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TFP’s Anime List Project #24: Talking Animals!

4 min read

A couple times a month, the Fandom Post community suggests and votes on a new top five list about something in anime, most often from the current season. It’s our way of highlighting something fun or interesting or strange—or even meaningful—about what’s airing now, or about anime in general.

alprologo2a2bIf you’ve come to anime seeking refuge from the “talking animal cartoons” of Western animation, it’s worth remembering that anime is rooted in that peddler of talking mice, ducks, and foxy Robin Hoods: Disney. Several decades of all ages movies and one young white lion later (which our panel of nominators curiously overlooked), and anime continues, today, to utilize the anthropomorphic animal as a compelling story device. Talking animals are cute. And fun. Disney and Warner Bros. had that right, and Tezuka and friends knew it too.

But anime’s also had a lot of fun with talking creatures in general, especially whatever chimerical mascot its designers (and toy marketers) can come up with for a sci-fi romp or a magical girl’s guide. So this list is limited only to recongnizable Earth-bound animals—that just happen to be able to talk and interact with humans (or at the very least talk in human speech within their own heads).

Typical of anime, three out of five are cats.

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#5: Mr. Cat (Princess Tutu)

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Mr. Cat lives in a world of fairy tale, where quite ordinary animals are without comment living and talking parts of a human town full of far curiouser things. But most of them retain their animal physique and behavior in their quaint human roles. And no other in Princess Tutu exemplifies this as well as Mr. Cat, the ballet teacher who interrupts his stern lessons to snarl, stretch, or anxiously clean himself. This when he is not threatening marriage to any of his misbehaving students.

#4: Tama (Hayate the Combat Butler!)

hayate-the-combat-butler-tama

Not all that unusual with talking animals in anime, Tama is of the sort that only a few other characters are aware of being able to speak. Certainly not his owner, Nagi, whom his love and gratitude for inspired the ability. Even as letting her discover that he can would, he believes, break her heart. It’s enough as it is that she thinks he’s a regular cat after finding him (a Siberian tiger) in Africa.

#3: Sakamoto (Nichijou)

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Of that widely dispersed breed of talking domestic cats in Japan, Sakamoto did not gain his speaking ability until precocious young Professor made a red scarf that manages cat-to-human-speech translation. Despite being not much older than a kitten his voice, as an acerbic middle-aged man, offers delightful and bizarre juxtaposition against the pair of young and strange girls (one a childish genius, the other a vexed robot) he lives with. His stern reprimands of their behavior is often undercut when his nature—chasing a fly, say—takes over.

#2: Natsu Kumai (Kumamiko)

Kumamiko Header 3-4

Natsu is the token animal of a backwater shinto shrine, serving as its spiritual symbol and living with its sheltered 14-year-old miko, Machi. Like his predecessors, he can speak (the legend linking he and Machi’s line together, explaining his speech, is not, or is, what you think), though it is kept hidden outside of the local village. Natsu’s charm, as the most recent member to the talking animal pantheon, is that he also lives a very contemporary and connected lifestyle—unlike spectacularly naive Machi, who years to leave for the city.

#1: Tippy (Is the Order a Rabbit?)

Is the Order a Rabbit?? Season 2 Bunnisode 9

Like Hayate‘s Tama, Tippy only seems to be heard speaking by a select few, like his human son and granddaughter, Chino. (He is a former coffee shop owner now in the body of an angora rabbit; don’t ask—like Rize’s gun or Cocoa’s brain, it’s what makes Rabbit tick.) However, most of the other characters do hear him speak as well, they just think it’s young Chino, Tippy most often perched atop her head, in an impressive display of ventriloquism. Unfortunately for Tippy, being a human at heart he can’t otherwise speak rabbit, in order to fend off female admirers of the species.

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Join us next time for music in media res. To have a say in what makes it on that list, and the next list after that, check out the forum thread, read up on the rules, and join the Fandom Post Anime List Project today!

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