by Alphaville Herald on 14/09/08 at 4:01 pm
by Stacia Villota, virtual Neko
Think 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).
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
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