My Mate Is a Feline Gentleman GN

My Mate Is a Tom cat Gentleman GN

 

When it comes to popularity, or at least overt readership, both omegaverse and furry (as opposed to shifter) works still face some challenges, even though romance as a genre has been broadening its bounds in terms of what makes it into mainstream publishing. That can make titles like “My Mate Is a Feline” by Arata Asanae Gentleman are less likely to be enjoyed by readers, particularly when they are packaged in plastic and with a warning labeled “Explicit Content” and an M-rating on the front. However, despite the somewhat unsettling elements listed above, readers who enjoy heartfelt love stories shouldn’t let that stop them from reading this because, at its core, the novel is about accepting and loving yourself for who you are, not what society says you should be.

The narrative takes place in what seems to be a modified version of the late 19th century. Two things make it “alternate”: first, there are beastfolk with independent states; and second, it’s an omegaverse. If the latter is unfamiliar, it’s a subgenre of romance in which the genders are further separated into alpha, beta, and omega, the latter of which is linked to strong and exaggerated sexual pheromones. Writing nonconsensual fantasies and male pregnancy stories with the alpha/omega dynamic as a “justification” is a common practice. Although not all omegaverse stories are like that, it can cause readers to be wary of the subgenre. Thankfully—or unfortunately, depending on your taste in literature—My Mate Is a Feline Gentleman does not rely on those details to make himself feel titillated. Rather, it makes use of both of these aspects of the other world to investigate institutionalized prejudice and mistreatment, as well as cultural distinctions between the countries of the beastfolk and those of humans.

Toushirou and Alex, our primary characters, are Nyartigian and human, respectively. As implied by the name, the people of Nyartig are catfolk, and Asanae’s artwork reflects that; Alex and his coworker Rodney resemble human-sized bipedal cats with retractable claws and paw pads. As a career diplomat, Toushirou is given to Alex as a servant when he arrives in Japan. Telling Alex that he may do anything he wants with Toushirou’s half-brother, he strongly suggests that Alex should use him for sex instead of using him as a normal servant. For his side, Alex finds this perplexing because among his people, not only are omegas nonexistent (the world-building indicates that they sprang from the interbreeding of humans and beastfolk), but they also lack the sex-based class structure that exists among humans. It’s interesting to note that Alex and Rodney’s discussions reveal that while many other nations have made progress in ending omega misuse, Japan is, in their opinion, still behind the times. It’s an intriguing statement that may serve as a subtle critique, even though it’s not discussed much in the book other than during a brief encounter with two English-named individuals who strive to preserve omegas. This is especially true given that the comment is stated in a book about a gay relationship.

Either way, Toushirou is both confused and pleased by Alex’s kindness. He’s never received anything resembling warmth, and as they coexist, it’s evident that the two guys are gradually growing fond of one another. As the voice of society, Rodney worries that Toushirou will use his omega pheromones to awaken Alex’s hidden beastly tendencies and that he will be used as a tool by the locals to control Alex. These worries are addressed in the text, though not extensively as this is a single volume that tells the entire story. (The book makes no mention of a planned sequel, despite the fact that one exists.) Even while this sometimes gives the narrative a hurried sense, it doesn’t detract from the romance’s central idea—that Alex values Toushirou as a person, which is how Toushirou has always wished someone would perceive him. The book’s heart is warm and charming, and it functions remarkably well.

This isn’t a very explicit book, even with the warning, rating, and plastic wrap. To illustrate what Toushirou endured for the bulk of his life, there are two somewhat subdued sex scenes (no genitalia or overt penetration portrayed) and two or three panels of slightly more explicit sexual assault. The majority of the book’s content, meanwhile, is emotional, so publisher Yen Press appears to have taken the precautionary step of designating some of it as explicit. It would be unfortunate if that decision prevented readers who might love the story’s more endearing elements from reading it, though I can’t blame them given the political atmosphere around novels in the United States right now, particularly those that center on the LGBTQIA+ community. However, keep in mind that there are two incidents of sexual assault in this, as well as some harsh language regarding Toushirou’s social standing.

My Partner Is a Cat Beneath it all, Gentleman is a love story about overcoming obstacles. Yes, this is an omegaverse book and one of the characters is a big anthropomorphic cat, but if those things don’t scare you off right away, Toushirou and Alex have a love relationship. It’s all about finding someone who will always love you for who you are, no matter what obstacles you face, and it succeeds magnificently in that regard.

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