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Maneki Neko

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In Japan, shop entrances often have statues of a cat with one paw raised. This is a type of good luck charm called maneki neko, meaning something like "beckoning cat" or "welcoming cat"; in English it's often called "lucky cat". The raised paw represents a gesture meaning "over here" (specifically, the gesture involves holding a hand up, then bending the wrist and/or knuckles forward and back). It may be either the right or left paw that is raised; it's sometimes said that one paw attracts customers and the other attracts money. Often these statues also depict the cat wearing a collar with a bell and holding a golden coin with its other paw. Some modern ornaments are built to allow the cat's paw to move and are often electrically powered.

There are several different origin stories for the maneki neko. One of them involves a nobleman traveling past a rundown temple when he takes shelter from a sudden storm under a nearby tree. The temple's cat beckons him over and he is so fascinated by the gesture that he braves the rain to see the cat up close. Just after the nobleman has left the shelter of the tree it is struck by lightning, and he is so grateful to the cat for saving his life that he makes a huge donation to the temple, which becomes well-known and prosperous.

Compare to Bakeneko and Nekomata and Asian Lion Dogs, for feline-like creatures that are prevalent in East Asian cultures.


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  • In episodes 23 and 24 of Season 7 of Happy Heroes, a Multi-Part Episode, Keke is revealed to have an uncle named Lucky Cat who is based on one of these. He's got the white fur and gets little statues made of him at the end of part 2 that increase the amount of luck stores get in attracting customers. Those statues even have him waving his paw!

    Anime & Manga 
  • Doraemon has a gadget, the Come-Come Cat, based on the Maneki Neko which automatically attracts customers when activated.
  • The eponymous heroine of Madlax has one of these in her hideout.
  • An evil version curses a restaurant in Ojamajo Doremi.
  • A inugami has been trapped inside one so long in Natsume's Book of Friends that it's become his default form.
  • Pins depicting the Maneki Neko are used for an extortion racket in Gokusen.
  • A maneki neko is seen among the many bizarre objects in Paprika's recurring parade.
  • Hummy, a cat fairy from Suite Pretty Cure ♪, strongly resembles a maneki neko.
  • In one episode of Kekkaishi, a maneki neko can be seen among the objects tossed out a window at Kokuboro when Sen is yelling at Yoshimori.
  • The Get Backers were once ordered by one of their clients to retrieve one. Subverted in that the Manekineko itself wasn't what the client really wanted, but what was hidden inside it: a disk containing compromising data of human organ traffic. Since she hid this from the Get Backers, this explained why they were puzzled by the fact she was happy to get the Manekineko back, even after it being horribly broken by them during the retrieval.
  • R.O.D the TV had one of these featured prominently in Toto Books.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has a monster that goes by Neko Mane King, an Ancient Egyptian maneki neko statue that ends your opponent's turn if they destroy it.
  • In Naruto, during the Pain Invasion arc, Ibiki Morino traps a rhino in a giant coffin shaped like one of these.
  • In Girl Got Game, one of the side stories involved the Lovable Sex Maniac's girlfriend bringing two of these back from Germany and giving him one, to symbolize their togetherness even though they were apart (it was a long-distance relationship).
  • In RIN-NE chapter 60, one is among the items that fall when the possessed teddy bear begins to fly.
  • In one Fairy Tail omake, Happy impersonated a Maneki Neko statue for a restaurant.
  • The bridge of the Soyokaze has one in Irresponsible Captain Tylor. Azalyn once uses it hide the fact she's not in her bed. How she managed to lug that thing around the ship with no one noticing is another question though.
  • One is present in a Funimation vanity plate that they begin using in 2011.
  • You're Under Arrest!:
    • In one episode, there was a burglar who disguised himself as the old woman whose home he was stealing from. One of her friends visits to return a borrowed piece of furniture and asks where the cat is. The burglar answers that it's outdoors at the moment, and in doing so accidentally reveals himself as an impostor because the "cat" is actually a maneki neko statue. (This episode changed almost all of the details from the manga version of this storyline, which didn't feature a maneki neko.)
    • In a different episode, Natsumi and Miyuki searched for Maho's lost cat, while Tokuno investigated a theft. Strike Man also heard about the missing cat, so he brought many stray cats and cat-shaped inanimate objects to the police station, and thereby inadvertently recovered the stolen item from the theft case, a maneki neko statue where the "coin" was made of solid gold.
  • One of the many Japanese good-luck tokens used against Mara in Ah! My Goddess.
  • The initial stance of the dreaded Cat Fist technique in Ranma ½, wherein the user's mind becomes that of a cat, evokes the maneki neko, Faux Paw and all.
  • Referenced in Fruits Basket: Ayame keeps calling Kyo (the Cat) "Lucky Kyo", much to Kyo's chagrin.
  • As the Gods Will has a giant Maneki Neko be one of the many deadly challenges, with the objective to put the bell around its neck like a basketball... All while it moves and acts like a cat and the players as its prey.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Doctor Strange mini The Oath, the artifact which opens the portal to the realm imprisoning the demon Otkid is one of these. Doc and Wong find it in a Chinatown curio shop.

    Films — Animation 
  • Big Hero 6: The name of Aunt Cass's business is the Lucky Cat Cafe, complete with a maneki-neko statue on the awning above the door.
  • Catwoman: Hunted. Catwoman steals the Cat's Eye Emerald and leaves one of these (carefully weighted to hold down an alarm pressure plate) in its place as a Calling Card.
  • Luck (2022): This is one of Hazel's Good Luck Charms. They also appear in a store window where Bob tries to blend in with them at one point.
  • In Turning Red, Mei's family temple has red panda versions of these.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Ramen Girl: While in the Ramen shop, Abby envisions the lucky cat they have coming to life and beckoning her. She takes this as a sign this is the right place for her to work.

  • The title of a short story by Bruce Sterling.
  • In Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small, the Yamani have lucky cat statues with one paw raised. The legend was that their Emperor bent down to look at a waving cat just as an assassin's arrow passed overhead — thus the waving cat became a symbol of luck. Kel has a ton of them in her room and gives one as a present to Neal.
  • A waving maneki neko belonging to The Devil is a central plot point in The Weirdness. Since it never stops waving, it's actually a source of infinite energy and actually threatens to destroy the universe. The cover art of the book features a rather stylish evil maneki neko, though in the book proper it's quite mundane looking.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Referenced in episode 2 of Sherlock, where they find a vital clue in a curio shop selling Manaki Neko in Chinatown. The tacky, golden, battery-operated version depicted there is frequently seen in Chinese cheap stores throughout Europe.
  • At the beginning of the Doctor Who Easter special, "Planet of the Dead", Lady Christina de Souza replaces the Chalice of Æthelstan with a Maneki Neko in order to not set off the alarm.
  • Super Sentai
    • In an episode of Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, Takeru's soul gets transferred into one of these, resulting in his physical body imitating the statue. When Chiaki draws whiskers on him for good measure, he is not amused (not that he can really voice his complaints, anyway). (In Power Rangers Samurai's adaptation of the episode, this was replaced with a garden gnome — but funnily enough, one with the same raised-arm pose.)
    • Mashin Sentai Kiramager: The very last Jamenshi of the Week was Maneki-neko Jamen. He had the power to make people act like cats i.e self-centered, capricious and lazy while being self-centered, capricious and lazy himself. After hitting most of the team with his power, the monster call it a day and went to to take a well deserved nap. When Carantula demanded him to wreak more havoc, the Jamenshi farted in his general direction and ran away. Utterly disappointed, Carantula labelled his creation yet another failure.
  • Given as a gift in an episode of FlashForward.
  • A knockoff version appears in CSI: NY's episode 8.17, "Unwrapped," as a vehicle to smuggle cocaine.
  • The teams had to sell a whole shipload of these in one of the episodes of The Apprentice, and it ended up turning hilarious when the women's team tried to sell them in London's Chinatown (to the point the cat ended up being a meme). And for the rest of the series, cue the Call-Back gag where every time the teams left the house, you saw the one last Lucky Cat waving them bye.
  • In one episode of Danger Five, Tucker plays chess against one of these. It speaks in subtitled Japanese. After it wins the game, he is obliged to rub some kind of paste on its forehead. Nothing about this scene is explained.
  • In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Bucky is fascinated by one at a sushi restaurant where he's meeting his elderly neighbor for lunch, and attempts to stop the paw from moving to no avail.

  • The band Onmyo-Za use a cat-related theme for their Stage Names: Matatabi, Kuroneko, Karukan, Maneki, and Tora

    Video Games 
  • One of the "fortress bosses" in Nezumi Man is a giant maneki neko.
  • Meowth, from Pokémon is based on this, and plays with the association with financial good luck. It has a gold charm on its forehead, has been known to hold up its left paw in the traditional pose (at least in the original Red and Blue games), and is the only Pokémon who can learn Pay Day naturally — a move which gives a small amount of money (in addition to any money gained from winning) to both combatants after the fight. Later generations also give Meowth the chance to have the ability Pickup, which lets your cat pokemon find useful things for you. And in Pokémon Conquest, if a Warrior with a Meowth for a partner mines for gold, the Meowth will find more gold coins and give a boost to the payoff you get.
  • This was one of the thousands of objects the player could roll up in Katamari Damacy. Due to the game's unique sense of humor, these statues could be found in a variety of locations doing a variety of things, such as playing pachinko.
  • In the Persona series, these increase your luck.
    • In Persona 2, the giant Maneki Neko at the Kuzunoha detective agency asks for money, and calls you a cheapskate when you refuse. In Eternal Punishment it turns out that a Nekomata is using it for her money-making scheme.
  • In Tales of Vesperia, Rita's Gold Cat spell drops a giant one on the target. The number of hits it deals increases with the amount of money you have, up to a million gald at most.
  • The plot of the third Super Famicom Ranma ½ fighting game involves all the characters tracking down the ingredients to create the legendary maneki neko of the Musk Dynasty, who are known in Japanese as the Jyakou Maneki. Therefore, they're hunting down the Jyakou Maneki Neko. This artifact is said to grant the user one wish, of any kind — and with so many characters suffering gender-bending curses, animal-transformation curses, unrequited love, etc., etc., etc., they're all determined to have the maneki neko grant their wishes.
  • In Skies of Arcadia Legends, Optional Boss Daikokuya is a bored millionaire turned Air Pirate who rides around in a Maneki Neko Humongous Mecha.
  • Every stage in Super Catboy contains dismantled Maneki Neko pieces, where you can collect all four pieces to be put together to unlock special bonuses at the end of the stage. Fittingly enough, you play as an anthropomorphic cat in this one.
  • Super Mario 3D World has a rare variation of the Cat Suit power-up called the Lucky Cat Suit that allows the user to turn into a golden maneki-neko figurine, similarly to the Tanooki Suit's statues. This video goes into detail about the significance of each of them (ranging from the colors of their cat suits) and even about which paw is raised and their symbolism. Though the powerup remains exclusive to this game, the orange bell that grants it makes a symbolic cameo in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe to represent the second Booster Course Pass cup (which, not coincidentially, features the Japan-related courses Tokyo Blur and Ninja Hideaway, both from Mario Kart Tour).
  • The Gold Stage of Gun Nac has a giant version of this for its Mini-Boss.
  • An altered version of this appears in the first-person adventure game Jazzpunk in the form of a squid.
  • Trio the Punch has a Boss Battle with a giant maneki neko.
  • The Ganbare Goemon games include silver and golden versions of these as powerups.
  • Kirby Super Star features one called the Lucky Cat as a treasure Kirby can collect in The Great Cave Offensive.
  • In Keith Courage in Alpha Zones, maneki neko are common enemies in the overworld that divebomb you. Like other enemies, they sometimes (yes, only sometimes), drop one or more gold coins when defeated, though the rare golden variant will drop a red coin worth as much as four gold coins.
  • In Virtual Boy Wario Land, a maneki neko figurine is the first treasure that Wario can recover.
  • Neko Atsume features one as a rare cat. Her name is Miss Fortune.
  • You can acquire several different kinds of these as decorative items in Animal Crossing. They come in different colors, and there's also a left-handed variation.
  • In Go Vacation, the special "Figurines" furniture set includes a Lucky Cat item you can place in your Villa, among other animal-shaped decorations.
  • Lucky Slimes in Slime Rancher are white reskins of Tabby Slimes with coins on their foreheads. Feeding them will give you large amounts of newbucks to spend, but you can't capture them, they disappear shortly after being approached, and they are fairly rare.
  • It appears as a Thing in both Paper Mario: Sticker Star, and Paper Mario: Color Splash. In the English versions of both games, it's called the "Cat-o-luck".
  • Yo-kai Watch Blasters has two bosses that resemble demonic Maneki Neko: Red Paws and Golden Claws.
  • A side quest in the Foundation DLC for Control involves finding 8 of these hidden throughout the new DLC maps, collecting them all unlocks a cat ear headband accessory. It is also found in the base game as part of a puzzle to unlock a gold-hued pantsuit by manipulating various luck superstition-related objects.
  • Final Fantasy XIV has a few variants with which one can decorate their house, including a Moogle and a Namazu.
  • In Fortunes Run you can find one, oddly enough not in a shop but on a hidden control panel. Attack the Maneki Neko and the game flashes an in-game warning: "Animal Cruelty Does Not Bring Good Luck!"
  • The 18th Touhou Project game, Unconnected Marketeers, introduces a Maneki Neko named Mike Goutokuji as the Stage 1 Boss. She's depicted as a Cat Girl wearing a calico-patterned dress, and since she was born as a calico cat instead of a white one, she was cast out by other Maneki Neko. Because of this, she's Incompletely Trained as a Maneki Neko; she can beckon customers and attract wealth, but not both at the same time since one will drive away the other.
  • In the first game of the Galaxy Angel II trilogy, Lily C. Sherbet at one point dresses up as one while visiting Kazuya in his room at midnight (trying to evoke a similar encounter between Tact and Mint from the original Galaxy Angel trilogy). Naturally, he gets scared witless until she reveals herself.
  • Super Animal Royale weaponizes these with the Lucky Cat Mine. It's exactly what it sounds like.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • Julie Kane's avatar in Motorcity looks like one of these, with the cat ears and the appropriate eyes.
  • Neko from Forty Four Cats fits the image: wearing a bell collar, usually has good luck, and likes to collect clovers.
  • Neko from Kobushi is a megalomaniacal Maneki Neko that believes he is the god of the restaurant and is determined to eat the anthropomorphic sushi that live there.
  • After one of Ben's fights destroy Pakmar's pet store in the "Of Predators and Prey: Part 1" episode of Ben 10: Omniverse, he scrambles to save his last intact possession, a one-eyed maneki neko. It then gets smashed when Ben uses Armodrillo to dig a hole in Pakmar's China store in the "Ben Again" episode.
  • Mime Bomb uses a Lucky Cat figurine to transport a stolen stamp in Carmen Sandiego. This causes a problem for Carmen and Tigress when he hides it in a San Francisco Chinatown shop absolutely loaded with nearly identical figurines.
  • Deepak and Constantin from 101 Dalmatian Street worship a cat deity called Guru Miaow, who is immortalized as an idol in the form of a maneki neko. Prayer and meditation to Guru Miaow involves bobbing one's left paw up and down in the same manner as a morotized maneki neko, while chanting "Miaow-ow-ow."

    Real Life 
  • This is encountered in many ethnically Chinese or Hong Kong restaurants and takeaways in Britain and America. Perhaps this is also a Chinese meme adopted from the Japanese long before WWII; older Hong Kong people who remember the occupation of 1941-45 (and often their children) are not temperamentally given to be sympathetic to Japanese culture. It is believed that the maneki-neko was inspired by a Chinese proverb "When the cat washes its face, it will rain", with the implication that the rain would force people into establishments and thus make them patrons. Variations of this proverb was known to exist around mid 800 AD and would explain why Chinese places have adopted it.
  • Maneki Neko have become very popular outside of Japan over time, especially among both New Age folk and people who are very interested in East-Asian fashion. Their image now graces the likes of trendy apparel and home decor in the west. This is largely due to their association with East-Asian aesthetic rather than their supposed "luck". They also have the added benefit of allowing a cat lover to advertise their love of cats while looking trendy instead of like an old cat lady.


Video Example(s):


The Lucky Cat Caper

In the city of San Francisco, both Carmen and Tigress are after a rare postage stamp called "The One-Cent Black on Magenta" worth 10 million dollars hidden within the statue of a lucky cat.

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