Howdy, y'all cat and dog people. (It seems that nearly everybody is one type or the other... with a small third party that prefers chinchillas.) Have you ever, like me, stayed up till 3 in the morning arguing with your roommate about which critter would rule the world in our absence? Okay, but then again, none of you have ever gotten to know your advisors well by inviting them over at 1AM to talk about the different kinds of monks in the world. ("Are you serious, Ayesha?" "Umm hmm." "Whoa.") Well... then... have you ever stayed up a little later than your bedtime to discuss whether 'tis the canines or the felines that rule the screen in anime? Ah, ha! I thought so. And that will be the topic for our article this evening.
So, between the two of us, Ayesha is a die-hard lover of the cute and the fuzzy-wuzzy; she is more likely to defend cats, but she really likes both. (ASA: But cats are smarter.) (AI: But dogs are mindlessly loyal.) Adam prefers being in the company of creatures (ASA: be they mindless) that will look up to him as a god among bipedals. (ASA: Men!) (Please pause while we argue about the grammar of the previous statement.)
Ayesha Sakura Ahmed: Take Hello Kitty. How could you NOT love Hello Kitty?! She is the most adorable cat in the world. She was everywhere while I was growing up... on my PJs, my lunch box, my bookbag, my pencil box, my towels, my bedsheet... etc., etc. I never liked Rainbow Bright or even the Care Bears because I thought Hello Kitty was so much better. Born in London, she will always be the epitome of kitty-ness.
Adam Iwantsch: No real arguments there. Hello Kitty was great. Not quite the same fixture in my youth (towels?!? bedsheets?!?!?!), but she was always cute. To counteract the "kitty-ness" of Hello Kitty, I will invoke the honorable name of Pochacco, the soccer-playing, skateboarding dog from Sanrio, Brazil. Now there was a spunky, fun-loving pup.
ASA: Then take Luna, for example, and her partner, Artemis, in Sailor Moon. They were pretty cool cats. They guided the brainless Usagi and troupe through the first few years, before they finally caught a clue.
AI: I cannot believe that someone has just tried to use Sailor Moon as an example of something good in anime. As for Luna, her voice actress in the U.S. anime is terrible. Past that, I never paid much attention to this show.
ASAP: Okay, so MAYBE Sailor Moon was a bad example of good taste in anime, but take Jiji! That adorable little black cat is just sooo cute! He steals Kiki's food and gets the willies every time he sees that pretty white cat-ess. And he plays dead so well!
Artificial Intelligence: But it was a dog that rescued Jiji from that brat's house. Yes, Jiji was very good at playing a doll. So, on a similar track, we have Rin of Fam & Iri fame. Rin was Gulf's companion in crime and a pioneer of the "Why me?" expression as he (1) is trapped by a wild-growing vine, (2) goes spiraling downward into yet another nearly bottomless pit, and (3) dangles from Iri's grasp after he had chased her around a bar. Now, that was a fun character.
American Stamp-collectors' Association: Okay, Rin was amusing. But he couldn't hold a candle to classic characters like Ura from El-Hazard. Ura was not only cute (Makoto! Makoto! Makoto!) while being held by the scruff of HER neck, but she kicked butt, too, literally. She turns into a body armor for Makoto, to protect him from even a direct hit from Ifurita's staff, and she is able to scale a sheer cliff while wrapped around Makoto.
Aggregate Income: Yes, Ura could kick butt like I have never seen a cat kick butt before (ASA: or a Dog, for that matter). No. That is not true. For this point, let me bring to the stand Inuki, the demon dog and companion of Yuzuriha Nekoi, one of the seven Dragons of Heaven in X, and Iggy, the Fool, from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Those two were very powerful fighters and could put Ura to the test. Definitely.
AlaSkA: Well, Ura might have worked up a sweat with those guys, but they definitely would not DARE hurt a hair on Shampoo. Shampoo, our lovely kittenish half-cat from Ranma ½, is one of the most fearsome Kung Fu-ing felines in China. Even Inuki would not dare spook too close to her (Inuki was a Demon Spirit, you see), and as for Iggy, even he knows that gum is the safer-chew toy. Shampoo is "kill or be killed" at its peak.
MAIne: Yeah. I guess Inuki was not really a dog, just an apparition in that form. But (and now I guess I am stretching a little) the most serious battling dogs were the eight warriors of The Hakkenden (ASA: You're stretching it a lot. They were humans with the spirits of dogs.). Well, not entirely. In a spiritual sense, their father was a dog. So, that makes them half-dogs... sort of.
Apathetic Seamonkeys Arching: Okay, to stretch it further, I could counteract with Nuku Nuku (an android with the mind of a cat), Naria, Eriya, and our bug-eyed friend, Merle, from Escaflowne, and the Puma Sisters of Dominion Tank Police. (AI: Esca also has a half-dog in the form of Jajuka (TBA)). But notice how he is the only half-dog. Okay, so there was Ashitare in Fushigi Yuugi, too, but he wasn't even half dog, he was half WOLF! Okay, okay, so there are plenty of werewolves too.. (Slayers, Escaflowne) Anime directors just love cats. They are the best, what can I say? Ah.... And as my esteemed roommate, Patty, has just pointed out, all the cat characters are female, and the guys are dogs. Interesting, hmm... Though Patty does prefer dogs... Wait! There IS a male kinda-cat in kinda-anime... Red XIII from Final Fantasy VII.
Enough about the sexual politics of cats'n'dogs. Back to anime Cat-dom, there is our wonderful Tama from Fushigi Yuugi. Tama (meaning "ball") is the wonderful mime who can imitate Nakago (or so he thinks), impersonate Chichiri (they are often mistaken), and immolate (sort of) Seiryuu barriers.
Apologetic Ingrates: Oh, boy. Now you are fighting back hard. I was just trying to keep the game even before, but now I am going to pull out the really big guns. In one word, I shall strike a mighty victory for all anime dog-lovers. I shall trounce upon the infidel, the cat worshipers. And that word is "Souichiro". (ASA: Who?!) Yes, Souichiro, the dog from Maison Ikkoku. He is the strongest, most dynamic anime-animal that has ever been drawn (ASA: Huh?!).
We all saw the Maison Ikkoku compilation movie, Through the Passing Seasons. Kyoko, age 20, whom we met as the manager of Ikkoku-kan, was widowed after being married for only six months. (Tragic.) During her brief marriage, she and her husband, Souichiro Otonashi, kept a big white dog and tried to train it to respond to its name, Shiro ("white"). But the dog would only respond when called by its master's name, "Souichiro". So at the start of the series, MI, Kyoko appears at Ikkoku-kan to assume her place as the new manager with a dog named after her late husband. Through the series, the dog is clearly not just playing the role of a dog. He is actually the embodiment of Souichiro Otonashi. At the start, Godai is afraid of the dog; the figure of the love of the husband was always waiting to bark at him as he entered and left Ikkoku-kan. In the scene in TtPS when Kyoko trips while trying to flee from the bar (Cha Cha Maru) and Mitaka catches her in an unbecoming manner, there is a quick flash through people's faces. We see Kyoko shocked, Mitaka surprised, Godai horrified, and Souichiro, the "dog", pop his eyes wide open. It was not a dog that reacted in that manner. It was the ghost of Kyoko's husband. Also, one apartment-mate of mine, an astute observer, recently asked why the barking and whining of Souichiro sounded so human. The implication was, "Couldn't they have found a better actor to imitate a dog?" Well, the actor was not just providing the "woof, woof" of a large, white dog. He was transferring the spirit, the feelings, and the presence of Souichiro Otonashi into the body of a dog.
A Slimy Apple: My answer is only word: Kyaa!!!!!!!! That cat can literally stomp down any dog in existence to kingdom come. This huge, 7-foot mega-cat with sunglasses from Please Save My Earth can only be matched by the 7-foot-long Nekobus in My Neighbor Totoro.
Another slImy apple: I am not talking about stomping anyone, darn it. I am taking about the depth of character that some animals in anime can achieve. If you drag Kyaa!! into this (and he is my favorite cat in all anime), then mention how he comforted the disturbed and distraught Rin, how he brought Rin back from his heartless world of self-destruction to a warm place in the sun.
Ayesha Sleeps A lot: Umm... Adam? Aren't you kinda arguing FOR cats now? Hmm? Wouldn't that kinda prove my point that cats are indeed the ultimate? Besides, all the cats that I have mentioned ARE emotional centerpieces (at times) in their respective anime. I mean, taking something recent, there is Merle in Escaflowne. Yes, she is bug-eyed and annoying, but she has a heart of gold. She really cares for Van from the bottom of her kitty heart. Note how she is always there for him, whether he notices her or not. And then there are Naria and Eriya, Folken's sidekicks. You might hate them right now, but in episodes to come, you will learn something of their past life, come to understand them, and yes, maybe even like them. If you want emotion, there will be more than enough emotion there.
ASA: So in conclusion, let us bring in an impartial judge to decide whether 'tis the cats or the dogs that rule in anime. Patty?
Patty: The dogs rule!! No doubt about it!
ASA: Err... That's not impartial.
Patty: Dogs are a superior lifeform to cats. Just kidding. ^o^ Dogs are social, intelligent, and basically the best. Cats, on the other hand, are lazy and anti-social and basically useless. They're cute, though, so they make nice decorative pieces. Cats are nice, but dogs are better.
ASA: Okay, so that is DEFINITELY not impartial. Patty... (as ASA approaches her with a mallet...) Repeat after me, "Cats rule."
AI: Now, now...
Patty: Woof woof....
And so it continues, ad infinitum... The neverending question... Who rules? (drum rolls)