NEKOGAHARA is like a samurai noir; that's the best description I can think of for it. And despite the fact that the characters are cats, it's dark and gritty, bleak and violent like the best noir.
The story is still too much in its infancy to give you a feel for where it's really going, aside from the fact that Norachiyo is a cat ronin who used to serve a human master at some point in the past, which puts him at odds both with "strays" (free cats), who see his kind as traitors, and kept-cats (cats who serve humans) who see him as a traitor because he no longer serves humans, making him more or less the ultimate outsider in his society, and setting up as a classic noir archetype.
The mix of characterization, sprinkled with backstory, and action in this first volume was top-notch. We don't know a ton about Norachiyo, but we know enough to want to know more.
I was also very impressed with Takei's art, which has evolved dramatically from the SHAMAN KING days. Gone entirely are the typical Weekly Shonen Jump designs and action sequences prevalent in SHAMAN KING, replaced with a scratchy, very thin-lined style that just oozes energy and rawness. And despite the fact that the characters are cats, and look like cats, there is a humanness to the way they move and to their facial expressions that is only rarely so expertly pulled off in comics.
I'm very much looking forward to the next volume and I recommend all of you pick up the first.