Review for Nyan Koi!: Collection
One thing that I love about anime is that people can do practically anything with the medium. It’s not just that animation frees up the possibilities of what can be accomplished with a limited budget, but creators get to try out the weirdest and wackiest ideas for the space of 13 or 24 episodes, coming up with shows that you’d never get in live action, and certainly wouldn’t get from studios aiming for the mainstream. So in my collection I have a show about a boy whose hand gets replaced with a little girl, a show about someone who can kill by writing names in a book, a show about secret agents that fight with paper, a show about a Mafioso mermaid family, a show about the noble art of tankery, and I now get to see a show where a boy with cat allergies gets cursed to turn into a cat. I’m always looking for the next show to see what other outlandish stories people can come up with. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that Japan has some of the strictest anti-drug laws in the world!
Junpei Kousaka is a high school boy with a problem. He’s allergic to cats. You might not think this would be so bad, but his family loves cats, and he’s often woken up by sneezing to the family moggy, Nyamsus. It gets worse. He’s got a crush on classmate Kaede Mizuno, and she loves cats. She hasn’t got it easy either, as her family are dog people, making her overcompensate every time she wants to show affection to a cute feline.
Then one day Junpei makes the mistake of kicking a can, missing the waste bin he was aiming at, and hitting the statue of a cat instead, decapitating it. The problem was that it’s a statue in a shrine, and by damaging it, Junpei has been cursed. He can now actually hear, and understand what cats are saying, and worse, he’ll eventually turn into a cat, which given his allergies will probably prove fatal. The only chance he has of breaking the curse is to help a hundred cats. It’s a good thing he can understand them then.
12 episodes of Nyan Koi are presented across three discs from MVM. The show is also available on Blu-ray if you are HD equipped.
Kitty 1. The Scruffy Cat and the Cursed High Schooler
Kitty 2. That Man is a Manservant?
Kitty 3. Your Name Is...
Kitty 4. Beautiful People
Kitty 5. Times Square
Kitty 6. Milk and Bitters and Sugar and Spice
Kitty 7. Wait Until Dark
Kitty 8. The Passionate Private Running Coach
Kitty 9. Girls in the Water
Kitty 10. As it Happened One Night
Kitty 11. Friends
Kitty 12. Does Heaven Await Me?
Nyan Koi gets a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer on these dual layer discs, and given that they are the Sentai discs repurposed, they are unsurprisingly in progressive NTSC format. It’s a nice transfer, clear and sharp throughout, with strong colours and no visible signs of compression. It’s a comparatively simplistic, comedy anime, so this isn’t a show for dramatic detail or elaborate visual design, but the animation is fluid and energetic, and even if the character designs are middle of the road for anime, they are pleasant and memorable enough. But I was unexpectedly impressed at the cat designs, as they all manage to be individual, and reflect their personalities too.
You have the choice between DD 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese, with optional translated subtitles and signs. The audio is clear throughout, without any glitches, while the subtitles are timed accurately and free of typographical error (except one typo at the end of the series, the final episode’s post credits sequence). The theme songs are toe-tappingly forgettable, and the show’s few action sequences are represented well in the mix. While the voices, and indeed the characterisations are generic, the Japanese is still the way to go, unless you like an English dub overflowing with Japanese honorifics.
These appear to be the Sentai discs repurposed for Region 2, presenting their content with static menus, jacket pictures, with each episode followed by a translated English credit scroll.
You’ll find trailers on disc 1 for Shining Hearts, tsuritama, MEDAKA BOX, Special A, This Boy Caught a Merman, and TARI TARI.
On disc 2, you’ll find the textless credit sequences.
I paid a little too much attention to the Nyan in the title, and not enough to the Koi, and wound up with expectations of a quirky, leftfield comedy focusing on the shenanigans that ensue when a boy, cursed to become a cat, has to undo the curse by helping cats (to which he is allergic). There is a little of that in Nyan Koi, but not as much as I expected, for what this show really is, is a romantic harem comedy, and the cat antics are just a means to an end here. Putting aside the inevitable disappointment at yet another genre title in a an already oversubscribed genre, Nyan Koi turned out to be a pretty fun harem comedy, with likeable characters and an engaging, if familiar story.
Junpei Kousaka is the typical hapless teen male in these situations, although he’s been nursing a serious crush on classmate Kaede Mizuno from afar. He also has the childhood friend in Kanako Sumiyoshi, a relationship that has the potential to blossom, at least from her perspective. Of course nothing would happen normally, with Junpei being typically hapless, were it not for the curse. Damaging a statue has left him in danger of turning into a cat, unless he helps a hundred cats. The problem is that he’s allergic to cats, but one benefit the curse has is that he’s now able to understand cats, and when his first ‘client’ asks him to protect him from the neighbourhood cat monster, it sets him down the path of harem romance. For the monster is Mizuno, whose family loves dogs, but she loves cats, and when she sees a cute kitty, she overcompensates, and supplies hugs like the Abominable Snowman in the Bugs Bunny cartoons. Junpei actually has to talk to her, and explain that cats don’t want to be so eagerly hugged.
His childhood friend Sumiyoshi has taken on a style of aggressive make-up, and is even more aggressive to Junpei, but when the school moggy wants Junpei to thank the person that’s been feeding him and it turns out to be Sumiyoshi, another flag in the harem stakes is raised (and once Sumiyoshi ditches the make-up, she scrubs up pretty well, although she doesn’t lose the aggression). So it is that as Junpei helps more and more cats, he encounters more and more girls, the college student Chizuru working part-time as a postwoman, with no sense of direction, Mizuno’s protective upperclassman and yakuza heiress Nagi Ichinose, and temple twins Akari (tsundere) and Kotone (stalker) Kirishima. It’s almost like Love Hina but with added cats, and plenty of wacky stories and awkward situations ensue.
Nyan Koi primarily works because despite all the attention that Junpei gets, he’s fixated on his ideal girl, Mizuno, and his eye doesn’t stray at all, so his usual problem is trying to clear up any misconceptions that Mizuno develops because of the situations he finds himself in. He’s also not quite as hapless as the usual harem protagonists in that he is at least trying to make a connection with Mizuno, instead of spending his time vacillating and procrastinating. There is the requisite fan service to be sure, and the nosebleeds that ensue, but the stories are fun, the characters are likeable, and the cat interludes are entertaining too. Once in a while you get an episode where the two sides mesh, cats and girls, and those are the best episodes, which live up to my initial expectations, but usually they are two separate story arcs, especially given Junpei’s need to keep his curse a secret from everyone.
Nyan Koi is everything you could want from a harem comedy, entertaining, funny, and utterly likeable. That it hardly does anything new, or add much original to a well-trodden genre is beside the point. They are all variations on a theme anyway, and it’s down to the subtle differences to set each one apart in viewers’ eyes. Nyan Koi doesn’t put a foot wrong, and neither does its comedy get harsh or exploitative. So give Nyan Koi a chance, and this one might turn out to be your favourite harem comedy (especially if you like cats).