prefer. And, I’ll be honest, the kind most anime has on display is strange and perverse. It’s not like there aren’t exceptions—ones that I hope I can write about here—but your typical anime targeted at otaku is a constant, nonstop barrage of bewildering or crudely exploitative conventions that make no sense out of context, and very little in it.

And the core of it, the part I’m most interested in talking about now, is a warped sexuality that celebrates and glorifies its disconnection from actual sexual intimacy.

Fumino is groped against her will by a classmate.“Oh, how nice,” thinks Takumi, her best friend

Otaku exist in a very competitive sexual economy, or so I’m told (I’ve mostly heard this from otaku or otaku sympathizers, so it could just be an excuse). Social status and financial prosperity are the primary interests of single Japanese women, and the typical otaku has neither. They’re misfits by nature—if they fit into Japanese society, they wouldn’t be watching television shows about catgirls at 1 am on a weeknight. That’s not something normal people do in any culture.

So, excluded from dating (at least in their own minds), they turn towards their sexually frustrated energy towards the things they love. Unable to find comfort in relationships, they find solace in the things that give them comfort, like anime. And, increasingly, in animated women.

As much as anime girls' skirts flap up in the wind, you'd think schools would make them longer. Or use heavier cloth

There’s been some element of sex to a lot of anime for at least as long as I’ve been watching it. Tenchi Muyo, one of the shows that got me into the stuff, has full-frontal nudity in it (although the American TV broadcast I watched airbrushed swimsuits onto the characters (even in the bath)). I guess it’s natural for anything targeting teenage boys to be titillating in some way. The nudity never felt unnatural or out of place. It was obviously there just to get a rise, so to speak, out of its audience, but it was never excessive. It never got in the way of trying to tell a story.

The dating conditions for otaku mentioned above, and the tendency of anime to exaggerate its unique traits, regardless of their merit, have bred a new generation of anime inundated with gratuitous fan service that goes beyond mere titillation. The sexual excitement, rather than a sideshow to an interesting story, becomes the reason for the show itself.

A nosebleed is shorthand for arousal in anime. Takumi is being hugged by his sister here

It exists to provide material for a different kind of otaku, one more interested in 2D girls than 3D, if only by necessity. Ieyasu, the otaku character in Mayoi Neko Overrun, is a crude stereotype of such a person, but he’s a crude stereotype in a show pandering to the very people he is a stereotype of. He represents a different kind of fan, the kind more interested in fulfilling his fantasies through the show than in whether the show has any other external merit.

In many ways, shows like these are a darker counterpart to the ebullient cuteness of moe shows like K-ON! While those provide safe, tame characters for otaku to lavish affection, ecchi shows like Mayoi Neko Overrun satisfy a different, more primal urge.

This was a slow-mo pan up Nozomi's naked body, which is hard to capture in a screenshot. Whether or not the censorship cat will be removed in the DVD is anyone's guess

But that urge, it should be pointed out, can only be fulfilled to a certain extent by TV anime. Even late-night Japanese TV has some moral standards, and there’s the unspoken rules of 2D/3D relationships to take into account.

First, none of the girls can be in romantic relationships with any of the characters. That’s far too close to a real relationship with a real girl. An otaku doesn’t want an actual relationship, just fantasy.

Plus, even though the protagonists of these shows are invariably bland, socially-awkward automatons devoid of any personality so as to provide a character for the audience to project upon, some people won’t be able to do that and will get pissed off if the girl is interested in anybody but them.

Ieyasu is hulu dancing here. I don't know why he is hulu dancing. Why is he hulu dancing?!

That leads me to the second rule: the girl can’t have ever been in a romantic relationship with anyone else, ever. That makes her a slut.

You think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not at all. When Eri Takenashi, writer of the manga Kannagi, introduced a character as the ex-boyfriend of main girl Nagi, she received death threats. Ruining the backstory of someone else’s masturbatory fantasy is serious business.

So, with the TV censorship and these requirements to consider, what can you put into your erotically-tinged anime to make it actually erotic? Lots of “accidental” upskirt viewings, breast groping and other supposedly tantalizing but romantically neutral happenings. Sexually awkward situations, the kinds of things that are statistical long-shots, if not physically impossible, happen multiple times per episode in shows like this. It’s a world where if you fall down, you’re almost certain to end up with your hand on some poor girl’s breast. Or the first time you meet someone, you’re virtually guaranteed to see them naked. The end result is supposedly erotic, but to the uninformed viewer can look some the offbeat pornography of some strange fetish.

Chise stands up, leaving her towel behind. Censorship cat has many different forms

If it’s devoid of anything more substantive, that’s what it actually is. Really dull pornography, unless that’s what you get off on.

So, while the first episode of Mayoi Neko Overrun showed some promise, episode 2 makes me wonder if this show is going to devolve into nothing more than that. There’s certainly no overarching narrative thread running through this episode; it’s just a series of loosely related events. There are one-liners, but they are too scarce to make this a comedy, and the plot is too thin for there to be any sort of comedic buildup. Any hint of the backstory that had fooled me into thinking this show might actually have a plot is gone. The mystique of Otome’s character is gone; she’s just a ditz. I honestly have no idea why anyone has any respect for her, other than writer fiat.

Nozomi pulls on her swimsuit like this repeatedly for a good ten seconds. Even if it was arousing to begin with, after doing it that much, it just becomes creepy

Similarly Nozomi, who spent the previous episode as an agile blur running away from the rest of the cast, turns out to be a subservient, naive catgirl. Catgirls are always subservient and naïve, which doesn’t make sense to me. I have never met a cat that seemed either subservient or naïve, so why have those become the primary (only, really) traits of catgirls?

Answer: because it’s not about trying to embody a cat in human form, it’s about creating a character that is adorable as possible. A character with a justification for being utterly subservient and docile, without the creepiness that would result from an actual girl being like that. A girl so innocent and carefree that she’s willing to be taken advantage of.

Another slow pan up Nozomi, this time in the bath

Nozomi’s shamelessness about being naked is the only real thread running through this episode. It’s exploited in just about every way possible, to the point where I don’t know how much more they can pimp Nozomi. I’ve got to think they’ve run out of material.

Overall, Mayoi Neko Overrun squanders the goodwill and hope I had for it in the first episode. The second episode seems to exist only to cater to fans who want to lust over its unimaginative characters. So why do I still kinda like it? What does that say about me? Have I, despite my best efforts, crossed over to the dark side? Have I become an otaku?

Even in Takumi's dream, Nozomi is naked! Tonight, the censorship cat will haunt my dreams

Man, I hope not. I really don’t want to go through all the effort of changing the site’s name.

I think my (limited) affection for the show stems from the relationship between Takumi and Fumino. They’re both basically unaltered stock characters: Takumi the dull protagonist and Fumino the tsundere, alternating between outright fury and affection for Takumi, but the way they interact is pretty cute. Takumi’s patience with Fumino’s obnoxiousness requires the kind of suspension of disbelief you can only find in anime, but I have to admire his devotion. And Fumino is a broken person who shows her affection the only way she knows how: by being loud and annoying. It sounds so dysfunctional, but in the show, it works.

If they’re not careful, the people making are going to have something on their hands that’s anathema to their audience: an actual romantic relationship.

I have to admit, I like the implication that the storm is so strong that it is blowing away the moon

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: