Namennayo! - On Pirates and Cats

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On Monday, I’m watching Star Wars — Episode III, and the earth-shaking THX spot comes on — preparing us all for finally seeing the movie we only dreamed about as children — when some awful, awful advert pops up featuring a bland-looking Japanese girl mysteriously crying a black tear, which falls on a reel of film and makes out a Jolly Roger skull — SAY NO TO PIRATED MOVIES! — in a tone of voice implying that every time you buy a bootleg DVD, you destroy the magic of film-making for hungry children in Africa. I get so annoyed with this industry self-pity that I almost put down my camcorder.

Now yesterday in Shibuya station, I pass a poster featuring the famous Namennayo Neko — cats dressed up in semi-Nationalist, yankii teenage-motorcycle-gang style. They were icons of the early ’80s, but now they’ve oddly become spokespersons against making/selling/buying counterfeit goods. I ignore the poster’s message, but I do write down the name of the cats’ webpage and cram the paper into my fake Gucci wallet.

Their site — nameneko.com — is highly informational, with a wealth of English exposition. All taken from the site, all [sic].

What does namennayo mean?

Children who turned their anxieties and frustrations toward the school and society found a way to release such tensions through “Namennayo” Cats’ slogan “Namennayo”, which roughly translates to “Don’t monkey around with me”.

Okay, but what’s the big deal about dressing up pets in costumes?

No other real cat characters around the world have ever enjoyed the same success as the “Namennayo” Cats. It is also said that the “Namen nayo” Cats brought on the idea of costumes for pets, a common idea today.

I see. But, I mean, these cats were “just a consumer boom,” right?

Even the government PR department used “Namennayo” Cats as their campaign mascot for the National Sound Upbringing of Youth Month, which received much press attention.

Oh, but who’s the kitten who was always meowing?

The kitten always meowing was named Nyanta.

What happened to the main cat, Matakichi?

This was covered in detail on the television show 20th Century Expedition (Nijuu Seiki Tankentai).

Okay, I’ll check that out.

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

16 Responses

  1. Chris_B Says:

    I thought you made the whole thing up till I clicked…. You managed to top a genuine day of “stupid humans” with this one.

    BTW I saw that dont pirate movies ad too last monday. The Japanese around me in the theater seemed confused…

  2. calico Says:

    That anti-piracy ad was hilarious… the poster ads for Star Wars were the highlight though. I posted some pics my blog.

  3. Jesse Says:

    I don’t get it. If it’s a 20 year old consumer fad, why is it being used to promote anti-counterfeiting today? Could the ad makers not afford more recent spokesanimals?

  4. brent Says:

    when I saw that ad, I was in stupor too. She says something along the lines of “I won’t pirate movies. Never, no way, no how” Is the idea that all the otaku are going to see this beautiful Japanese girl opposed to pirating and then think they won’t have a chance with her if they do?

    Good to know you had all your questions answered. that’s always satisfying.

  5. nate Says:

    i hadnt been listening to what the woman was saying, but when the smoky skull floated up through the blackness and I actually read the text, I literally burst out laughing.

    There are a lot of people who think of piracy as part of the pop identity (the same way tons of people seem to identify with pot more than any other facet of culture). I used to be one of them. This was the “drugs fund terrorism” commercial for that bunch… actually there have been lots.

  6. nate Says:

    ah shit.
    not “the pop identity” “their pop identity”

  7. momobuta Says:

    Hello Kitty has been around for 31 years, sorry Namennayo Cats.

  8. marxy Says:

    I think the Namennayo Cats were the first costumed, real animals. Hello Kitty is two-dimensional.

  9. db Says:

    You forgot to mention how fuckin’ dumb Star Wars was.

  10. Jrim Says:

    Yeah, that ad spun me out, too. In the UK, it’s no less bizarre. The ads used to focus on the fact that pirate vids were often pretty duff (to whit: slightly effeminate guy takes his copy of Trainspotting back to the dodgy dealer he bought it off and – shock! – the guy won’t give him a refund), but recently they’ve changed tack a bit. http://www.piracyisacrime.com has posters with slogans like “People traffickers force immigrants to sell pirate DVDs on the streets” and “Terrorist groups sell pirate DVDs to raise funds”. Who would’ve thunk it?

  11. Reality Bites Says:

    A first I thought she was crying oil. What did you think of the Episode III? Did you think Lucas was making a parallel between Bush and Darth Sidious?

  12. Jrim Says:

    Definitely. Does the following sound familiar…?

    Anakin: If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy.
    Obi-Wan: Only a Sith deals in absolutes.

  13. calico Says:

    And all the talk about separatists! It was bluntly referencing America’s position… I find it weird to think about Lucas’s motivations for it all.

  14. Dave Says:

    On a related note, doesn’t namennayo (nameru na yo) mean (roughly translated) ‘Don’t lick me’?

    (Hence the cats- but to be honest I didn’t think the government would use such allusions on posters.)

  15. marxy Says:

    I dunno. The early 80s were a kind of weird time for sexual morality in Japan – a la the Onyanko Club. nameru does mean lick and it can have a sexual connotation, but in this case it’s more like “don’t fuck with me.” Maybe not that strong.

  16. nate Says:

    …whereas current sexual morals in japan are clear as a bell.