Spirits, cat ears, and not much else.

Title: Spirits & Cat Ears
Genre: Ecchi
Publisher: Media Factory (JP), Yen Press (US)
Artist/Writer: Miyuki Nakayama
Translation: Leighann Harvey
Original Release Date: February 21, 2017
A review copy was provided by Yen Press.

Neneko Iizuna’s name has proven to be ironically appropriate for this priestess with a cat-ears curse. Neneko wasn’t born with ears, but once they appeared she was shunned into becoming a shut-in. She’s spent years alone except for her human-shaped familiar, Shichikage, but has been invited to become a priestess specializing in exorcisms. With that, it’s time for Neneko to step out into the world and move forward towards her goal of exorcising her cat ears.

While the premise sounds benign enough, the cover is a better indicator of the mood of the story — and even that image fails to convey just how pervy it is. The manga has many skeevy images of Neneko scantily clothed; her “words of power” used to awaken Shichikage’s full familiar powers involve her begging him to restrain her. Something he very happily does, by the way, via fetish-esque wear once the fighting is over.

To be clear, this isn’t a smutty shoujo title, written for a female audience who’s “type” is a possessive lover. This is seinen; it’s aimed at men and thus the appeal is to see Neneko in ecchi circumstances. Frankly it feels rather tasteless, especially considering that Neneko looks much younger than her 15 years and Shichikage at least appears to be around 20. There is affection between the two of them but the manga tries to portray Shichikage as more of an “older brother” figure to Neneko. He’s protective, teasing, and utterly devoted, but then he breaks out the chain and pet collar again. Honestly, why can’t we ever get a story where the guy/gal is obsessed with dressing their significant other in something stylish and tasteful? (Princess Jellyfish is the only thing that comes close!)

If you plan to muscle through the uncomfortable moments and try to enjoy the underlying story: don’t, there’s nothing here. Oh sure there is a plot: Neneko is meeting other people at the clinic she now works with, she’s adjusting to her new school, trying to master her priestess powers so she can work towards exorcising the spirit that is possessing her, etc, but it’s nothing to write home about. The cast is equally bland; Miyuki Nakayama mistakenly thinks that “shut-in” is actually a personality and the rest of the side cast also fits perfectly into overused tropes (the “handsy older sister authority figure,” “tsundere,” “older-looking man who says somewhat compromising things but the reader shouldn’t be alarmed!” — you get the gist). If there’s an original idea anywhere in this work it has yet to show itself.

There are plenty of better supernatural stories out there, dozens even, that clear the low bar Spirits & Cat Ears sets. No matter if you want more of a romcom bent, more exorcisms, or even another story with ecchi elements, there’s a more engaging story out there. This manga is dull both story-wise and visually; there’s barely any negative space both within individual panels or between panels on a page, and lots of “same-face character” going on which all adds to the monotony. There simply isn’t anything going for this story.