By Miyuki Nakayama. Released in Japan “Kudamimi no Neko” by Media Factory, serialization ongoing in the magazine Comic Alive. Released in North America by Yen Press. Translated by Leighann Harvey.
Sometimes, when you read a series, you are inevitably reminded of another earlier series, to the point where you can’t escape thinking about the similarities. Early volumes of Fairy Tail scream “this is One Piece, but at Kodansha”, for example. returning the favor, Black Clover’s early volumes have a very Fairy Tail quality to them. And this new series from Yen, Spirits & Cat Ears, has the same problem, as it’s hard to start reading it without thinking of another, recently completed series that Yen put out, Inu x Boku SS. In fact, given the really obvious similarities and the fate that the late Cocoa Fujiwara even has fanart at the end of the volume, I wonder if Nakayama-san is a former assistant of Fujiwara-san. That said, while there are obvious similarities, Spirits & Cat ears runs in Comic Alive, not Gangan Joker. And you know what that means: fanservice.
It’s actually rather surreal in many ways. Inu x Boku SS, like a lot of Gangan titles, had a large crossover female audience, and you can tell the series would not seem out of place in, say, Zero-Sum or Asuka. Spirits & Cat Ears has a similar premise – young people with powers paired up with attractive older men – but Comic Alive is decidedly a male-oriented magazine, and so… well, take a look at that cover. Neneko is also the “shy, constantly apologizing” sort of heroine, which unfortunately means she’s a pushover when she tries to stand up to her familiar, Shichikage. Ririchiyo could also be manipulated by her own lover/bodyguard, but at least she could not be described as a pushover. A lot of the plot to Spirits & Cat Ears revolves around “bring Neneko out of her shell”, which involves enforced socialization and annoying “punishment outfits”.
This is a ghosts and exorcism manga, and so you get the occasional tale of possession and the like, but the focus is firmly on Neneko rather than the situations she gets herself into. She’s joined by a seemingly sullen but really just shy fellow exorcist, and after the predictable misunderstanding the two become close fast. As for Shichikage, he too feels very much like the sort of guy you’d meet in a shoujo manga. Unfortunately, it’s more the Black Bird sort of shoujo manga hero. He’s right to think that Neneko firming her resolve and stating clearly what she needs him to do will increase her power (and his strength), but his sexualization and fetishization of her is just distasteful, especially as, thanks to the art style, she’s another girl who looks about nine but has a large bust and is really in high school.
This wasn’t completely terrible, but unfortunately the parts of it that were good are the sort of things I get in other, better manga series, and the parts that were bad seemed to stand out more. I’d recommend it to those who like nekomimis or series with a teasing sort-of boyfriend who likes dressing his girl in sexy outfits.