Ask John: Why are there So Few Dog Boys?
I know there are many animes and mangas with cat girls, but it doesn’t seem to be many with cat boys or dog boys. I know of shugo chara and Inuyasha. But i want to know if there are others that feature characters with this characteristics, and also want to know why are so many with cat girls?
Indeed anime cat girls have been rather commonplace since Neko Musume appeared in the 1968 Ge Ge Ge no Kitaro television series. Male characters with dog or cat attributes, however, have been traditionally less common. (Note that I’m consciously excluding literal animal characters like Gerabaldi of Outlanders, Kiriman & Buruman from Ozanari Dungeon, and characters from Star of Cottonland, The Cat Returns, and Catnapped. I’m also excluding Fruits Basket’s Kyo who transforms into a cat but has no physical cat attributes in his human form.) I believe that the explanation for the traditional absence of cat and dog-boys lies in both the traditional audience for anime and the characteristics of cats and dogs themselves.
Particularly from the 1960s through 1990s anime was largely categorized as shounen anime for boys and shoujo anime for girls. Shounen anime has primarily always been masculine. Anime for girls has long starred girls and characters that appeal to female viewers. It’s really not been until the 2000s that the two styles have begun to significantly merge. Female viewers may have loved the shounen anime series St. Seiya in the 1980s, but it’s not until the 2000s that productions like Wolf’s Rain and Loveless have appeared that have consciously blurred the distinction between anime for boys and girls by starring male characters with animal characteristics. Kurama of the 1992 Yu Yu Hakusho anime is a fox demon. He’s a character that exudes a sense of barely restrained aggression and savagery. He’s a wild creature, not a domesticated pet dog. Inuyasha of the 2000 TV series bearing his name is a dog demon. He’s tamed. He can be controlled by a mere word from his schoolgirl master. Male anime viewers appreciate catgirls because they’re cute and they suggest softness, cuddliness, aloofness and hidden claws. The catgirl is also a descendant of the Japanese goddess Kannon, who appeared in the human world in the form of a cat.
While male viewers respect the male fox or wolf character for his wild instincts and ferocity, female viewers have little need for that character type. Traditionally girls’ anime has had little need for feral, instinctually aggressive characters. Shoujo anime has traditionally depicted men as either princes or heroes; the ideal boyfriend or husband, or the knight in shining armor. Girls anime, traditionally, hasn’t dealt with the image or theme of boys as domesticated pets to be collected, taken care of, or disciplined. As a result, there’s been less need for dog and cat boys in anime for both male and female audiences. However, as the audience for anime continues to evolve and change, the type of characters that appear in anime is evolving. Inuyasha, Shugo Chara’s Ikuto Tsukiyomi, and Kanokon’s Saku Ezomori are bad boys that require discipline and punishment from strong female protagonists. The lion animalian (forgive me, I don’t know his name) from Anymal Tantei Kiruminzoo similarly serves under a strict madam. As male characters have become acceptable as mo´ characters in the 2000s, more dog and cat boys have surfaced, including Kotaro Inugami from Negima, the cast of Loveless, Schrodinger from Hellsing, and Yoshii Akihisa’s digital alter-ego in Baka to Test to Shokanju. Strictly speaking, I don’t consider characters including Full Moon wo Sagashite’s Takuto and Di-Gi-Charat’s Rik, Ky, and Coo genuine dog boys because they only wear dog ear hats rather than physically have dog or cat attributes. However, these characters do serve as fan service characters, meaning that they serve the same function as genuine dog or cat-boys.
In the early decades of anime there were few dog and cat-boy characters because there was largely no place for them in anime. They had no role to serve and no audience to appeal to. As of the 2000s and the evolving characteristics of anime and anime viewers, dog and cat-boys, as opposed to fox and wolf-boys, suddenly did have a function and place in anime, hence more of them have begun appearing.