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Japanese Entry 2: Nekomata


“Hmmmm, what a cute nickname. This fool does not know how right he is, and it might just cause him his life!” Japan has a plethora of animals known to transform into humans. One of the more famous examples are of monstrous cats known as nekomata ( 猫また). The legends say that once a cat reaches a certain age, they gain magical powers, and in some cases their tales split in two. This variant of cat yokai are extremely powerful and are almost always malevolent. The nekomata living in the mountains are beastly and grow to monstrous sizes to join other packs of wild animals to attack humans. The nekomata living among humans are more intelligent. There are many stories of them eating their owners and taking their place in life. Other than shapeshifting, nekomata have razor sharp caws, can summon ghostly flames, and even raise the dead. The fear of nekomata was so prevalent that many cat owners would clip the tails of kittens to prevent them from splitting in two and becoming yokai. Some say this ended up in the development of the Japanese bobtail breed of cats. The depiction of nekomata wearing geisha attire is very popular and can be attributed to a couple of reasons. One is the nickname that patrons give geisha, neko or cat. The other reason being that the traditional instrument known as the shamisen (often played by geisha) was made using cate hide. It is a popular image to have a geisha nekomata playing a sorrowful song in memory of her fallen brethren (using them as an instrument adds to the irony). This was my main reason for designing these two characters. I also wanted a “mentor and student” relationship with the geisha being more mature and in control, while the maiko is rowdy and has more catlike characteristics showing. This seems as if though they have been discovered. By whom I wonder?

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