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Nyanko-sensei is supposedly a very powerful youkai named "Madara," but he takes the form of a round, chubby cat.

What is the significance of this form? Did he purposely choose this appearance? Why/Why not?

Why does Takashi call Madara by the name "Nyanko-sensei?"

:3

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What is the significance of this form?

It's not simply a round, chubby cat, it's a Maneki-neko (lit. beckoning cat). Maneki-neko is a common figurine in Japan. Shops have it displayed to beckons customers and wish bringing more fortune in.

Did he purposely choose this appearance?

Yes and No. Nyankon-sensei was sealed in Maneki-neko for a long time before Takashi release it by accident, it ordinary takes on the shape and just be that way. Ordinary people can see it when it is in the Maneki-neko form but not in the original Madara form. Still, we don't know if Nyankon-sensei like its form so much or on other purposes.

Why does Takashi call Madara by the name "Nyanko-sensei?"

Nyankon-sensei requests Takashi to call him sensei and as an exchange, it becomes his bodyguard.

Wikipedia actually has a well-written article about the anime & manga including characters background, in case you want more details.

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    They have a form named after me? I'm flattered. – Madara Uchiha Apr 20 '13 at 12:34
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    Where was it mentioned that Nyanko-sensei was sealed by Reiko? – кяαzєя Apr 23 '13 at 23:32
  • Thanks for pointing it out, I have corrected my answer. Yet there is no clues of who sealed Nyanko-sensei. (I don't know why I put that in the answers QAQ) In the anime, Takashi asked Nyanko-sensei once if its name is in the book, Nyanko-sensei replied "no" with a funny facial expression. However, this piece of infomation is still not sufficient to tell who sealed sensei. – KH.Lee Apr 24 '13 at 8:25
  • Just began watching this anime :) Is there an explanation as to why everyone can hear and see Nyanko-sensei in his lucky cat form? I quickly figured out that they could only see him in that form, but I wasn't sure why since he's still a youkai. Perhaps there is no answer to my "why" question though. – Kimbluey Apr 28 '16 at 6:48
  • I know some youkai in the anime take human form to be seen, but there are others who take human form aren't seen as well. I was wondering if Nyanko does it on purpose since we already know he's a more powerful youkai...I have a feeling there is no definite answer though ●︿● – Kimbluey Apr 28 '16 at 6:57
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Madara-sama was sealed in a maneki neko (lucky cat). If you are familiar with maneki neko, then you know many of them look exactly like Nyanko Sensei. This is from the first episode.

It is not known whether this was done on purpose or not. Whoever imprisoned him put him in the maneki neko, put him in the shrine and he stayed there until Natsume tripped over the rope. Book 1, No. 1.

Madara wants to be called sensei. Natsume calls him nyanko already, which as I'm sure you know is a diminutive term for a cat. Little Cat Teacher = nyanko sensei.

The anime is pretty faithful to the manga in this episode.

~nyan

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