There’s a lot I could say to start this review off, but I’ll go with this; hentai games are almost always bad. This is a near universally accepted fact amongst anybody even remotely familiar with the eroge subgenre and can also be applied to porn games made in other countries—the vast majority of adult video games exist as excuses for the adult content within them, which is either focused on to such a degree that such things as mechanics and game design are completely forgotten about, or is bad in-and-of itself along with the game in which its been included. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing (at least in the first case); often I find that if a hentai or porn game tries to give its adult scenes too much interactive gameplay integration, it’s a nuisance; I would imagine the vast majority of people don’t want to be trying to play a fucking video game while simultaneously masturbating—at least, not an involved video game requiring you to pay attention. In addition to that, the very nature of a game is that it has some kind of failure state, meaning it’s often possible in games with non-scripted interactive sex scenes (such as Artificial Academy for example) to fail at a sex scene. Who wants to worry about that shit? That said, there are exceptions to the rule—I’m a huge fan of the Rance series for example, and AliceSoft has made tons of other genuinely kickass games which are fun even when divorced completely from the sexual content within them. But it’s important to recognize those genuinely good eroge games are a very small minority, not the majority. This leads us into the discussion of what exactly Nekopara is. Unless you weren’t paying attention to internet meme culture around the time this game came out in the west and exploded in popularity, you know that Nekopara is an adult visual novel about catgirls which turned into a giant meme once people started sending it as a troll gift to people on Steam. It became infamous enough that several popular YouTubers played it at the time—but of course, eventually the meme died and it faded into relative obscurity. The game itself is based on the hentai artwork of an artist named Sayori (owner of the doujin circle “NEKO WORKs”), who released a doujin by the name of “Neko Para”. If I had to give my two cents about the whole affair, I like Nekopara for the part of it that’s actually worth my time; it’s one of many hentai games redeemed only by its relatively high quality sex scenes which you would never want to actually play. Why spend money on the game and waste hours of my time clicking through meaningless dialogue just to watch catgirl hentai when I can easily look the sex scenes up online, not have to deal with any of that bullshit and cut straight to the heart of the matter? In general, the whole idea of the games—a perfect utopia filled with catgirls that love you and want your dick—is a story which exists solely as an excuse for the sex scenes which happen in it and can’t stand on its own two feet. Take away the sex, and the game has literally nothing—it can’t justify its own existence without it. So why in the name of God almighty did somebody decide it would be a fuckin’ awesome idea to take this game, strip away the only part of it worth a damn and turn it into a “family friendly” 12-episode long torture session?! And look, this show isn’t offensively terrible or anything, but you remember what I just said about the game having literally nothing without its adult content? That is what this anime is. If somebody asked me to define “nothingness”, I’d point to Nekopara’s anime adaptation. It is such a profoundly boring experience that I could literally feel the seconds passing, and I was lucky enough to be watching the damn show with my best friend! Often I say I would rather be watching something terrible than painfully average but most of the time I don’t fully mean that. This is definitely a rare case in which I actually mean it. I would rather be watching Gamers, or Mars of Destruction, or even fucking Hidan no Aria; as it stands, watching Nekopara feels like taking 4 to 5 hours of your life and allowing them to be sucked mercilessly into the uncaring fucking void. It’s just… completely soulless, and I really mean that. It gives off this almost unsettling sense of excessive positivity and feels fake—a story set in an idyllic version of our world where the only things anybody ever has to worry about are trivial. You know, it actually reminds me a lot of the fake version of reality created by Maruki in Persona 5 Royal. Everyone is happy and has all their wishes fulfilled, but it’s all smoke and mirrors; the cost of “pure happiness” involves the suppression of their individual wills, and much of what makes them happy in the first place is born from the hardships they experienced in reality. Watching Nekopara feels like looking into a twisted utopia where nothing matters precisely because everything is too perfect. And look, I get that it’s supposed to be a happy-go-lucky Slice-of-Life, I do. But this simply isn’t the way! This is a story written by lazy and/or unskilled writers who see “Slice-of-Life” as being a get-out-of-jail-free card allowing them to create a show without having to write anything compelling, because “Slice-of-Life animes don’t need a strong plot!” The genre distinction is irrelevant—no matter what genre you’re writing in, you still need well-written dialogue, good characterization and something interesting to draw the audience’s attention! Just look at the modern state of anime naming conventions, particularly within the Isekai subgenre. Tons of titles have essentially become mini synopses, and there’s a reason for that—people are often drawn into a show by its premise. Akikan is actually a great example of this; an anime about soda cans turning into girls sounds funny and interesting, making the viewer interested in seeing that potential utilized correctly by skilled industry professionals. In theory, Nekopara sounds like it could be something worth watching; an anime about catgirls running a bakery, a super simple concept with the potential to be good. Where Akikan and Nekopara differ, though, is the execution—Akikan is an anime where the premise never gets old and the humor never wears off because the execution is fantastic, whereas Nekopara is an anime where you stop caring about the premise halfway through the first episode because it’s so poorly executed and under-utilized. Whereas Akikan’s premise is an important part of what makes it special, Nekopara’s is nothing more than a cheap gimmick. Right off the bat, the whole idea of this universe is utter nonsense—an alternate reality where real cats have been replaced by catgirls. At first you might think that’s simple, but the issue is having the catgirls literally just be this universe’s equivalent of cats raises far too many uncomfortable questions. Why has humanity casually enslaved a species with humanoid intelligence very similar in appearance to them? How exactly did we get to this point in this alternate universe’s history, and what exactly are its established societal norms? Why are there no catboys? If this show was based on a hentai game, what happens when a human and a cat have children? Are cat years still a thing—and if they are, why the hell did you write that in? In essence, where is the line drawn between “cat” and “girl”? You were never meant to think too hard about this stuff when playing the games because the story was always just an excuse for its adult sequences, but in this case you can’t help but think about it because they’ve taken that same story and presented it to you as though it’s something to be appreciated and given time in the spotlight! I realized after watching the entire show that you could literally strip away every last sentence of dialogue, and the show would lose nothing. In fact, it would probably be better if it was sold to you as a purely visual experience; the artwork is passable and the aesthetic is sparkly and shiny looking. Actually though, I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed the general artstyle didn’t really pay much of an homage to the original artist Nekopara was born from in the first place; the anime’s art style looks generic, not at all like the very easily recognizable and stylistic artwork of Sayori (not to mention there are various easily noticeable animation hiccups throughout). Going back to the poor writing, one of the show’s biggest missteps is its characters; the vast majority of the characters themselves are one-note, boring stereotypes who constantly make the same jokes, say the same things and are constantly involved in ever-present unfunny gags—as a whole, the show has a poor sense of humor and just isn’t funny, with most of its comedy falling flat on its face (often because the show leans far too hard into being cutesy and idyllic, like we discussed earlier). We are given pathetically incompetent introductions to all of these characters because the whole show is predicated upon the idea that you already know them, which is “How not to make your anime adaptation 101”; right out of the gate in the very first episode they try to breeze past the exposition by simply explaining as little as they can possibly get away with, giving a brand new viewer the bare minimum amount of information needed for them to understand what’s happening onscreen and who the characters are on only the most basic surface level (not helped by the fact that these characters don’t really go much deeper than the surface level). This issue is compounded and made significantly worse by how god-damn boring the actual meat of the show is; if they actually put some effort into endearing you to the individual members of their cast, it’s not like it would be cutting into anything interesting that we’re shown! Granted, I think whether or not they put effort into making you care about any of the characters is irrelevant when considering how boring and unlikeable all the characters are in the first place. The truth of the matter is the apathy you feel as a viewer for the show as a whole—with everything and everyone in it included—is the very same apathy its creators felt toward it when they made it. Do you honestly think the team behind an anime adaptation like this one gave a single shit about taking the source material and making something palatable out of it? I certainly wouldn’t, and I highly doubt I’m alone in that lack of interest for the license. This is nothing more than a completely passionless and soulless anime adaptation driven by popularity and the promise of wealth, completely void of any creative vision and dreamt up in a boardroom by businessmen trying to capitalize on the market demand for extremely desperate and unhealthily obsessed actual weeaboos to have an anime for their catgirl waifus (and nothing makes that more apparent than the final after credits scene during which the viewer is given an opportunity to roleplay visiting the café where the show takes place in the first person). Look man, if you’re a fan of Nekopara, like the characters and enjoy seeing them animated here, I don’t blame you. Go nuts, you’re allowed to enjoy whatever you want and I can see who this would appeal to and why. It’s not as though I hate the license or hate this show, but I certainly don’t love it either—that’s what I mean when I say I’m apathetic towards it. It’s a show invoking so little emotion or passion that it simply doesn’t feel like it justifies the time and effort spent to create it, a gigantic fucking nothingburger covered in sparkly glitter with “Nekopara” written on it weakly tossed onto the floor in the general direction of its audience. It does a disservice to other shows in its genre, aping their structure without understanding what makes them compelling and making a fool of everybody involved. And for as theoretically perfect as this world the writers have created seems to be, it’s not only empty of purpose or meaning, but also empty of actual cats—what kind of fucked up hellscape would the world be if we traded our cats for fucking catgirls? Real cats all the god-damn way, and you can write that on my tombstone.

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