The first of two midpoint reviews. The second will be about Kimi ni Todoke.
Nyan Koi was one of the low-key surprises of the past season. Credits aside, it wasn’t about cat girls, and it turned out to be fairly mild on the fanservice. Instead, it specialized in the kind of “misunderstanding pile up” style comedy that made School Rumble and this show’s spiritual predecessor, Seto No Hanayome, so much fun to watch. Like the latter, it’s a formula show at heart, but one with enough real laughs–most of them provided by the cats–to make it enjoyable.
There are some things I hope the show will do in its next season, however.
A show of this sort needs an original premise. Seto no Hanayome’s can be explained in two words: mermaid yakuza. Nearly all the humor flowed from that concept–the word combination alone is funny. Here, in two words as well, the concept is cat whisperer, and the writers knew enough about character writing to make the cat whisperer also allergic to cats–ie, you hit a character at his weakest point. He must battle his weakness or completely be consumed by it, namely, his curse.
It helps that the main cats in the story–Nyamses especially–are lively presences who are often more colorful than the relatively bland humans. There was a real effort to make their characterization in line of what people think of when they observe cat-like behavior–the aloofness, perceived snootiness, and the scheming nature of at least some of them. Others are as adorable as they look and mew. It actually provided an opportunity for voices we don’t hear a lot of in anime–middle-aged voices, in particular, with the cats seeming to be more diverse than the high-school aged kids who make up most of the human cast.
Nevertheless, the task/quest-based structure of the story, in which Junpei must help a certain number of cats, lent itself to somewhat more rigid plotting than the more open-ended Seto no Hanayome. Initially, it overcame this by tying the cat requests much more strongly to character introduction and development, but later on, they either tended to be B-plots or distractions from the increasingly harem-like situations. By the end of the season a fairly standard love triangle setup began to emerge, after forcing a fairly artificial escalation of the plot which was resolved all too hastily. Hopefully the second season will try different and more original things. (And also make the mailwoman more than simply a gag character–her introduction was one of the more amusing episodes of the series and I hope she gets some actual development for a change. My guess is that she could become Junpei’s comical love-mentor or something, beyond simply advising him, admittedly hilariously, to “bang them both!”)
Nyan Koi is by no means a brilliant show. It hasn’t even reached the ridiculous heights of its betters yet. Nevertheless, it also happens to be the first show I’ve seen all the way through this season, and that’s got to count for something. Bring on season 2, and fast!