Nekopara – The ‘Catgirl’ Visual Novel
Nekopara, is something of an… enigma. Not because it is the best VN’s have to offer, though I do find it certainly isn’t the worst… But because, it fills a niche. After all, where else do you get to open up a bakery with a loyal troupe of your very own respectable cat humanoids? Especially ones that happen to have such bodacious (and bouncy) chests…? Not many other places, I can tell you that. Also, you’d be wrong in thinking Nekopara is paper-thin. Generally, the writing is good, the characters are endearing and sweet, and the soundtrack mixes perfectly with the mellow and chill atmosphere.
The Allure of Sweet Kitties
I’m heading straight into the deep water here… As with many visual novels, one of the prime attractions is sex appeal. And, in Nekopara this comes in the form of catgirls. Which I can only assume are the end result of some horrific genetic engineering experiment gone wrong…… or… right? Let us not think too much of the details, because in fact, I doubt Nekopara itself knows them. It needn’t. We needn’t. For it is not the type that thrives on asking too many questions of why things are the way they are.
Fine, fine… we’re attracted to the cute catgirls – that’s the point anyway, right? I think we’d all rather say we weren’t, that we’re of a higher faculty than that… nevertheless, if there’s one thing Nekopara gets right, it’s the cuteness and the likability of its characters. If there’s another, it’s how it manages to culture such sexual attraction towards said characters.
Is that wrong? Is that… immoral… ?
I don’t think so. Nekopara is self-aware, it knows exactly what it is; what people expect when they launch the game, and enter into the world of Kashou and La Soleil. It doesn’t pretend to be anything more than it isn’t. It’s about the relationship between main character (the person playing/Kashou) and the catgirls who are all, in one way or another, attracted to their master (the player) It never offers anything more than that. It never sells itself on false pretences. I think this is fine. Not all things have to have deep intellectual value.
Generally, I don’t believe the kind of themes and content Nekopara offers is in any way problematic – not by itself, anyhow. It’s not real life, of course it isn’t. It’s only when that distinction can’t be made anymore when issues arise. For the majority of people, this is never a problem. Although, I understand the differences, you could compare VNs with shows like Game of Thrones, Vikings, or Westworld; They all contain what could be regarded as gratuitous sex and violence. Media is Media, regardless. They all share certain similarities. It’s just that when things aren’t ‘mainstream,’ they get a lot of bad press. Anyway… that’s an issue for another time.
I don’t have a lot of human interaction in my life. I have very few friends. And, for the majority of the time, I’m crippled by what I can only regard as humorously severe Social Anxiety. So, what does this have to do with Nekopara, you might be asking?
Well, because – for better or worse – it fills a small portion of those discrepancies. I’m torn between believing this is something neutral, or something negative that shouldn’t go unchecked. Nevertheless, it exists in some redundant state; the word would be… pleasure – or at least a subtle form of it. And, don’t get me mixed up, not sexual pleasure, but something more ambiguous and harder to pin down. But something that has warmth nonetheless. Maybe it is better that way.
After all, is this not one of Nekopara’s intrinsic values – being able to vicariously feel things that you otherwise would not? In my personal situation, at the moment, this is ever more true. Whilst I say this, it would be silly, even neglectful for me to completely indulge in visual novels, for me to let too much of myself go while playing them. Yet, I do feel like they serve a purpose. At the very least, for entertainment reasons.
Another attraction, is Slice-of-Life . It is without a doubt my most treasured genre. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy others, only they seem to have less of an impact on me, for whatever reasons. Nekopara is Slice-of-Life, and this fact perks my attention. I suppose you could say a great deal of VNs are Slice-of-Life, being that it’s far easier to relate to the characters’ circumstances. Because, being relatable is a huge selling point of VNs – being able to directly step into the characters shoes, and experience worlds that are not our own.
On a Brighter Side
Visual novels are creative, and a relatively new side of media for myself. I’ve played a couple here and there, and known about them for years. But I’ve never wanted to sit down and explore them in any depth, like I do now. Of course, Nekopara isn’t the best example of an engaging, and nuanced narrative, yet I believe it’s a good entrance into the medium – something that requires little thought (or none at all…). And sometimes, that is the exact thing you’re looking for. Something to sit down with late in the evening, to chill and not have to think about anything important or meaningful.
There are great story/character driven VNs out there: Steins;Gate, Clannad, and Fault Milestone, just to name a few. I think it would be a shame to miss up on these, given the slew of misconceptions of what VNs are, and are not. Sure, you could say the majority of VNs focus on some form of sexual attraction/lust – and some are exclusively that. Nevertheless, as with all other media, I find it unacceptable to group all offerings into the same category based on a few examples.
Doing what you enjoy (within reason) is surely the most important thing, right?
Thanks for reading, as always! (Maybe expect something more on VNs in the future)
p.s Vanilla is best (cat)girl