The Cat Returns

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

If you find yourself troubled by something mysterious, or a problem that's hard to solve, there's a place you can go where you'll always find help...

A semi-sequel to Whisper of the Heart conceived as a story written by the protagonist of the previous film, The Cat Returns (Neko no Ongaeshi, literally "The Cats Repay a Favor") tells a similar Coming of Age Story tale about Haru, a middle-school girl learning to take confidence in her own abilities. It was released in 2002, as a smaller project between the more ambitious Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle.

An average day for Ordinary High School Student Haru turns weird when she rescues a cat carrying a parcel from being run over by a truck... only for the cat to get up on his hind legs, bow to her, and thank her. Things get weirder when the Cat King and a cotillion of courtiers shows up in the middle of the night to thank Haru for saving the life of the King's only son, Prince Lune, and to offer her gifts to repay the debt. Unfortunately, their ideas of "gifts" (planting cattails in her backyard and filling her locker at school with live mice in boxes) cause Haru nothing but trouble... and then she learns they want her to marry Prince Lune!

Fortunately, it seems a few of the cats really are on Haru's side: she receives an offer of help from the "Cat Bureau," a trio of do-gooders consisting of a portly feline named Muta, a crow named Toto, and a handsome talking cat named Baron. Just in time, as well, because Haru soon finds herself whisked off to the Cat Kingdom by a veritable army of felines! Even with the help of Muta and Baron, it'll take all the courage and wit that Haru can muster if she plans to get out of this mess.

Yes, this is made by the same studio who made the solemn and depressing Grave of the Fireflies. Do not ask why.

Not to be confused with "The Cat Came Back."

Tropes used in The Cat Returns include:
  • Actor Allusion: In the dub, The Baron asks "Scared, were you?" in exactly the same tone as Westley does.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The original manga is quite different, although not unrecognizably so.
  • Aerith and Bob: Welcome to the team, kid! We've got Haru, Muta, Toto, and... Baron Humbert von Gikkingen.
  • All-Star Cast: The English voice cast has Anne Hathaway as Haru, Cary Elwes as The Baron, and Tim Curry as the Cat King.
  • Alternate Universe: The Baron, who is just a prop in the first film (albeit a very important one) is a major supporting character in this one. Justified as the protagonist of the first story is supposed to be the author of the second, though you wouldn't actually know that unless you've read the manga.
  • Always Night: The exact opposite actually. Muta said that the Cat Kingdom is always noontime while in the real world, time still goes by normally.
  • Another Dimension: The Cat Kingdom.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Baron Humbert von Gikkingen, and Renaldo Moon aka Muta
  • Badass: The Baron and Muta.
  • Badass Normal: Muta, full stop. In the original manga, he mopped the floor with the entire King's army, twice. The animated version severely toned him down and he still kicked butt.
  • Be Yourself: The Baron's advice to Haru.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Baron Humbert von Gikkingen is a kind, gentle and polite guy, even during he middle of a fight. But if you get him really pissed off... he'll not think twice before destroying the world and everyone on it.
  • The Caligula: The Cat King, who's quite insane. He throws people out of windows for liking acts that he doesn't like, among various other despotic acts.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: You have to wonder exactly how the cats were able to send a massive cat parade down to Haru's exact house and school. When Haru saves the cat from being run over, she's nowhere near these two locations! Does the entire Cat Kingdom have an array of reconnaissance satellites we never see on screen?
  • Catgirl: Haru is turned into one at one point.
  • Cats Are Magic: There is never explicit magic on screen, however some cats, like the Baron and the king of the Cat Kingdom, do accomplish interesting feats, such as their night parade down to Haru's house.
  • Cats Are Mean: Averted - these cats run the whole personality gamut. The Baron, Yuki, and Prince Lune are all genuinely nice, while Muta is sarcastic and lazy but ultimately an okay guy. The Cat King, on the other hand, is little more than a crazy jerk.
  • Cliff Stack: Thrice over, twice in the maze, once on the tower. Hilarious every time. Muta's accidental body-checking the guards may also qualify.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: Being turned into a Catgirl, for some.
  • Deadly Decadent Court: Played for Laughs.
  • Defictionalization: This film does this for a story that Suizuku writes in Whisper of the Heart, featuring minor characters. It is worth noting that in Whisper of the Heart, we never see Suizuku actually write The Cat Returns, rather, the story was written after the events of the film has already ended.
  • Destination Defenestration: Don't get the Cat King mad, whether you're performing for him or breaking out in hysterical laughter from another act. (Both victims are tossed through high windows with no glass, but naturally, as cats, they're okay, and show up sitting against the wall in a later scene.)
  • Dead to Begin With: In the original manga, all the cats from Cat Kingdom are spirits that chose to stay behind and live on their own private world. It also leads to a small Tearjerker when Haru realizes that her childhood friend Yuki was dead all along. The manga heavily implies that Muta is a spirit as well.
  • Disappeared Dad: We are never once shown Haru's dad, only his mum is on screen.
  • Dungeon Bypass:
    • How the Baron leads Haru out of a maze. In the original manga, the dungeon was in the bottom of the sky lake that connected Cat Kingdom with the real world, and hence, it was upside down. When Muta attempted to climb onto the walls, normal gravity kicked in and he almost plummeted to his death.
    • Haru and the Baron are supposed to make their way through the maze, but some cats decides to dress up as fake walls, carefully standing between gaps in the maze. This is a good plan to ensure the good guys never make it out of a maze, but please, don't be like the cats and line up like dominos in a way which leads the heros directly to the exit. All it takes is one good kick from the Baron...
    • Subverted with the maze in the movie. Muta tries to climb onto the walls and walk on top of them to reach the tower but... well, it the guards come along and Muta's plan is immediately put to a halt.

Haru: Muta, you're cheating.
Muta: Give me a break, like you think I'm gonna get in trouble.
Muta: She's gonna rub this in my face, isn't she?
Muta: Again I'm tricked into being bait!

  • Evil Chancellor: It's more than evident that Natori is the real power behind the Cat Kingdom's throne. He may look a bit shady and untrusty at a first glance, but actually he is...
  • Fat Cat: Muta.
  • Fisher Kingdom: Haru slowly turns into a cat while staying in the Cat Kingdom.
  • Fix Fic: Go under the Cat Returns section of, and within five minutes, you will have found several dozen fics where Haru stays in/returns to the Cat Kingdom. More often than not, she will have married Baron.
  • Freeze Sneeze/Plot Allergy: Haru wakes up sneezing the morning after her first visit by the cats. The English dub seems to attribute this to the cattails planted outside her window - she later tells the messenger that she's allergic to them. She doesn't say this (or at least not explicitly) in the Japanese version or in the manga, and as the cattails were planted elsewhere in the manga, it appears she was just cold from her bedclothes being out of place.
  • Funny Animal: Most of the cats walk on two legs (albeit awkwardly) and wear clothes. The royalty, the royal guard, The Baron, and Muta have much greater poise and balance. In the original manga, none of them wear clothes, but use little hats and ear rings instead.
  • Ghibli Plains: When Haru first arrives in the Cat Kingdom, she is in Ghibli Plains, with lush cattails blowing in the wind and small cat cottages in the background, although they aren't as prominent throughout the rest of the film. Ghibli Plains appear on the film poster.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Baron in the Manga. If you value your kingdom, don't piss him off!
  • The Good Chancellor: Natori is a great person entirely devoted to the Cat Kingdom's well being AND is extremely loyal to the Cat King, despite his Lord's wacky hijinks and temper tantrums. When the defeated Cat King gives up his throne on favor of his son, Natori shows his loyalty by immediately giving up his own seat of power as well.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifting: Haru briefly turns into a Catgirl after she travels to the Cat Kingdom.
  • Japanese Ranguage: Meta example. The animators made the mistake of confusing "r" with "l". The flags in the location where Haru visits before finding the Cat Bureau, also appearing just before the ending credits, switch between saying "Cross Roads" and "Cross Loads".
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: it takes a while for Muta's softer side to show up, but he definitely has one
  • Kindhearted Cat Lover: Haru.
  • Knife-Throwing Act: One is performed in the Court in an attempt to entertain Haru. It doesn't go well.
  • Large Ham: TIM CURRY.
  • Late for School: Though the Call to Adventure doesn't come until Haru is on her way home.
  • Living Statue: The Baron, of course, but also Toto the raven.
  • Lost Aesop: Believe in your abilities? No good deed goes unpunished?, Don't marry talking cats? It's all rather vague.
    • Though it should be noted that, among the vague/lost aesops, there is one clear explicit aesop: "Always believe in yourself. Do this and no matter where you are, you will have nothing to fear."
  • Love Imbues Life: If an artisan makes an object with all their heart and love, that object is given a soul, and becomes animated. This happens to the Baron and Toto, who help Haru on her journey.
  • Marth Debuted in Smash Bros: A minor example. The Baron technically appeared in Whisper of the Heart, of course, but that didn't come to America until three years after this film did.
  • Magic Skirt: Well, it IS a Ghibli film...
  • Morphic Resonance: Haru still has her hairstyle and school uniform in cat form, because her transformation from human to cat wasn't complete yet.
  • My Name Is Not Durwood: Haru accidentally calls the Baron's portly associate Muta "Buta" (which is Japanese for "pig"), to his annoyance. This gag is kept in the dub by having Haru call him "Moo-ta", invoking the cow sound. She also calls him "Fatso" at several points.
  • My New Gift Is Lame: Haru receives a huge assortment of gifts from the Cat Kingdom for saving Lune; unfortunately, they amount to things a cat would like (cattails growing outside, pockets laced with catnip, boxes of mice, etc.), along with a ton of lacrosse sticks since she broke Hiromi's during Lune's rescue. And, of course, there's the arranged marriage...
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Walt Disney Home Entertainment released the American DVD on the same day as those of Porco Rosso and the uncut Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Trailers proclaimed that three Hayao Miyazaki movies would become available on that day, but did not admit that he served as executive producer of this film, as opposed to director.
  • Non-Indicative Name: In context to this film coming out in the US before Whisper of the Heart, since audiences would be unfamiliar with The Baron in the first place; however, the Japanese title would be closer translated as "The Cat's Repayment," which makes much more sense even without Whisper of the Heart to precede it.
  • Opposite Gender Protagonists: The Baron and Haru. Them being two completely different species does not stop a bond forging between them. Haru seeks the Baron for help after being blessed with gifts she does not want. All she did was save a cat from a truck! She does not need to marry this crazy Cat King's son. Knowing she will be dragged off to the Cat Kingdom, she talks to the Baron and asks for help. When Haru is inevitably taken to the Cat Kingdom, the Baron leads Haru back to the human realm. After the adventure, Haru even admits that she has a little crush on the Baron.
  • Product Placement: Played for laughs in the movie, as the King's golf equipment's brand is... Puma.
  • Plucky Girl: It's a Ghibli film, it wouldn't be complete without one, although not as much as her Miyazaki counterparts.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Baron, in the original manga.
  • Ravens and Crows: Portrayed positively, for a change. In the manga Toto is specifically stated to be a magpie, but he loses his white markings for the film.
  • Sequel First: Walt Disney Home Entertainment released the American DVD of The Cat Returns about a year before releasing Whisper of the Heart.
  • She's a Man In Japan: Natoru is female in the Japanese version, but male in the English dub.
  • Shotgun Wedding
  • Shout-Out: The movie makes a few obvious references to 1969's film Nagagutsu o Haita Neko (Puss in Boots) which was one of Miyazaki's earliest movies as an animator.
  • The Song Remains the Same: The ending "Like the Wind" remains in Japanese in the English dub, as is tradition for Ghibli.
  • Speech Impediment: As Muta explains, cats talk funny because they can't pronounce the "ph" sound. Haru immediately asks him why HE can, but Muta just shrugs it off and asks her to not think too much about these details.
  • Spin-Off: In relation to Whisper of the Heart.
  • Talking Animal: Muta, The King, and the denizens of the cat world.
  • That Poor Cat: The movie was asking for this one anyway. It shows up twice during the maze scene. The first when they topple over the fake wall-bearing cats (complete with commentary on how stupid it was for them to line up like dominos) and the second when they climb over each and every one on the way to the tower.
  • Trapped in Another World: The Cat Kingdom, in this case. The Baron helps Haru to get back to the human world.
  • Truck-kun: Truck-kun helps transport The Hero Haru to another world. Truck-kun never hits Haru, of course. Instead, Haru gets transported after the Cat Kingdom decide to repay her a favour by sending some gifts of cattails, an offer to get married to a cat, and the means of getting to the Cat Kingdom via a procession of cats.
  • Unwanted Gift Plot: The Cat Kingdom decides to send thanks for saving a cat from being run over. These gifts, well, aren't the most useful to a human. No one wants to find catnip in their school locker and have cats from all around the city stay in their locker. No one wants their front lawn to be filled with catnip. And no one wants to turn into a cat and get taken against their will to marry the prince of the Cat Kingdom.
  • You Got Spunk: Muta is rather impressed with Haru mouthing off the Cat King, and states "I admire a woman with spirit. You've got yourself an ally in me, kid."
  • The Walls Have Eyes