Review & Discussion About: Nekopara
In the land of domesticated pets, two sides have almost always waged war. Maltese, Labrador, and Golden Retriever fighting against Bobtail, Savannah, and Sphynx. They only agree upon a single thing: asking everyone a question. “Are you a dog person or a cat person?”
Me? I like dogs more. Nekopara clearly chooses the cat corner, considering its cat-centric content.
But Nekopara goes beyond merely “liking” cats; it absolutely loves them to death (nine times over at that). The names of real-world items (“Nyanaha” instead of “Yahama”). The jokes made (“What, so we’re the underdogs?”). The actions (their “fighting stances”). It’s almost surprising that the anime avoided the use of a cat-cutout filter to place over the screen while watching since that would have been in its ballpark (or perhaps jungle gym).
To this end, as is the case with most kittens, the show contains a large amount of cuteness to let its moe ideals flow freely. Indeed, the audience will find little in the way of world-building or heavy thematic weight here, keeping the focus almost strictly on its slice-of-life structure. Instead, Chocola, Vanilla, and their additional feline friends share numerous silly reactions and heartwarming events that align with this mission.
For instance, Coconut may blush super-hard after referring to Azuki in a certain way, or Cacao will give a gift that shows she truly cares about her new family. Whatever the circumstance, this cute angle persists throughout the whole season. Furthermore, the anime claws along with lots of comedy, too, letting the cuteness take on a funnier style, such as when Vanilla tests Chocola on suppressing her typical cat-like behavior.
Several problems put that mission in jeopardy. Most notably, Nekopara has a sometimes subtle, sometimes direct approach with lewdness. It’s weird, and it simply jumps in the face of the cute motif the anime otherwise upholds. Besides this weirdness, the scenes in general tend to be bland: working a job, cleaning the house, going to an amusement park. Not that these scenes lack sense, but they do lack a greater sense of creativity.
The characters can also interfere with placing the show on a higher pedestal. Cinnamon is downright annoying with the constant fallback to her “moist” schtick that gets old after its 500th repetition. Maple’s dramatic mini-arc sidesteps the cuteness and the comedy in an unwelcome manner. And Shigure, their cat-crazed caretaker, has a wholesome side that is lost next to her bizarre picture-taking infatuation of them.
Thankfully, the other characters of Nekopara bring a lot to like. Coconut lazes about without much care. Vanilla remains a cool, calm cucumber. Chocola carries kindness. Cacao sees the world in wonderment. Azuki acts as the older sister to the others. Among the many negative aspects of the show, these cats at least allow for part of it to float without trouble.
Production values, on the other paw, suffer another hit.
Too-bright lighting covers most of the visuals, giving the presentation an oft low-quality sheen. Cinematography is an afterthought in comparison which subsequently leaves the artistic direction in a sorry state. Actual animation isn’t its strong suit. The heads of kid characters (especially Cacao) seem disproportionately large half the time.
Similarly, the opening track “Shiny Happy Days” is far too high energy for what most of Nekopara offers, and the original soundtrack drones on with a reliance of the same springy tune. Worst of all, although the majority of the cat cast are newbies in this field, the voice-acting performances cannot rise above the amateurish mark.
Not everything is lost, though. The designs for the cat girls take on a wide range of details that give them their own looks. And the ending track “Hidamari no Kaori” stands on all fours as a solid, catchy piece that strolls along as easily as the four seasons it depicts.
As for my own personal enjoyment with the anime, I did enjoy the C(C)GDCT elements well enough. I found myself smiling at different parts and chuckling at some of their interactions. Extraordinary moments of “Aww!” inducement or gut-busting hilarity were extremely rare (if not outright missing), but I cannot deny its overall cute atmosphere.
On that note, Coconut, Maple, and Vanilla were my favorites, for they at least weren’t as over-the-top as the others. But Chocola was still fun with her kindhearted worrying, especially over Cacao.
Unfortunately, the rest of the anime failed to have much else in terms of substance in my eyes. No extra writing nuances. No notable connections outside each main pairing. No interesting events. Plus, that weirdness is uncomfortable and off-putting, ruining the fun the anime can otherwise create.
Nekopara meows in pitiful fashion. It has a cute crux, and at least half the characters support the show. Yet so much else goes wrong. The artistry is subpar. The sound-related pieces are below mediocre. The entertainment of it all isn’t that memorable. The cat’s out of the bag with this one: The war wages on, but they have certainly lost this battle.
Story: Fine, cat to the core, this slice-of-life comedy contains lots of cuteness, but the weird lewdness and the uncreative scenarios hurt the execution
Art & Animation: Bad, while the designs for the cat girls are very diverse, the lighting, the cinematography, and the movement demonstrate a weak artistic vision
Characters: Fine, Coconut, Vanilla, Chocola, Cacao, and Azuki help keep the cute going, but Cinnamon, Maple, and Shigure only interfere with it
Music & Sound: Bad, the ED bookends each episode with simplistic ease, but the loud OP, the ineffective OST, and the amateurish VA performances reduce the audio experience
Enjoyment: Bad, certainly cute, and a few characters were likable, but it has next to zero substance otherwise, and that weirdness is off-putting
Final Score: 3/10
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