A catgirl is a female character with cat traits, such as cat ears, a cat tail, or other feline characteristics on an otherwise human body. Catgirls are found in various fiction genres and in particular Japanese anime and manga, where they are more commonly referred to as neko (猫, literally cat) or nekomimi (猫耳, literally cat ear(s)).
Catgirls typically display cat-like behaviors, exhibiting traits such as playfulness, mischievousness and deviousness. Sometimes this may include cat gestures or sounds in written or verbal communications. An often used running gag is that catgirls habitually end their lines of speech with the phrase (にゃあ) nyā, the Japanese onomatopoeia for a cat's meow.
In anime and manga regular humans will sometimes sprout cat ears or a tail in order to illustrate their excitable or playful personalities. This is similar to the phenomenon of becoming chibi. Additionally characters may be portrayed with a catlike mouth to emphasize mischievous thoughts or comments by a character.
Examples in popular culture
- In 1924, Kenji Miyazawa (Japanese author of children's literature in the early Shōwa period of Japan) created Yukibango, a cat girl, in his first collection of children's stories Chūmon no Ōi Ryōriten (注文の多い料理店, The Restaurant of Many Orders).
- Catwoman and Cheetah from DC Comics, dating back to 1940.
- The cartoon series Josie and the Pussycats in the early 1970s and the 1993 film Teenage Catgirls in Heat.
- Cartoon characters such as Lieutenant M'Ress in the animated Star Trek or Cheetara from ThunderCats.
- Anime characters such as Shizuka Nekonome from Rosario + Vampire or Ichigo from Tokyo Mew Mew.
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