Important Importables: The Maneki Neko and its video game cameos

October 24, 2010 - 2:00 am No Comments

Hot Japanese Imports: The Maneki Neko and its video game cameos

Section: Exclusives, Originals, Features, Columns, Japanese Imports, Consoles, GameCube, PS2, Wii, Handhelds, DS & DSi & DSi XL, GBA, iPhone & iPod Touch & iPad, Gear, Accessories, Genres, 2D, 3D, Action, Shooter, Role-Playing, Sim

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The Japanese lucky cat has become a familiar figure worldwide. People buy statues for their homes, necklaces with the familiar charm and can even set one as their user icon when first setting up a Windows 7 computer. But many people aren’t really familiar with what this iconic cat means, or how prevalent its presence is in popular culture.

Gamers in particular may run across the familiar cat statue in popular games, without even realizing it. Even more interesting is the idea that the virtual lucky cats function the same way in games as they’re supposed to in real life.

So in this week’s Hot Japanese Imports we’ll take a closer look at what the Maneki Neko is and some of its more popular video game appearances.

Pokemon Meowth Maneki Neko

What’s a Maneki Neko

A Maneki Neko is best known outside of Japan as a lucky cat. They’re a form of lucky charm which originated in Japan, and has gone on to become famous worldwide. The standard lucky cat looks like a Japanese Bobtail with one paw raised and the other holding a coin, but the design may vary.

While a Maneki Neko may look like it’s waving, it’s actually making an inviting gesture. In Japan, people hold their hands up and wave their fingers to call someone over. So the statue is doing the same thing to draw in money, happiness and success, and the coin that’s sometimes present in the other paw could possibly magnify the effect.

Viewers can actually tell a lot about a Maneki Neko based on which paw is raised. Sometimes the right paw will be raised, and other times the left will. There are even some figures with both paws raised. The general notion is that the higher the paw is raised, the more luck the statue will draw in. A right raised paw is supposed to bring general good fortune to the owner, while the left is supposed to be good for attracting customers to a store if the statue is placed at the entrance.

Which is why Maneki Neko often grace the entrance of Japanese stores. The owners believe the cat’s beckoning paw will draw customers in, which will make the shop richer. Maneki Neko are also a popular design for coin banks, personal statues, keychains or other personal accessories.

Animal Crossing City Folk Maneki Neko Lucky Cat screen shot

Lucky Cats in video games

Anyone who’s played Animal Crossing should recognize these happy fellows. Multiple Lucky Cat statue variations are available in the game. And they bring good luck in the game too! Almost every Animal Crossing game has Feng Shui incorporated into it, where a well-laid out room can lead to success in the game. All of the Lucky Cat statues are considered lucky items, and give extra points and more success to players who put them in a room in their house.

Maneki Neko have cameos in some other famous games as well. You may find a Maneki Neko accessory in Persona 4 (PS2) that will make your characters more lucky when they equip it. And in the Katamari Damacy games, the Prince may roll up some Maneki Neko while trying to create new stars for the King of the Cosmos.

The Maneki Neko is also said to be the inspiration for some other famous feline figures. Hello Kitty’s design is allegedly inspired by the Maneki Neko, and it isn’t uncommon to find statues or charms of her dressed up and posed like the famous statue. The Pokemon character Meowth was also inspired by the Maneki Neko, except its coin is placed on its forehead.

Finally, there’s the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad game Meow Meow Happy Fight even has a Maneki Neko for a star. In it, a gigantic Happy Cat from the future travels through time to the present to make people happy by beating up and destroying stuff. Even here, the lucky cat figure is responsible for bringing good things to the in-game world, although it’s through a more forceful and violent method.

COMING NEXT WEEK: Hot Japanese Imports lists some spooky Japanese movies and anime series you can watch this Halloween..

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last week Hot Japanese Imports talked about K-On!.

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Full Story » | Written by Jenni Lada for Gamertell. | Comment on this Article »


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