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AKA: Nekojiru Theater
Genre: Disturbing, surreal comedy with social allegory
Length: Television series, 27 episodes, 3 1/4 minutes each
Distributor: Currently unlicensed in North America
Content Rating: NC-17 (graphic violence, extreme language, disturbing thematic elements)
Related Series: Cat Soup
Also Recommended: Cat Soup; (non-anime) South Park (especially if you are all about the "OH MY GOD! THEY KILLED KENNY!"), Happy Tree Friends
Notes: Based on the manga Nekojiru Udon by Nekojiru, who committed suicide in 1998. The manga was then continued by her husband.
Rating: Two StarsTwo Stars
 

Nekojiro Gekijou

Synopsis

Cute kitten siblings Nyaata and Nyaako go about their daily lives, interacting with other cute human-like characters such as pigs, raccoons, dogs, and even some silly-looking humans. Ironically, these kittens are troublemakers with little regard for life.


Review

Before the critically-acclaimed surrealist Nekojiru-sou (Cat Soup) won the Japan Media Awards Festival Prize of Excellence in 2001, the Autumn 1999 anime season showed a series of disturbing, violent pieces of social commentary under the title Nekojiru Gekijou, featuring the characters penned by the enigmatic manga-ka Nekojiru, who had made headlines for the first time in 1998, when she committed suicide. Afterward her husband continued to produce the manga, which featured two deceptively adorable humanized kittens who would participate in acts of reprehensible cruelty.

Discrimination (usually against pig characters), mass murder (in the manga, on insects, in the anime, on people, pigs, raccoons ... you name it), death, abuse, alcoholism ... the universe which mangaka Nekojiru creates for us is disturbing, depressing, and not the least bit funny. Supposedly this animated work is supposed to provoke us to think about unpleasant social issues. But what are we supposed to take away from a title where two kittens are homocidal sociopaths?

The family of cats--who are they supposed to represent? With the drunken father who lounges around and doesn't speak a word, the mother who does all the work and bossing around (smacking the kids on the head when provoked), and the two kittens--are they supposed to represent the Japanese family? And who are the pigs? Completely ignored in school, ridiculed by the kittens, in one episode they are actually kept in a pig pen and a piglet is eventually slayed for tonkatsu (fried pork cutlet)--in a few episodes, the piglets are actually shown eating tonkatsu--an allegory to cannibalism?

The animation is similar to that of Ebichu or Crayon Shin-chan. It is simple and cartoonish--the first impression you would get looking at the title is a cute, childish, silly story of two kittens causing mischief. It is anything but. As soon as you hear the voices of the characters--all flat and adult, maybe even a little grating--you realize that this disturbing "art series" is more than what you bargained for.

Rather than being something artistic and thoughtful, however, we catch a glimpse of the mind of someone suicidal, empty, and void of any joy. Long-time friend of Nekojiru wrote in response shortly after her suicide an accurate analysis of her work: "Two cat siblings go around randomly killing whatever rubs them the wrong way. Whatever they dislike, they kill. The cuteness of the cats lures us into accepting their casual cruelty. It's an outlook that seems to bespeak at the very least an ounce of self-hatred, if not outright hatred of the entire human race." Unfortunately for fans of the award-winning Nekojiru-sou, the TV series doesn't have nearly the artistic influence as the movie boasts. However, Nekojiru Gekijou does have its role in the world of animation--but it serves better as a psychological study, rather than a source of entertainment.

Add a star if you are a psychology major. You could psycho-analyze this puppy--er--kitten?--for hours. If you really cannot handle gore or refuse to watch animation with a low frame-per-second rate, subtract that second star. Melissa Sternenberg

Recommended Audience: As the movie rating suggests, not for kids. Not for the squeamish. Probably best for drinking games. If you really want a complete picture of the darker underworld of Japanese media, this might be a good title for you.



Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (27/27)
Nekojiro Gekijou © 1999 Japan Home Video / TV Asahi
 
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