Japan knows how to make their characters cute. This is a known, pretty much indisputable fact.
And one of their favorite methods of creating undeniably adorable characters is to give them some animal features – ears, tails, mannerisms, and maybe the occasional “fang of mischief.”
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This has become such a common trend that some anime put “kemonomimi” front and center as pretty much the whole point of the series. Here are 10 examples of exactly that.
Asobi ni Iku yo!
In Japan, guys have a really hard time approaching girls. Social anxiety is super real. That’s why there are series like Asobi ni Iku yo!, about naked cat girls literally falling from the sky into the laps of average teenagers.
I guess the implication is that this is the most realistic way for them to meet girls, which might explain Japan’s declining birth rates.
Seriously, this is about a cat girl alien named Eris, and her mission to study Earth and its inhabitants for her home world. So she pretty much shacks up with the first guy she meets, while shady organizations attempt to capture her for… reasons.
Also, the English title for this series is “Cat Planet Cuties” (this is not even close to a direct translation), so you know they’re not even trying to pretend the point of the show isn’t “look at this cute cat girl.”
Maybe cats aren’t your thing. Maybe dogs are more your jam.
Better yet, maybe you want to see dogs and cats fighting. And instead of actual dogs and cats, it’s dog girls and cat girls. And instead of fighting a war, they’re fighting sort of casualty-free athletic festival-style competitions.
Let’s be real here, Dog Days is cute, and that’s all it’s trying to be. The plot and the writing are silly, but the character designs are adorable, and the moe humor is on point. As long as you’re okay with that, you’ll have fun with this.
Inukami are dog gods or dogs spirits, an important Japanese deity. They tend to be mischevious, but also, like dogs themselves, can be loyal to humans.
That’s the basic premise here, as we have a couple of misfits thrown together: Keita Kawahira, a no-talent inukami trainer, and Youko, an unruly inukami that nobody seems to be able to tame.
Together, the two of them get into trouble, as Keita chases skirts and money, and Youko – who has contracted with him, gets ticked off and blows him up regularly.
It’s a romantic comedy, so yeah. You know the drill here.
Mayoi Neko Overrun!
Sometimes the idea of a “cat girl” is a bit more fluid. Sometimes they’re obviously cat-like, with fuzzy ears, tails, and even whiskers.
Other times, they just look like normal girls, but with hair that resembles cat ears, and mannerisms to match. That’s Mayoi Neko Overrun!, the story of a mysterious cat-like girl named Nozomi Kiriya who is adopted by the owner of a nearby cake shop.
And in that cake shop lives Takumi Tsuzuki, who will go on to develop relationships with Nozomi, his childhood friend, the richest and weirdest girl at school, and his older sister who is of course not blood-related.
The series goes full harem very quickly, but Nozomi is the real star, as the cast works to discover who she really is and why she acts so much like a cat.
The cool thing about Wolf’s Rain is that the main characters are wolves. Like, they are just wolves who have learned how to take on human appearances.
But they’re not cute wolf people with ears, they’re just humans. They’re in hiding from a human population that fears and hunts wolves, so they’re not really interested in wiggling their cute ears for the camera. Yet even without those tells, it’s easy to see which human character corresponds to each wolf from hair color, facial expression, build, and so on. It’s a masterpiece of character design.
Wolf’s Rain is an older series, and it isn’t one that’s going to make you feel good. It’s dark, bleak, and frequently depressing. But there is a beauty in it, and a true artistic vision that’s hard to find in a lot of new anime. Master composer Yoko Kanno scores the series, which should be reason enough to give it a look.
If you feel your preferred animal has not been properly represented in kemonomimi form thus far, fear not. Utawarerumono has birds, and foxes, and tigers, and whatever else you can think of, all fighting for dominance in a war setting. And a focus on actual battlefield tactics is one of the highlights of the series.
In the middle of it all is Hakuoro, who has the classic “protagonist’s amnesia,” and will try to navigate the battlefields and politics of this world.
Hana didn’t know the man she fell in love with was a werewolf. She just knew she was falling in love with him, so by the time she found out, she didn’t care what he was. They started a family together, resulting in a pair of half-wolf children – and shortly thereafter, their father meets an untimely end.
Now, not only is Hana a single mother, she’s a single mother raising two children who are trapped between two very different identities.
Wolf Children is a story about Hana’s struggle to raise children who can function in the human world, but it is equally about the childrens’ coming-of-age and their struggles to find where they belong in the world.
Strike Witches is decidedly less thoughtful than Wolf Children. It’s about an alternate-universe version of World War 2, in which aliens have invaded.
Apparently the only way to stop the invasion is to strap some leg-mounted jetpacks on cat girls and have them fly into battle. In retrospect, this would probably have made World War 2 better for everyone, especially Japan.
Because cat ears aren’t just for girls, and kemonomimi characters aren’t just for (straight) boys to ogle at, we have Loveless.
In this universe, everybody is born with cat ears and tail. They sport it for their whole lives – until they have sex. Therefore, the cat ears and tail have come to symbolize innocence and purity.
Ritsuka Aoyagi still has his ears and tail (I mean, he’s 12, so he ought to), but his brother has just died, and he has no idea why. A mysterious man named Agatsuma Soubi appears and claims to have been his brother’s partner in a so-called “fighting pair.” Now that his brother is dead, Agatsuma has pledged to protect Ritsuka.
Together, they search for the truth behind Ritsuka’s brother’s death… and they get closer in more personal ways as well.
Spice & Wolf
Holo is a wolf deity, and she travels with a spice trader. So now we have the title summary out of the way.
Spice and Wolf has the distinction of being one of the only anime chiefly about economics. Sure, there is some intrigue and action here and there. But the meat of the story is in Lawrence, a traveling merchant, and Holo, who has an uncanny ability to gauge people’s intentions, figuring out how to navigate markets and maximize profits together.
The story goes further than that, of course. The relationship between the two characters deepens and shifts over time, and the aspirations that they start the series with are completely different from where they end up. But these changes are always told through a foreground story of business and trade management.
There definitely isn’t anything quite like Spice and Wolf, and Holo is one of the most recognizable kemonomimi characters in anime.