The story follows Yokodera Youto and his hidden perversions. Hidden, of course, as joining the track club solely to gape at girls is not considered socially acceptable behaviour. He conceals these thoughts under a facade, acting in part as the average highschooler so that his intentions are not misunderstood. But eventually, as just about any teenager would, he grows tired of behaving like somebody that he is not. He decides to visit a purportedly wish-granting statue to ask that he can simply be himself, and in doing so entangles himself with the fate of another: Tsukiko, who instead wishes to conceal her emotions.
Immediately, you will probably find yourself thinking how silly this sounds. And you would not be wrong– it is very much silly. The entire notion that a cat statue can somehow grant wishes (and just about any wish, really) is supremely contrived and difficult to accept. But HenNeko seldom takes this aspect seriously. There are still the occasional moments of melodrama here and there marring the overall experience, but provided you are not looking for anything more than some lighthearted fun, it is easy enough to tolerate the lacklustre storytelling. Perhaps not forgive, though.
The biggest problem with the story is not necessarily that it is poorly written or abundant with plotholes, but that it relies solely on the cat statue to get anywhere. Characters don’t resolve issues or develop on their own– the statue does it for them. If it’s time for some drama, hey, why not have a character wish for something inconvenient? And they do. Again and again. It becomes entirely predictable by the end. How is the audience supposed to empathize with a story that feels so artificial, so reliant upon a single plot device? It is almost too bad that a wish-granting statue doesn’t exist in the real world; it could have been used to wish away the show’s own issues.
Thankfully the characters are enough to amend the otherwise juvenile storytelling. Aside from the lustful Yokodera, HenNeko consists primarily of three female characters: Tsukiko, the ojou-sama Azuki Azusa (she’s referred to by her full name for some reason), and Tsukushi, Tsukiko’s violent older sister. Chances are that if you have any potential interest in the series, moe is one of the first things that you are looking for. And HenNeko provides plenty in that regard. Hell, it is the embodiment of moe. Tsukiko may just be one of the cutest characters in anime history, though Azuki Azusa is certainly no slouch either. The only issue is that Tsukiko’s seiyuu overblows the dandere trope. She sounds less monotone and more like an android.
In standard harem fare, they all come to love Yokodera in some way or another. It is justified in the case of Tsukiko and Azuki Azusa, but Tsukishi’s infatuation is shoehorned in from nowhere. It also baffles the mind why she somehow believes that Yokodera and his mythical younger brother (which is just a bluff of his) are separate people, despite looking, sounding and behaving identically. Somehow she is collectively the densest and mature character of the show.
Speaking of Yokodera, he is actually one of the series’ strongest points. For the harem genre where the protagonist is almost invariably some blockhead with the supernatural ability to inadvertently undress girls in mid-air, a comment like that may as well be considered nonsense. But Yokodera defies the genre’s stereotype. He is honest, knows how to communicate with people, does not run away screaming at the sight of panties, and most importantly, has a brain. He is able to instill value to his interaction with the girls and as a result (Tsukishi excluded) their feelings for him seem authentic rather than forced. HenNeko could just as easily have been another insipid harem title if Yokodera behaved like every other harem lead, but thankfully it is a show that understands the importance of a quality protagonist. I just wonder why other harem titles haven’t learned the same.
In terms of art, HenNeko is pleasing to the eye and uses thick lines to give the show its own visual charm. Character designs are considerably appealing and while the art fidelity may not be enough to impress, it still does the job just fine.
The sound also leaves little to be desired. The seiyuu are spectacular all around with veterans like Yukari Tamura and newer names like Kaori Ishihara providing their own personality to the female characters. Yuki Kaji lends his talents to the role of Yokodera and does a stellar job overall (though initially causes some concern for previously voicing a number of aggravating protagonists). And while the background music is restrained and barely noticeable, the opening and ending sequences are infectiously catchy and adorable. It would be insanity to skip them.
Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko does not tread any new ground, but what it fails to provide in creativity it makes up for with a solid cast of characters. If you are expecting a decent story, deep themes or anything beyond some nice lighthearted fun, you will be sorely disappointed.
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