The History of Neko

by Alphaville Herald on 14/09/08 at 4:01 pm

by Stacia Villota, virtual Neko

CatmangaThink of this lovely photo as the cover to your History lesson today… designed to reflect the artistic style of Japanese manga covers (for a very specific reason, as you’ll come to see). Open it up and turn to the chapter titled “History of Neko 101.” Are you wearing your perquisite Japanese schoolgirl uniform? Excellent. Let us explore the history and evolution of Nekos, shall we?

The History of Neko (as best as this schoolgirl can tell)

In the early 90’s, a Japanese girl named Aoi Hiiragi wrote a manga (Japanese “comic book”) series called “Whisper of the Heart” (or Mimi o Sumaseba 耳をすませば). In them, she introduced a mysterious but elegantly dressed silver cat named The Baron. Her mangas inspired an anime movie in 1995, as well as a sequel in 2002 called “The Cat Returns” (Neko no Ongaeshi 猫の恩返し).

Although both animes featured The Baron, it was the storyline of the second anime that likely contributed to the birth of Nekos. The story went like this:

A young schoolgirl was captured and taken to the Cat Realm by force, where she was expected to marry the Prince of the Cat Kingdom against her will. During a pre-nuptual feast, she began magically transforming into a Neko (human shape with paws, ears, and whiskers), in preparation for the ceremony. Before the transformation was complete however, The Baron and other cats helped her escape.

Yet… like so many Nekos I’ve spoken to in Second Life, a strange thing happened: The tail and ears gradually began to “feel right” as she discovered her true self, and acknowledged her feelings for The Baron.


Not long after, Japanese girls began dressing up Neko (which means “cat” in Japanese). But they weren’t alone, and quite possibly not the first to identify with cats in a human way (although this kitteh would argue that their influence weighed heavily).

Over in the U.S., American girls had been taking inspiration from Catwoman, one of the villains in the Batman comics, and quite possibly from the musical Cats, which came out in 1981.Fa1_001

So what do you get when you combine all of these influences, and mix gently in a virtual world like Second Life? The birth of Nekos…

The Early Days of Neko in SL

Once again, the luck of my nine Neko lives was with me when I met Fa Nyak — one of SL’s original Nekos (and designer / owner of the store: >(O.o)< on Mew Island).

“I remember when I first started selling the kitty animation overrides, Neko didn’t even exist as a search term,” recalled Fa, pictured at right. “That picked up a year or so later. But there were only like two other stores with anything… basically a bell collar or something like that.”

So if “Neko” wasn’t a common term, what did they call themselves? “We called it catgirl,” Fa shrugged. “In fact I was really wierded out when everyone started calling it by the Japanese word Neko… I had always just said catgirl!” (I suspect the term Neko may have come about as more and more Japanese joined Second Life; they seemed to take the whole concept of dressing and being Neko to a much higher level.)

During SL’s second year, Fa said with a smile and a headshake, the “Neko thing really took off, and now I don’t think I even show up in the search for Neko anymore, I’m so buried under all the malls and random shops.” (I’m hoping this blog will help…)

So there you have it. Born of a strong affinity for all things feline, rooted in Japanese manga and American comics, inspired by anime, and now living and evolving in the virtual world of Second Life (and other virtual worlds)… it seems we Nekos have a pretty fascinating history. (Don’t worry, there will be no test; the Baron already gave me an A+.) ^_^

Appropriate Attire For Studying Neko History

Ahh yes. You’ve sat through class like such good little Nekos, waiting for me to divulge my shopping secrets. Let me start by saying this: I heart CatNip! Akasha Wachmann makes some of the best, outrageously funny Neko accessories on the grid (in my not-so-humble opinion of course).

But the girl’s talent is further complemented by a sweet heart: after receiving a crazy idea from a strange Neko girl one night, she took up the challenge, and designed this adorable school backpack just for this post. Of course I also needed to pack a school lunch (her “yummy sardines” arm band) and bring appropriate gadgets (her “ridin nerdy” leg band) for school.

Thank you Akasha, I hope I’m not the only Neko who takes a shine to your new school backpack!
Left: Back to School “backpack;” Top: Yummy Sardines; Bottom: Ridin Nerdy; Right: Tintable Legwarmers, and cute Neko shoes

| Hair | Shop Seu: Fuafua hair in apricot brown
| Outfit | SG / Sweetest Goodbye: School Girl outfit in indigo + red
| Backback | CatNip: Back to School
| Arm band | CatNip: Yummy Sardines
| Thigh strap | CatNip: Ridin Nerdy
| Legwarmers | Gritty Kitty: (tintable) Legwarmer hand tinted to match outfit
| Socks | PBI / Pushbutton Industries: Yardstick Thigh Highs in snow
| Shoes | Ameno (Elle et Lui): Brooklyn styles bordeau women

And don’t forget to check out Fa Nyak’s store >(O.o)< while you’re at it. In addition to some cute gifts Fa dropped on me, I’ve got the “pounce”-animated bracelet, and Bobby wears the ears, which feature some of the best and more unique natural movements I’ve seen.


this article is reprinted from virtual neko and appears by permission of the author

25 Responses to “The History of Neko”

  1. ­

    Sep 14th, 2008

    tl;dr furfaggotry

  2. DartBlueAfro

    Sep 14th, 2008

    that’s funny because i actually met up with Fa Nyak a short while ago looking for a set of neko ears myself.. cool person i say. i even saw that anime when it first came out and it is worth a watch. but i never thought that it was directly related to the whole neko thing. if you see Fa ask her if she lieks mudkips. srsly she <3 them!

  3. Neko Bellend

    Sep 14th, 2008

    I agree with Mr Noname up top. They are the diet cola of Furries.

  4. Alyx Stoklitsky

    Sep 14th, 2008

    Personally, I am in full support of the 10% rule.

  5. mootykips

    Sep 14th, 2008

    Yes, the 10% rule is an excellent benchmark.

  6. pearson

    Sep 15th, 2008

    Yes, 10% of teen boys are afraid of a lot of things.

    Poor lil fellas.

    Must be a rough life, running around like old ladies on the net, looking for things to be offended by.

    VOTE PALIN KIDS. She likes censorship too.

  7. scumshine

    Sep 15th, 2008

    Like a dim glimmering Bevis bulb idea, this is a nice news story that demonstrates the Herald’s occasional ability to entertain and inform.

    Now back to sex, violence and teen angst.

  8. Corona Anatine

    Sep 15th, 2008

    the other 90% of teenage boys are just afraid

  9. General Drama

    Sep 15th, 2008

    Hmmmmm, didn’t the Old South have laws that said if you were 1/12th Nigra, you were full Nigra? Thats like 8.625% or some such.

  10. BJ Tabor

    Sep 15th, 2008

    If people had enough sense to get their Neko girls properly spayed by a certified virtual veterinarian the Lindens wouldn’t be forced to gas so many. A pet means responsibility, even if it is a virtual one.

  11. Anonymous Bastard

    Sep 15th, 2008


    Time to get the flamethrowers, kids.

  12. Stephie

    Sep 15th, 2008

    I’m scared I actually enjoyed reading this article.

  13. Blandford Snook

    Sep 15th, 2008

    This is all new to me. I just became one because of my fondness for cardboard boxes and irrational fear of vacuum cleaners.

  14. Reality

    Sep 16th, 2008

    Very cute and all, but the ‘birth’ of Neko may be taken as far back as feudal Japan, if not Egypt.

    It certainly didnt start with a girl drawing some manga in the nineties, let alone with Second Life…

    And funny to see the chan homeboys calling it furry larvae and stuff, they’re usually jumping up and down to defend Neko to their last breath, foaming at the mouth and screaming it’s NOT TEH FURRYFAGGOTRY.

    (if you ask me, if it’s even part animal, you might as well be running around in a fursuit raping the neighbour’s dog.)

  15. mootykips

    Sep 16th, 2008

    spoilers they’re just trying to troll you
    spoilers they kind of succeeded

  16. Anonymouse

    Sep 16th, 2008

    “if you ask me, if it’s even part animal, you might as well be running around in a fursuit raping the neighbour’s dog.”

    Probably why no one asked you, since that statement makes about as much as sense as saying that if you’re even vaguely a member of /b/ you might as well be in Pakistan with a bomb strapped to your chest running into a crowded school.

    Though I agree with the first part, there wasn’t a lot of research done here was there? An anime from the mid 90s? Hell, if you’re going to consider that, you may want to look at Thundercats, the western kids show from 1985-1987 which notably, the animation for which was done by a studio called Topcraft in Japan, which later went to form Studio Ghibli, who did the Cat Returns movie you were talking about. The Appleseed manga had a catgirl character named Artemis-Alpeia, and that ran from 1985-1989, the Dominion Tank police (same author/artist as Appleseed) also featured two catgirls, Anna and Uni Puma, which was published in 1985. Depending on your definition, you could go even farther back to the movie Cat People in 1942, or Catwoman from the Batman series in her first appearance in 1940. Or yeah you could go even farther back and look at Egyptian and Japanese mythology which involved cat people like the goddess Bast and the mythological creatures Bakeneko.

    And that was with only a little bit of research.

  17. Anonymouse

    Sep 16th, 2008

    Also Fa wasn’t one of SL’s original Nekos unless you’re stretching that word “original” pretty liberally to cover the probably 3 years (2003, 2004, and 2005) before it became a fad. Fa started in late 2004 and there were more than a few in mid-to-late 2003.

  18. Archie Lukas

    Sep 16th, 2008

    Best way to make a cat go woof?

    2 pints of petrol and light a match………….

  19. BJ Tabor

    Sep 16th, 2008

    Reality @ “(if you ask me, if it’s even part animal, you might as well be running around in a fursuit raping the neighbour’s dog.)”

    Can you honestly look my avatar in the face Reality and say you haven’t been to the virtual dog rape sim? No, I bet not. It certainly is pretty interesting all these Neko bashing coming from you Reality considering how many Neko kittens just happened to look like your avatar.

    Sounds like someone has been playing in the catbox.

  20. Reality

    Sep 16th, 2008

    FYI – if it isn’t linked to my blog or if it is bashing any group in second Life aside form GOR, the ‘military’ or griefers …. it is not me nor my avatar.

    Kudos for screwing up so royally however BJ.

  21. Stacia Villota

    Sep 17th, 2008

    I’m enjoying all the responses… positive and negative. Anonymouse, you’re hired! I love someone who enjoys getting into research as much as I do, hee hee.

    All that aside, it sounds like I owe you a point of clarification:

    If I’d intended to write the history of “Cat People,” you’re right, I’d have gone much further back in time, ranging from the (very furry) Artemis-Alpeia from the Appleseed manga, the android felines Anna and Uni Puma, and the furry human super(cat)heroes Thundercats (incidentally my post did give a nod to Catwoman of Batman fame, given that she is essentially a human wearing cat parts, rather than a furry human), to the ancient Egyptian goddesses and their worshipers.

    However my focus was more narrow: “Nekos” is a Japanese term. The history of Nekos is a far more specific and recent evolution, directly related to the whole kawaii / Japanese schoolgirl thing that happens on the streets of Tokyo — all of which is rooted in the Japanese love of cosplay.

    In fact my original draft of this post had an initial section dedicated to cosplay, in order to introduce the concept of Japanese girls dressing up in their favorite manga and anime characters. But I was pretty sure that amount of information was going to be too much for the majority of my readers to wade through (though I’ve saved it for a future post on cosplay).

    If I were to go outside of the Neko-specific focus, it would indeed be fair to acknowledge these other examples you mention, which (at least to me) reinforces the many ways that humans have identified with cats throughout the centuries. Japanese-rooted “Nekos” are simply one of the more recent examples.

    All this aside, please keep those cards and letters coming, cuz I love nothing more than to learn, and it’s way more fun when we can figure it out together. ^_^


    Anna and Uni Puma


    Cat Worship in Ancient Egypt

  22. Reality

    Sep 17th, 2008

    Yes, a little oopsie from BJ, this is not the reality in blue, just some other guy who likes the name because, well, I tend to give people hits with the reality stick (e.g., remind them all it’s just a game etc, those kinda comments)

    anyway, what I was trying to say…

    the ‘ten percent rule’ (e.g. if it’s only 10% animal it’s A-OK and anything a little more, is TEH FURRY and therefor must be bashed, because it is nothing but a fetish of people who rape dogs etc etc), to me is total bullshit.

    “Ah, cat ears and a tail on humans, cool, I can fap to that. But oh noes, if it’s got whiskers and even a hint of a muzzle, ZOMG yiff in hell.”

    What-the-fuck? :D

    That, is just stupid.

    I dont have anything against people with any kind of fetish, if it gets you off and aint hurting anyone, hey, go for it. I dont have any illusions that I have the right to decide on what someone else should or should not do with their life.

    I hate hypocrits, tho.

    Mooty was right about the trolling, that’s indeed what the “you might as well be running around in a fursuit raping the neighbour’s dog” line in my post was. Not even bashing, just making a comparison.

    If you fap to something that is not entirely human and not entirely animal but somewhere in between, have the balls to admit it, and certainly dont diss others when they do the same.

    Apples and apples.

    Neko’s, catpeople, furries, whatever you want to call them, all the same ballgame.

  23. zaphekiah

    Sep 20th, 2008

    One should not overlook the impact of the seminal work “Josey and the Pussycats” on the collective unconscious.

  24. Anonymous

    Sep 21st, 2008

    looking at the above comments defending catgirls and nekos by stating historical shit sounds just like the justification pedophiles use, or, more relevantly,justification furries use (Native americans and totem animals, etc)

    No one cares, you’re just a different breed of furfag.

    The only sane part is the fact that you still want to fuck something that still resembles a person. That’s being liberal about it too.

  25. NEKO

    Nov 21st, 2008

    The History of Neko .. Waaawww , i love thatt.Purrrrrrrrrrr ^-^
    i would love to link to that post

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