Happy Birthday Virtual Neko Blog! (plus handy Neko FAQs)

Virtual Neko Second Life Birthday 3

One year ago today, a little Neko blog was born into a virtual world called Second Life.

At the time, I had no idea what it would become… no clue about the depth, the history, the dress code (if there was one), nor the size of the Neko community in Second Life. Heck I wasn’t entirely sure what “being Neko” meant, given that I was a relative newcomer to the “cat ears and tail” set.

I only knew that something about being Neko had struck a chord inside, making me want to do something, to give something back, to support this uniquely curious, often misunderstood, but ever-so-delightful community of “cat people.”

Neko Alice Wonderland cropped

So I jumped down the rabbit hole as it were… delved into it with all four paws, tracing a yarn ball’s worth of loose threads that I would later weave into this blog, meanwhile creating all sorts of “Neko Resource” pages, and an online Neko community forum. (Photos in this story are just a few of the highlights from the first year).

But I’m getting ahead of myself. What I really wanna do, after a year filled with blogging about all things Neko, is answer the most basic Neko questions everyone always seems to ask… the same questions I set out to answer in the first place… which I still get asked in Second Life today. So without further ado…

Why Are You Wearing Ears and a Tail?

Some may call it catty, but my typical reply is this: “because I’m a Neko” (well duh). Then I wait to see if they take the bait. Most good little mousies (or humans, sometimes prey is interchangeable) will eventually nibble. Which leads them to their next question, which is usually…

How To Masthead2

What Is a Neko?

The short answer: a human avatar who wears cat ears and a tail, and typically affects a cat-like attitude on a full time (or at least most of the time) basis in Second Life.

The medium-length answer: mm, it depends… we Nekos come in a variety of genetic variables. Some are very nearly human, the only difference being our lovely ears, tails, and sometimes Neko eyes (c’est moi). Others are further along in our “transformation,” preferring skins with calico spots, furry belly texture, or even tiger stripes. These more “feral” Nekos sometimes wear additional cat-like accoutrements, including paw feet boots and whiskers.

kawaii1The long answer? That requires a bit of history:

Neko means cat in Japanese, so you might think it started there. Yet cats were admired for thousands of years before “Maneki Neko” and “Hello Kitty” became popular — cats have been found buried in ceremony on the isle of Cyprus 8,000 years ago, worshipped as the god “Bastet” in Egypt, and countless other cultures record affinities for all things feline.

Somewhere in recent history, humans began dressing up as (or sometimes even transforming into) cats. From the villianess “Catwoman” who first appeared in Batman comic books in 1940, Osamu Tezuka’s catgirl mangas (comic books) in the 1950s (which inspired numerous cartoons), the American television cartoon “Josie and the Pussycats” in the early 1970s, and the Broadway musical “Cats” in the early 1980s, to a Cyberpunk roleplayer “Chromebook” that included a cyber-neko altered body kit (thanks Pussycat!), clearly some sort of personal feline transformation was afoot (apaw?).

However during the 1990s, it was the Japanese culture that took “dressing up” to a whole new level. By then, all sorts of manga and anime (animated movies) were featuring little girls sprouting ears and a tail, inspiring cosplayers all across Japan (and eventually the rest of the world) to begin “dressing up Neko” in first life.

Family3Right on the heels of this phenomenon came Second Life.

The very first Nekos in Second Life simply called themselves catpeople or catgirls (getting called a Neko in Japan is a whole ‘nuther matter if you’re a guy…). So it’s still somewhat of a mystery how “cat equipped humans” came to be called “Neko” in our little virtual world.

My best guess is that the term “Neko” evolved due to the growing influence of Asian residents in Second Life — people who in their first life were already dressing up as Neko cosplayers, and simply carried it full time into their virtual life. No one knows for sure, but it’s possible this was the catalyst that turned Second Life’s early “catgirl” phenomenon into the full-blown “Neko culture” it is today.

wasteland

Why Did You Become A Neko?

For me, it was simple: someone very special started wearing ears and a tail. After a week of being mesmerized by those delicate furry parts, I wanted in. We TPd to Atomic, where I debated the Neko-defining choice of fluffy versus smooth hair tail: fluffeh felt right to me. In fact it felt so right that when I started to take the parts off one week later, something seemed terribly amiss. That’s when I knew: transformation had begun.

Sure there are part-timers — fashion bloggers who wear Neko ears and tails for a day to complement a particular outfit, party-goers who “dress up Neko” for an event. But for most of us full-time Nekos, it’s less about a style, and more about who we are. Here are a few of the answers to the “why” question from the Second Life Neko Community forum:

DeathNote sm

“When I came to SL, I was human, but not for long. I asked myself, what can I do here that I can’t do in RL, and the answer was: be another creature! And thus I became a Neko.” – Sasha

“I love cats and kittens of all kinds, so once I found all the Neko stuff in SL, I just had to dive in.” – Adrianna

“(Over the years, I kept seeing) ‘neko / catgirl’ art and thinking – there they are again. (When I) logged into SL, a freebie I got resulted in me wearing ears and a tail. When I took them off, I felt weird, so back on they went. And then I had to get an AO, and then I had to get better ears/tails, and then… and then… next thing I know, I’m running around meowing and hissing at things. :)” – Pussycat

“I’m home… it just feels more natural.” – Kevin

“I have always identified personality-wise with cats more than any other animal. What I didn’t understand until later, was that Neko-ness isn’t just about the ears and tail, there’s a whole subculture involved. There’s something youthful in the Neko subculture. We’re like a bunch of lost kittens, cast out into the streets, struggling to survive alone when all we really want is a nice warm fire, a bowl of milk, and someone to provide belly-rubs and ear-scritches.” – Matty

Cyberneko2

“I am a Neko in RL who never really felt like i fit into my own skin. Once i found Second Life, I soon found out about Nekos. Since then I have never looked back. :)” – IshtarAngel

“It’s part of who I am… spiritually…” – AmayaYuri

“To me being a neko is an atitude or a personality twist. I have several places I go to RP and I am always diferent, but that personality trait of being happy and carefree is always there. That’s embracing your nekoness to me — a toothy silly smile and a twitch of the tail.” – Aditya

As you can see, being Neko is more than a game, more than a fashion genre (because we really don’t have just one), more than an addiction for fluffy moving parts, more than the ability to “pounce” your friends or “purr” over something yummeh. Kinda like the old question in first life, “are you a dog person or a cat person,” being Neko is first and foremost about attitude.

far_away2

What Do Nekos Do in Second Life?

Same thing any of us do in Second Life… explore, shop, build, snuggle, listen to live music, work, roleplay, visit art galleries and museums, dance, and share fascinating conversation and perspectives with people from all around the world. We Nekos just do it with a few extra furry bits and attitude.

One of the myths about Nekos in Second Life is that most of us are roleplayers. People often assume that our cat ears and tails are simply “required props” we wear while “playing a Neko character” in some of Second Life’s many gaming or roleplay sims. While there are certainly plenty of Neko RP gamers, and several roleplay sims that support Neko communities (Midian City and City of Lost Angels, to name a few), the majority of the Nekos I’ve met are inside Second Life strictly to be… Neko. No roles or gameplay required. Unless of course you count purrs and pounces…

fairy-04cropped2

How Did the Virtual Neko Blog Come to Be?

This is the question I hear most these days. The story goes something like this:

Back when I decided to “try Neko for a while,” I was lost. Google searches turned up almost nothing (outside of a band in Arizona and a bunch of hello kitty fans in Japan).

SL Search queries weren’t much better… I’d wind up in a crackhouse sim with little poseball clusters named “scratch” and “rawr” and “pounce,” surrounded by stores selling everything from furry parts, to what looked like the Seattle grunge clothing movement, freakishly resurrected.

What IS a Neko? How to BE a Neko? This became my mission. My passion. Some may even call it my obsession, since I have this little… mm, shall we politely call it… list problem.

You see, when I decide I wanna learn about something, it’s all or nothing. Which inspires me to make lists. Please don’t ask me to explain.

These lists started out as notes I jotted during my in-world research, bolstered by a bit of right-click-inspecting whenever I spotted someone wearing a well designed Neko item. Initially I expected to find maybe a handful of Neko stores. But pretty soon the list grew so long that it migrated from a pile of messy sticky notes, to an alphabetized, neatly typed document.

And then I started visiting each store I found, adding more notes, discovering more Neko stores next door… pretty soon the document grew so long that I had to divide it up into separate categories. Which eventually became separate lists… like… um… Ears and Tail stores. And Neko Eyes. And Neko AOs and Animations. And… and…

geisha IIa

Somewhere in the middle of all that list insanity I began to wonder… what if there were other little Nekos out there like me, wandering furtively from store to store, wondering if there were others, hoping to find their next meal (even if it was a cute little tuna can armstrap), wishing for a place they could call home… wouldn’t they find these lists helpful too? And how could I bring all of us together?

That, my fellow cats and kittens, is what inspired the birth of this blog. In short, it was a particularly excellent excuse for a place to store my lists. Of course it didn’t hurt that I loved to write, and that someone I knew had some pretty amazing SL photography skills…

midian1

I’ll never forget my first surge of excitement when I began to receive comments and emails from other Nekos. “I’ve been a Neko for a year and am so happy to find your blog!” Or “Hey thanks, I’ve been designing Neko stuff since 2006 and suddenly everyone has found me!” And “Wow I had no idea there were so many of us, and so many stores!”

One year and over 70,000 hits later (do I sound proud? Yep, I am), every comment I receive, every new Neko designer I discover, every blog reader I happen to meet in-world, reminds me why I do this: because I’ve grown to love this passionate little Neko population, and feel a dedication to doing whatever I can to suppport the Neko community in Second Life.

To every single one of you who reads this: thank you, from the bottom of my kitteh heart, for a most amazing year.

With much love and a very special thanks to Bobby Yoshikawa <3***

© Stacia Villota / Virtual Neko in Second Life – 2009
http://virtualneko.com

=^..^=

(okay this cupcake kitty from Ann Launay was just too cute not to share… thank you!!!)

imaginecatbirthday

=^..^=

~ by Stacia Villota / Virtual Neko on June 26, 2009.

28 Responses to “Happy Birthday Virtual Neko Blog! (plus handy Neko FAQs)”

  1. Congrats, sweetie!!!

    Bestest Neko blog there iz! Periods!

    =^.^=

  2. YAY!! congrats

  3. Happy Birthday!!!Thank you so much for such a great blog, dear Stacia! You rock! *pounces on Stacia and licks her forehead*

  4. […] Come nibble a birthday cupcake and find out the answers to all your Neko questions… here on my Virtual Neko blog. […]

  5. Happy birthday, don’t stop now! :)

  6. Congratulations on one year! As a non-neko, the blog has definitely given me a better insight and appreciation for the look and community.

  7. Congratulations, Stacia! *hugs and kisses*

  8. happy rez-day, beautiful!! <33

  9. ok, not happy Rez-day (duh) let me re-phrase: Happy Anniversary!!! yay! <33

  10. Happy Blogiversary! I hope year two is even better!

  11. Happy Anniversary, Stacia. Your blog rocks and inspires me to go the distance. I consider you not only my friend but my mentor. Best wishes for continued success and many more years of Neko goodness.

    *hugs and kisses*

  12. Congrats!

  13. Great post! Happy anniversary!

  14. I made you a kitteh cuppycake! http://img196.imageshack.us/img196/3695/imaginecatbirthday.jpg

  15. Happy birthday kitty , i give you “rendez vous” next year :)))) Thank you for this astounding blog mon amie .

  16. Congrats Stacia! always love your blog!

    minor point, while cosplay certainly did boom into view in the 90’s “catgirls” in Anime and manga can be seen in stories as early as the mid 1950’s in Japan.

    • Kyllie thanks for sharing! If you can, I’d be grateful if you could post some links to these older sources, because even though I’ve heard this was the case, so far I have been unable to track down any references to catgirl anime and manga from that era. May just be my language deficit though. :)

      For those of you interested in reading more about cat girls, simply do a google for catgirls.

      Anyway, it would be very cool to finally collect (and write!) a full history of this in one place! (uh oh, does that constitute a list?) he he…

      And THANK YOU EVERYONE for these warm wishes, they mean a lot!!! :D

      • Good english reference can be found here:

        http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/CatGirl

        This is a early work by Osamu Tezuka, who also created Astro Boy and is considered one of the pioneers of Japanese Manga and Anime. The original manga was from 1954:

        That is Heckett out of Princess Knight, the cartoon version was 1968. Devil’s daughter or something but she’s secretly one of the good guys. This is a dub into Arabic or something but it’ll do. You can see her intro here at about 3:45:

        This also kind of fits with Japanese lore that she would be the daughter of the devil Heckate as the Bake-Neko that cat girls concept come from in Japan were often considered cats possesed by evil spirits.. and would often have to power to change into human girls. Some more info on the Bakeneko:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bakeneko

  17. Happy Anniversary… looking forward to another year of neko goodness.

  18. wooow that is quite impressive. Congrats!

  19. Happy Anniversary! What wonderful timing as I have a blog coming up on Tuesday about Virtual Neko in slFix! I’ll be pointing to this great celebratory article!

  20. Happy B-day Virtual Neko Blog! Thanks for all the awesome posts and beautiful work.
    <3 Ellie Celt

  21. Happy Birthday sweetie

  22. I swear Kyllie, you are a natural born researcher… many many thanks!!! I have added Osamu Tezuka’s manga reference into my story.

    In the youtube, his character transforms *entirely* into a cat, but hey, she started as a human, and I’m guessing some of his manga characters may have retained that “semi-human, semi-cat” shape that we’ve come to know as Neko, since that tvtropes web page cites him as our dad… he he :)

    Anyway, here is a list of all his “more notable” manga:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Osamu_Tezuka_manga

    (Assuming the catgirl one should be in here somewhere, since it was made into a cartoon…)

    I wonder if there’s any way we can find out which of these mangas showed catgirls… There are tons of “read manga online” websites (onemanga.com, mangafox.com, mangavolume.com) and while I don’t know if any of them would have something that old, it would be awesome if we could find it for everyone!!

  23. Longue vie à ton blog.

  24. I LOVE your blog and this post had to be one of the best
    congrat, happy birthday and keep up the brilliant job you do here
    Too many who do this think they are ‘professional’ bloggers and lose the fun of the writing (which means we lose the fun of reading) – so glad you haven’t fallen into that trap.
    I look forward to reading more and more and I really hope you hit some main feeds – its about time

    hugs

  25. I want to thank you for this blog. When I started in SL and those kitty ears ended up on me, I had to figure out what to do about them… Like you, search for me turned all kinds of weird poseball craziness. I think Neko just means ‘all’ to the SL search engine. Then I found your blog, and managed to get everything sorted out.

    I was particularly pleased that you presented clothing and styles you had tried that were -not- grunge. I’m not a grunge neko, and I felt kind of out of place among the others I would see in all my pink and glam or costume mania. :)

    Your blog page often remain open as a tab in my browser, a handy ‘reference’ anytime I want to go look down a new alley. Great resource, thank you so much for making it.

  26. […] an evolution of ancient folklore stories about Bakeneko. (A far more in-depth history can be found on this page of my […]

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