The MoeGamer Awards are a series of made-up prizes that give me an excuse to celebrate games, concepts and communities I’ve particularly appreciated over the course of 2017. Find out more and suggest some categories here!
Today’s award comes to us from the delightfully named “Garbage Weeb” via Twitter, also known as the host of At the Ebicentre and co-creator of Oppai Bros, both on YouTube. Check out these channels for an interesting mix of livestream discussion and commentary on the former and gameplay of niche and fanservicey games on the latter. Thanks!
There were actually a whole lot of different works I enjoyed this year that this award could have gone to. It was definitely a close-run thing, but I had to make a decision in the end!
And the winner is…
ドキドキ☆ココロ☆フレーバー Thump Thump ☆ Heart-Throbbing ☆ Flavor (Nekopara vol. 2)
My heart is overflowing with a wonderful
Why do I always run in circles
Without accomplishing anything? It’s frustrating!
I’m so clumsy with my words and feelings
Being an adult is really hard!
I love your dazzling smile
I want to stare at it forever
I’m like a lost kitten wagging her tail
Watch out! I’m jumping into your arms
Thump, thump, bittersweet
A flavor that makes my heart race
These sincere whimsical memories
Spread throughout my mind
Even on bad days
As long as you pet me softly
My heart will overflow with a wonderful feeling
And I’ll never achieve my goals
I’ll be by your side forever
So I want to try my best for you
Thump, thump, my heart is pounding
A flavor that makes me feel like I’m in a dream
I want to follow you
Through a shining world I’ve never seen before
I might be just a spoiled brat
But it’s not like I’m going to stop being one
Give me your best hug and cast a spell on me
With a *Kyun*
Translation courtesy of the Nekopara Wiki
2017 was the year I decided that I was going to learn about Nekopara and why it was so popular. Was it one of those series that primarily becomes popular because of memeing edgelords on Steam? Or was there actually something to it? I suspected the latter, as otherwise I doubted it would have grown to be four installments strong by the time I came to it; most “meme games” die out within a month or two.
I was right, thankfully. Nekopara is an utterly charming, heartwarming series with absolutely delightful characters, an enjoyable story, gorgeous artwork, great music and some of the best character sprite animation I’ve seen in any visual novel thanks to the Live2D-esque E-Mote engine on which it is based. Its various chapters may completely lack interactivity, but spending time with these charming virtual characters is so compelling and enjoyable that it simply doesn’t matter; these games just wrap you up in a nice, warm, sweet-smelling hug and don’t let go.
The three “main” installments each focus on a pair of characters from the main cast, while Nekopara vol. 0 is a short-form fandisc that leaves out the main male protagonist in favour of telling a sweet story about all of the catgirls and their daily life. I’m hard-pressed to pick a favourite from the series, since I like all of the characters a great deal and found their stories to be touching, emotional and entertaining, often striking an excellent balance between comedy and pathos as these young, non-human women went about their business and, at times, struggled to fit in with a world that wasn’t quite built for them.
We’re here to talk about opening themes, though, and while all of the series’ OPs are catchy and memorable, I particularly wanted to highlight the main theme from Nekopara vol. 2 as it’s a lovely, energetic little number that perfectly encapsulates the candy-sweet flavour of the series and its characters with the overall timbre of its sound, but which also reflects the characters of vol. 2’s central figures Coconut and Azuki perfectly through its lyrics.
The first part of the song is from Coconut’s perspective. When we first meet her in the series, the natural first reaction is to assume that she is the “big sister” type, since her striking appearance certainly ticks all the boxes for this common trope: she’s tall, blonde, well-endowed in the chest department, has a mature-sounding voice and seems to at least attempt to carry herself with a certain amount of dignity and authority.
This doesn’t last long, however, as we subsequently discover Coconut is actually one of the youngest catgirls in the ensemble cast, and is consequently rather prone to kitten-like behaviour that often seems to happen entirely on instinct. This often frustrates Coconut, who clearly wants to live up to the image people tend to have of her, but she finds it difficult to resist her natural tendencies. Much of vol. 2’s story concerns Coconut learning to be happy in who she is, concerning herself less with how other people think, and growing up at a rate she is comfortable with rather than trying to run before she can walk. By extension, there’s also a message to the reader that one shouldn’t judge books by covers.
The second half of the song, meanwhile, concerns Azuki, who is the inverse of Coconut in that she looks the youngest but is actually the oldest. Azuki’s main flaw is that she always tries just a little bit too hard to be the perfect big sister to anyone, assuming responsibility for even the most chaotic of situations and trying to encourage her adoptive siblings to behave in a manner a bit more becoming of a Bell-holding catgirl.
Azuki, like Coconut, learns that you don’t always have to try and be someone that you aren’t. She does have naturally mature and responsible tendencies, of course, but she also has a childish side that she tends not to allow herself to indulge all that often; it’s not until protagonist Kashou and the other catgirls encourage her to unwind and let her hair down a bit that she comes to understand how to live her life a little more comfortably without being constantly highly strung.
Nekopara vol. 2 is a delightful story that focuses on two of my favourite characters in the series, and its opening theme reflects their personalities perfectly, along with reinforcing the core messages of the narrative. And on top of all that, it’s just an incredibly catchy, toe-tapping theme, to boot; another part of this series’ consistently gorgeous presentation, and one of many reasons it is so widely beloved.
Here’s to many more years in the company of the Minaduki catgirls!
More about Nekopara
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