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Bakeneko and Nekomata

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Bakeneko (roughly "warped cat") is a term for cat youkai. When cats live for a long time (or die in a way that spawns a Vengeful Ghost) they are said to develop odd powers such as human speech, placing curses and animating corpses by jumping over them. In some depictions this transformation also causes them to increase in size and develop a taste for human flesh. When they assume human form, it tends to be cruder than kitsune and tanuki — less beautiful Shapeshifting Lover and more Crazy Cat Lady (often based on a real old woman they killed and replaced).

The most iconic type of bakeneko is the Nekomata ("forked cat"), cats who transform into youkai when their tail grows beyond a certain length and splits in two. In some depictions they can undergo this process multiple times, similar to kitsune — the vast majority of these cases have seven tails, a Shout-Out to a youkai said to have plagued the Nabeshima clan.

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The Kasha ("fire wheel/chariot"), a Hellfire youkai which steals the corpses of sinners, is usually depicted as either an oni or a nekomata Wreathed in Flames.

The Maneki Neko ("beckoning cat") is a benevolent variety which has its own page.

Related to Cats Are Magic and Uplifted Animal. Subtrope of Multiple-Tailed Beast.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Blue Exorcist: Rin's familiar Kuro (Blacky) is a two-tailed Cait Sith, and can grow to become gigantic.
  • Cat God: Mayu and Sasana as well as their family are feline gods, which means they are cats with twin tails and various magical abilities, predominantly the power to appear almost completely human, save for some obvious give-aways.
  • Digimon: The X-Antibody version of Tailmon is two-tailed.
  • Dog Days: In Dash, Cat Girl Noire can fork her tail into stingers with the spell "Seven Tails", a Shout-Out to the Nabeshima myths.
  • In Fire Force, Tamaki's ability "Nekomata" gives her cat ears and two cat tails made of flame that makes her resemble a two-tailed Cat Girl.
  • High School DXD: Koneko Toujou and her older sister Kuroka are some of the last surviving "Nekoshou", a rare breed of Nekomata capable of using two types of Sage Arts: Senjutsu and Youjutsu. Riser Phenex's peerage also includes twin Nekomata named Ni and Li.
  • Hyper Police: Natsuki, the Cat Girl protagonist, is revealed to be a nekomata in a moment of anger (her tail splits in two)
  • InuYasha: Kirara takes the form of a two-tailed kitten that can transform into a massive feline beast. A later arc has a spectral Nekomata, along with an horde of smaller ones, haunting a buddhist temple, who refers to Kirara as a mere kitten compared to him.
  • Kamichu!: One episode has a cat named Tyler who is leader of a "city of the cats" where all cats can walk upright and speak. Later, he is explicitly revealed to be a nekomata while tag-team wrestling.
  • Kara no Kyoukai: One of the forms of the thing inside Touko's briefcase is a malevolent, magical cat with two tails.
  • In Mokke, one episode centers around a nekomata.
  • Naruto:
    • The two-tailed demon-beast in Naruto is a two-tailed cat.
    • One of the Uchiha clan's outposts, the ruined city of Sora-ku, is managed by talking cats with basic ninja skills referred to as "ninneko". In the anime the ninneko also have a fortress ruled by a giant fork-tailed cat named Nekomata, who is capable of creating illusions.
  • Omamori Himari: One of the protagonists is a shapeshifting cat.
  • In Persona 5: The Animation, Ryuji accuses Morgana of being a bakeneko when they first meet, even as Morgana insists he's a human suffering from Baleful Polymorph.
  • Maomaolin from Ranma ½, a giant bakeneko from China who's obsessed with finding a human wife.
  • Shaman King: Matamune is the spirit of a cat which developed human-like intelligence and powerful magical abilities, most prominently taking on a semi-humanoid form and developing twin tails, making him obviously based on a nekomata.
  • Star★Twinkle Pretty Cure has Bakenyan, a butler who serves the cyclopean villain Aiwarn. He is eventually revealed to be Blue Cat, a Phantom Thief from the very same planet Aiwarn destroyed, spying on her to gain information.
  • Tsukipros youkai AU features Sora and Kensuke as nekomata.
  • Tora of Ushio and Tora is a mostly humanoid youkai named for his tiger-like appearance. A Gaiden story explaining how Ushio's parents got together features a vicious Nekomata haunting a family (the works they started to renew their house accidentally destroyed the shrine where he was sealed) trying to devour their daughter. The climax reveals that there's two of them, but Shigure and Sumako are skilled enough to slay them both.
  • Yokai Girls: Nia Suzunari is an Ambiguously Gay tsundere nekomata whose human form is a teenage girl who was once her owner and was killed by burglars.
  • Yo-Kai Watch: In one episode, what happened between Jibanyan's death and meeting Nate is delved into more. It turns out that there are hundeds of nekomata around Springdale because there is a crosswalk that kills a lot of cats. Jibanyan comes across three in particular: Sir Pouncalot, Pounce de Leon, and Alfred. Sir Pouncalot has four tails, Pounce de Leon has three tails, and Alfred is a keet with only one tail.

    Literature 
  • Eight Million Gods: The mother of one of the main characters is one.
  • In Highschool Dx D, nekomata are a mostly female race with the ability to take Cat Girl form.
    • The orphan sisters Shirone and Kuroka are the last known members of the Nekoshou, a clan with both powerful Youkai abilities and great aptitude for Ki Manipulation. However, after Kuroka seemingly goes mad and kills their adoptive parents, a frightened Shirone seals away her own powers and emotions, assuming a fully human appearance as "Koneko Toujou". When she resumes using her Cat Girl form post-Character Development, it initially has one tail but after Training from Hell she increases it to two and later three. Kasha are also referenced as the name of one of Shirone and Kuroka's shared techniques, which summons rings of Technicolor Fire that follow the user's movements. With sufficient skill the flames can also be imbued with purifying properties, making them lethal to The Undead.
    • Riser Phenex's peerage includes twin nekomata named Ni and Li.
    • The chief of the nekomata, Magari, is The One Guy and appears as a non-humanoid cat with seven tails.
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    Live-Action TV 

    Music 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Pathfinder: Nekomatas are malevolent, panther-sized two-tailed cats with magical powers: chiefly, they can flawlessly mimic the appearance of a human they successfully damage with their bite attack and can animate and control undead creatures. As in myth, they're created when a regular housecat somehow lives to one hundred years of age.

    Video Games 
  • Ayakashi: Romance Reborn: Nachi, who was the heroine’s cat. She called him “Tama” before he revealed his humanoid form, and told her what his real name was.
  • BlazBlue: Jubei and his daughter Kokonoe (a Cat Girl version of this). Appropriately, the latter does bring people back from the dead, although since magic is commonplace in that world she uses science to keep the mysterious powers theme. Iron Tager is the result. The character Hakumen contemptuously calls them both "bakeneko" (monster/ghost cat), which in Japanese mythology is a general term for any cat Youkai. The video games translated this word as "grimalkin" in an attempt at a Cultural Translation (which failed, since "grimalkin" is about as obscure as "bakeneko" to an American audience). Official subtitles for BlazBlue: Alter Memory use "Goblin Cat" instead (which is more accurate and conveys Hakumen's insulting tone).
  • Bleach Brave Souls: The Panther Arrancar Grimmjow Jaegerjaquez's "Beyond Resurrección" form — showing what he would look like if he merged with the Hōgyoku — gives him two fiery feline tails.
  • Disgaea: Nekomatas are found in the games and are used in quick leveling tricks in the first and second ones. They are more Cat Girls, however. They are capable of producing offspring with humans, as Rutile is half nekomata.
  • Harukanaru Toki no Naka de: In Harukanaru Toki no Naka de 5'', Kai is the spirit of a cat statue in service to Amami, who normally appears as a young albino girl but can transform into a monstrous seven-tailed white cat.
  • Luigi's Mansion 3: Polterkitty has multiple tails, is a shapeshifting ghost cat, and even has traditional Japanese music as her Leitmotif. Taking her down involves pulling off her tails, and the second time she's encountered, the last one allows Luigi to fully vacuum her up.
  • Muramasa: The Demon Blade: Miike, the protagonist of the Muramasa: Rebirth DLC "Fishy Tales of the Nekomata", is a nekomata who can transform into a two-tailed cat, a Cat Girl, a gigantic, monstrous two-tailed cat, and a floating head made up of cats.
  • Nioh: Nekomata is Hanzo's Guardian Spirit, appearing as a white cat with an eyepatch and wearing weapons, and is one of the few who regularly talk to William and bears the element of Thunder. He performs an Heroic Sacrifice to absorb the huge amount of demonic energy pouring out of Mount Hiei, revealing himself to be Byakko, and forcing William to defeat him. The ending reveals that he returned from the dead. A trailer for the second game shows the hero fighting the boss Kasha, depicted as a buxom, kimono-clad Cat Girl who's Wreathed in Flames and riding the wheels of a chariot embedded with Amurita while wielding a weapon seemingly made of charred bones.
  • Neko Atsume: Saint Purrtrick is one of these, hence his two tails and "Ethereal" description. His Japanese name is even "Nekomata-san".
  • Pokémon: Espeon and Meowstic are Psychic-types based off of this legend. Espeon is the one most tied to the original myth (with a bit of kitsune mixed in), down to the forked tail.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: While lacking the signature second tail, Blaze the Cat has more in common with the Kasha, being able to manipulate fire and often wreathing herself in it when attacking.
  • Touhou: Chen and Orin from the Touhou Project. Orin, though, is a Kasha, a different type of youkai cat.

    Webcomics 
  • Mieruko Chan: Miko decides to adopt a stray cat out to a heavily tattooed man with the Face of a Thug when she sees two friendly nekomata spirits invisibly accompanying him, which indicates that he's been a truly devoted companion to cats before. An epilogue confirms that he's a Kind Hearted Cat Lover.

    Web Original 
  • Monster Girl Encyclopedia: Compared to other werecats, the Nekomatas are rather tame and even give up on a man should he refuse her advances. They are still monsters, though, and will eventually assault their prey to take his spirit energy. Unlike in the myth, Nekomata in this series are this way since birth. And since this world is filled with Cute Monster Girls, her forms are inverted, with the human form being the true one.

Alternative Title(s): Nekomata

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