Manga Review: Spirits & Cat Ears – Volume 1

I have previously described Spirits & Cat Ears as “Charming, Lovable and a little bit ecchi” on our Instagram page but when you dig deeper into the characters and their stories you’ll soon realise that Spirits & Cat Ears offers so much more than that and it all begins with this Volume 1 release which has kindly been brought to us by YenPress.

Title: Spirits & Cat Ears – Volume 1
Publisher: YenPress
Author Miyuki Nakayama
Illustrator Miyuki Nakayama
Pages 208
Language English

Synopsis:

Neneko Iizuna is a shy girl with a secret: cat ears. Embarrassed over her feline appearance, Neneko’s retreated from the world. But when she receives a letter asking her to become the miko of an infirmary, she finds herself taking on the unexpected challenge of exorcism!

Is this young cat girl up to the task of taking on the spirits, can she get along with her new co-workers? And how exactly does she feel about being chained up by a leash? It’s an opportunity for new “bonds” to form!

Our View:

What originally started off as series creator Miyuki Nakayama wanting to draw “a cute couple doing some bondage and S&M stuff” (as quoted by herself in the afterword section of this first volume) soon evolved into a unique story which sees high-school-girl Neneko Iizuna and her familiar Shichikage Sagami leave home to train as a priestess (or exorcists if you prefer). It’s a story which starts rather abruptly (as it begins with these characters leaving their home and arguing in the process) but if you bear with it, especially through the first chapter of this first volume, you will be treated to an enjoyable story with a lovable cast of characters that you’ll find difficult to put down; or at least that was my experience.

Containing 208 pages, which is separated into four story chapters, a ‘bonus’ segment and preview of the next volume; this first volume of Spirits & Cat Ears focuses our attention on Neneko Iizuna and her familiar Shichikage Salami as they begin a new life within a clinic as a priestess (exorcist) and familiar in training and the challenges they face while doing so. Now unlike your typical ‘I want to become stronger’ character types Neneko Iizuna is actually a rather vulnerable character due to her appearance being changed in to a cat when possessed by a kuda (Cat) spirit at a young age. As a result of this Neneko was bullied and has since remained indoors but upon accidentally summoning a familiar (introduced as Shichikage Salami) a new partnership is formed and her own personal issues soon become a little bit easier to bare.

Naturally Neneko Iizuna is only half of the story; as while she can become easily overwhelmed in simple situations, such as going outside, talking to people or making friends; her familiar, Shichikage Salami also has his own unique quirks. Shichikage Salami is the familiar of Neneko and as such assists in her every day needs and usually acts as support; but naturally when danger lurks he also acts as her protector. However Shichikage has a rather ‘unique’ quirk which sees him wanting to dress up Neneko in various outfits, costumes and dresses. It’s a quirk which gets even more comical when he uses his chain ability to protect Neneko from danger (which is where the Bondage and S&M stuff come in to play); furthermore when Neneko is reluctant to do something Shickikage will often force her to do so by way of a collar and leash; bizarre but it is meant in a good ‘playful’ way.

It’s a situation which immediately reminds me of Sebastian and Ciel from Black Butler; except this time Neneko is afraid to do anything by herself and requires Shichikage to help her move forward; however this is also another focal point of the series as although Neneko wants to become a priestess to control her (and her familiar’s powers) its also a way for her to become more self-independent and less reliant on her familiar. Neneko also believes that by becoming a fledged priestess she may be able to exorcise the spirit that has possessed her and in doing so may return her to a normal human girl. Regardless of her objective(s) Neneko, and her familiar Shichikage, are characters which drew me in to this volume and it’s their personality and banter that really brighten up the stories that unfold in the later stages of the volume.

In any event this story of Neneko wanting to become a priestess begins with this first volume and as mentioned it features four chapters with each chapter, of which are around 45-pages in length, focusing on a different scenario with the first chapter acting as the introduction and the remaining three chapters offering a different story to focus on. I won’t spoil the full details but this first chapter unknowingly eases readers in to this fictional world of spirits, familiars and magic by introducing us to Neneko Iizuna, a girl who has spent most of her life indoors after being possessed by a kudos (cat) spirit, and Shichikage Salami, Neneko’s familiar who controls chains and was summoned several years prior by Neneko in a bid to keep her company.  This introductory phase continues throughout the first chapter by providing more information about this fictional world; such as the fact that ‘Words of Power’ spoken by Priestess (Exorcists) can be used to command their familiars to do powerful magical actions and that each pair within the clinic, which is run by Yukari Wata, are also priestesses in training and feature their own magical quirks and words of power.

The remaining chapters on the other hand opt to focus on other topics relating to Neneko’s desires of becoming a more independent person. The second chapter sees Neneko trying to make friends with another priestess in the clinic known as Miya Sounoichi, which to her dismay gives Neneko the cold shoulder due to her own personal troubles; while the third and fourth chapters sees Neneko and Miya attend school and confront their first evil spirit. I won’t spoil the events of each chapter; but each one provides a main objective with comical banter, ecchi and some magic use so each chapter is well rounded, informative and entertaining – which is all you can really ask for from a book.

Episodic contents aside for the time being and the final sections of this volume provide some interesting additions; namely a preview of the next volume and a word from the original author (Miyuki Nakayama) on how the characters and the story came to be. Another interesting aspect is the addition of fan-made artwork from other Japanese authors – all of which giving their voice of encouragement to Miyuki Nakayama and her creation. It’s a wide variety of content and in some aspects can be considered the ‘bonus features’ of this volume; although my personal highlight would be the short story on how to put a collar on Neneko. It sounds bizarre; but in relation to the events of the book it has some high importance.

Overall YenPress have managed to release another high quality product with thick pages throughout and a handful of colour pages that introduce and conclude the stories found within this volume. My only gripe with this release is that some text is small while other text is close to the spine of the book – so you really have to stretch it wide in order to read it; but apart from that Spirits & Cat Ears – Volume 1 is another solid release from YenPress and is one we highy recommend reading.

Score: review-stars-4

Spirits & Cat Ears – Volume 1 is now available within the UK and America via YenPress.

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About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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