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Manga Review: Koi Neko

Updated on March 14, 2013
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Nigel, AKA Bubblegum Senpai was voted most likely to die due to accident involving a cuddle pillow. Haruhi Suzumiya for Life.

First volume of Koi Neko (or Koineko) in Japan, featuring Nao on the cover.
First volume of Koi Neko (or Koineko) in Japan, featuring Nao on the cover. | Source

Koi Neko is a Manga I started to read quite recently, and am thoroughly enjoying. Created by Etsuya Mashima, and published in Japan by Shojakukan, the story surrounds a young boy, Shinta, who is constantly attending to a stray cat that visits his bedroom window nightly, until one day, Nao, a girl in his school who had confessed to him visits his window instead and reveals herself to be the same cat.

The title is, I presume, a pun on the words "koi" which can mean innocent love, something akin to "puppy love" in the western world, and "neko" which means cat. The pun involves the title being presented as one word in kanji "Koineko" and the Japanese word "koneko" meaning kitten.

Despite Nao's ability to turn into a human girl - which is not uncommon among cats who have developed an emotional bond with a human in this world - Nao still very much acts like a kitten, (her favorite places for dates are the Shrine at night, and Shinta's lap) even when she's human, which leads to the majority of the humor in the series (at Shinta's expense) since she doesn't really know much about being human.

Likewise, Shinta, who accepts Nao's confession at the very start of the series, doesn't know much about being a cat either, so as much as he tries, he has difficulties meeting Nao halfway. And while it takes a lot of time to get used to dating a cat, he tries his hardest and is genuinely concerned with her well being, even though it may not seem like it at times. He takes everything in stride, and even when he's angry or frustrated, he's often quick to forgive and apologize when he begins to see things from a cat's view.

Shinta Takaoka, the misfortunate protagonist.
Shinta Takaoka, the misfortunate protagonist. | Source

Also, there is a bit of crude humor in here, as Shinta's father is a bit of a pervert and a lolicon (If you do not know what the last word means, you probably don't want to look it up), and is also constantly looking down in Shinta for "Not being a man" and for his lack of a physical relationship with Nao or the two other girl's he's developed a close friendship with (For the record, Shinta is likely in grade 7 or 8, since he's a First Year student in Middle School). Being the Bad Advice Father of shojo stereotypes, he tells Shinta to "Two Time" when another girl admits to liking him, saying it's easier to do that than it is to choose between two girls.

Because each chapter is usually a story on it's own, it doesn't contain very much in continuity. It has moments, where it may add a new character and then that character becomes a regular occurrence in future chapters. It's not until Chapter 33 that a genuine story arc begins to occur, and as far as I've read, has not finished resolving.

Art-wise, it's illustrated in a more cute manner, akin to K-On! or Lucky Star. Not chibi art, but the disproportions stereotypical to Anime are more exaggerated. The writing is clever and funny, and once the storyline develops, is actually quite engaging. There is no licensed English translation, so if you can read Japanese I would recommend (for legal reasons) you try to order this series (now in six volumes I believe), or if you've ever heard of Google, you could use that to your benefit if you can't read Japanese.

Also, one final note: this manga isn't for everyone. The humor is crude and sometimes near sexist (The First Oppai War!), and also sometimes features members of the cast in various states of undress, which considering the age of the cast is something that should be taken into account before ordering. There is no full frontal pictures, and this is story based. In other words, pervs, it's not hentai. But if any of these are of concern to you, this is probably not the series for you. But if you want something interesting to read that won't consume most of your time, I suggest you give this a try, and also ask your favorite local-language publisher if they could licence it for your area.


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