#1 Cats were promised, cats were granted
Mayoi Neko Overrun is about a group of friends who frequently gather in a cake shop called “Stray Cats”. The name refers to the owner’s tendency to adopt kittens without a home or place in the world, allowing them to gather in the shop and make friends with each other. These stray cats aren’t always actual cats, I should add.
Yes, there are literal cats who live in the shop’s café, but the nickname “stray cat” is more often used to refer to the show’s roster of characters, all of which are social outcasts looking for a place to belong. Fumino and Takumi are literal orphans, Chise could never make any friends because people didn’t want to risk upsetting her wealthy family, and Nozomi is a mysterious, quiet girl who they one day find wandering the streets alone.
It’s a neat play on words and an endearing theme to base the show around. And don’t worry, the actual cats will get plenty of screentime as well.
#2 High-quality moe for us degenerates
Coming out in 2010, Mayoi Neko Overrun acts as the swan song to a decade characterized by top tier moe. An important responsibility and one it took on admirably.
Already in the first episode, Mayoi Neko Overrun establishes that it’s a different beast compared to your typical harem-y romcom. The bar for animation and directing work is immediately set high by the work of Shin Itagaki, the celebrated director of Gainax fame. The comedic timing is spot on and jokes have an energy and creativity to them that took me completely by surprise.
I also enjoyed the soft art style and expressive nature of the characters. It’s just all-around such a pretty and well-directed show, which is easy to underestimate if you’re going by the box art.
#3 Emotional romcom
The “Overrun” part of the title may be more relevant than it seems at first, because I certainly felt overwhelmed by the show’s characters. On the surface, the show is a typical romantic comedy with mild harem elements, but it’s not afraid to flood the tear ducts with some real drama.
That Fumino and Takumi are orphans is one such example. The show puts a lot of effort into building up their past and showing their bond together, which made me appreciate Takumi’s character a lot more, even though I frequently feel that characters with similar traits are comparatively boring. The early episodes also feature a number of hard-hitting storylines that shine thanks to the show’s expressive animation and quality voice acting.
It’s not even like the story’s twists are very original. An arc like the demanding rich girl Chise suffering from loneliness due to her parents being too absent will sound terribly familiar to many, but it’s written and handled so well that I enjoyed it a lot.
#4 References everywhere
Have fun trying to spot all of them.
#5 Discount SOS Brigade
Chise is also the Haruhi Suzumiya of the group and frequently takes the show away from the high school and café settings to explore more eccentric storylines. This even leads to them establishing a club that mostly serves to spread chaos around the school.
Storylines can be about all the boys getting lost in the forest without any clothes, shooting a ridiculous movie filled with extravagant setpieces and locales, or a game of Jenga with harsh punishments and high stakes. You never quite know what the show might pull out of its hat next, which gave it a similar appeal as Love Hina in my eyes.