[Movie Thoughts] The Cat Returns (2002) (2023)

[Movie Thoughts] The Cat Returns (2002) (1)

[SPOILERS AHEAD!] See my previous thread! ~ See more Thoughts threads! ~ The show's MyAnimeList page!

The Cat Returns (Neko no Ongaeshi in Japanese) is a 2002 Japanese comedy, adventure, fantasy film produced by Studio Ghibli.

Oh man, I finally covered a Ghibli film. That feels good. I've actually watched this particular movie a couple times before, and writing about it had been on my mind for ages now. TCR is definitely very nostalgic and precious to me, as it predates my entire forum series and was one of the first Japanese films I had ever watched in my life!

I also want to point out that the 2020 movie A Whisker Away, which I had also covered in this series a very long time ago, is also strikingly similar to this film! Although both plots share some similarities, they are widely different tonally! One is more lighthearted, and the other is more dramatic.

Feel free to watch it or read it's thread after this one!

I know that this isn't quite as deep as some of Studio Ghibli's other works, but hey, sometimes simplicity is key! I've always liked simpler, more "linear" movies as compared to extremely deep or lore-heavy stuff, as that is the kind of media I grew up with!

Regardless, I hope you guys enjoy this instalment as always! Let the cat guide our way to the Kingdom of Thoughts!

When a down-on-her-luck girl named Haru unknowingly saves a cat prince from an oncoming truck, she is visited by the cat prince's father, The Cat King!

Upon hearing of a paradise world called The Cat Kingdom, she hastily accepts the invitation to there, wanting to escape from her dull, miserable life without understanding it's true consequences.

Wanting to correct her terrible mistake, she eventually finds the Baron, a cat statue, and his associates, who decide to help her with her problem. However, she is suddenly dragged away to The Cat Kingdom.

It is up to Baron and his friends to help Haru escape and return to the human world, while helping her find herself in the process.

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Honestly a pretty simple fantasy plot! Again, love these sorts of simple movies the most. Also, the fact that it also incorporates both the fantasy genre and cats is pretty awesome in my opinion!

Very lovely and gorgeous art style as expected from Studio Ghibli! This sort of 2D art style really makes me feel nostalgic, warm and happy, despite these films being decades old. I enjoy 3D as well but it will never quite capture the essence and character that 2D has, in my opinion.

Clean, precise and detailed. You know the jist.

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Examples of backgrounds featured in the movie! Gosh, the visuals in these two rooms of Haru's house alone just looks stunning and realistic. Love it.

The colour palette is also one to take note of, as it does vary depending on the current world that Haru is currently in! Colours in the human world are generally pretty dull, while colours in the Cat Kingdom (like shown above) pop out like crazy!

Colour also helps emphasise certain areas or locations in a film, such as the Baron's house which Haru goes to for help.

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Although not nearly as memorable as some other movie locations, this place surely is recognisable and truly gives a warm, cozy feeling! Very lovely.

(Video) The Cat Returns (2002) Anime Movie Review

Quite a few iconic sequences throughout this film that I vividly remember, such as the scene where Haru saves the Cat Prince from a speeding truck with her racket! It drastically shifted the tone of the film from a very mundane schoolgirl's life, to "Wow, this girl is a hero!".

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Little does she know, this same seemingly normal cat would speak to her before her very eyes..

I also loved how fast the movie introduces the talking cat gimmick. I kid you not, barely five minutes into the movie we already get Prince Lune (the cat she saved) thanking her in broad daylight!

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(Video) The Cat Returns (2002) Movie Review

Also Haru, I think seeing a cat talk to you is probably the least strange thing to ever occur in Japan, haha. Considering how much weirder stuff can get with Japanese anime or movies, this is basically nothing.

Another iconic sequence that I truly loved was the flashback where a young Haru gives a hungry, stray cat (Yuki) her box of fish crackers. This same cat would go on to aid Haru and guide her to the Baron's office for help, many years later!

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Such a lovely, adorable and heartwarming scene that is so simple yet so effective. There actually aren't a lot of these kind of flashback sequences anymore in movies, as flashbacks in modern day media tend to just be short bursts of scenes or fast shots instead of a fleshed-out sequence.

Honestly one of my favourite scenes ever and more movies need to adopt this kind of heartwarming storytelling into their stuff.

I'm happy to note that this film also has nearly zero filler scenes! Almost every scene contributes at least one thing or another to the overall story! Studio Ghibli truly knew what the viewer wanted, which is the cat stuff, and boy did they deliver!

Haru [Movie Thoughts] The Cat Returns (2002) (9) - Depicted as an unlucky, demotivated schoolgirl who had the worst school day ever, she definitely represents some of us on our bad days.

I truly felt bad for her; as the people around her, such as her classmates, friend and even mother, don't respect her or treat her kindly. It was almost like she was all alone in her life struggles, and she felt lost on her direction in life.

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That all changes when she saves a seemingly ordinary cat from a speeding truck, which would alter her life as she knew it. Seriously, when do you ever see someone rescue an animal in any movie? Probably never.

That one scene really changes a lot about how we view Haru, as now she has proven to be someone who would not walk away from a life in danger.

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I noticed just how fast Haru's friend was to dismiss the cat's imminent fate as simply something to not care about, and how Haru immediately took action in contrast. She would risk her own life to save another's, and that is just amazing. She has a heart of pure gold and that is why she earns a gold star from me!

Later on in the film we would see Haru debating on whether she should accept a cat's request to come to the Cat Kingdom and start a brand new life there, free from all her life burdens, or as she was told. She unknowingly agrees without thinking about it through, and then realises her mistake.

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This seemingly simple conversation between the cat and Haru also brings up another very deep point.

(Video) MHR: The Cat Returns (2002) Review

When we are desperate for an escape from life's challenges, we sometimes wish that we could just start all over, in a new world with new possibilities. Haru quite literally got her chance to do just that, but like her, most of us probably wouldn't think about it's consequences or drawbacks.

It was just too good to be true, but Haru couldn't pass this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I can see why. Longing for something more in a monotonous life is something I think all of us have experienced at some point of our lives.

Near the end of the film, Haru finally realises that both Prince Lune and Yuki were the same cats that she had saved before! I truly felt happy for her as it is here where Haru finds her purpose in living, which is to help others in time of need!

I absolutely adore when characters meet up again in media, it is always executed beautifully and is genuinely wholesome to see!

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That is so sweet and heartwarming, gosh.

In the end of the film, we now see a confident, happy and outgoing Haru who no longer cares about her previous struggles, and truly enjoys life as it is.

Overall, a very deep, relatable and positive character that has had a huge transformation (literally and figuratively) in only the span of about an hour! Lovely.

Baron [Movie Thoughts] The Cat Returns (2002) (14)- A very charming fellow indeed. It's really rare to see an actual genuinely polite and nice character, and he is just everything that I could possibly want in a gentleman main character!

In simpler terms, Baron is a "chad". He is one of the first few people in this film to ever treat Haru with pure respect and empathy, and he does a better job at that than any of the other human characters despite literally being a cat statue.

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He truly helped Haru feel at home by offering tea and cake, something which is small but can have massive effects. A total stranger is treating her better than her own peers, wow. He also was genuinely interested in helping Haru solve her problem, as that is his entire life's purpose.

It's refreshing to see someone so thoughtful and willing to listen, which are one of the best personality traits for someone to have.

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When Haru gets suddenly dragged away from the Baron's office to be transported into the Cat Kingdom, Baron wastes no time and begins his pursuit of her, truly showing that he does not give up easily in helping his clients.

He's also smart, disguising himself as a performer to rescue Haru when she was effectively imprisoned in the Cat Kingdom's castle.

He would then lead Haru through the maze and up the tower, carrying her along. This shows that, even when Haru has given up, he does not.

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At the end, they inevitably part ways, like what happens in most movies where two characters meet. Although, this time it isn't their final goodbye.

Baron tells Haru that she can visit them any time if she ever faces another problem that's hard to solve, showing that although their journey ends here, it is not for good!

(Video) The Cat Returns (2002) Official Trailer

Amazing, skillful and inspiring character all around, love it!

Muta and Toto [Movie Thoughts] The Cat Returns (2002) (18)- They weren't nearly as prevalent in the film as our main two, but still great nonetheless! Muta is an excellent fighter as shown when he distracts and demolishes guards at the Banquet Hall while Haru and Baron escape! He also saves Haru from nearly falling through the sky to her doom!

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Toto is nice. I really enjoyed his quirky, comedic dialogue and he would later show up in the end of the film with his bird friends to aid our main gang to safety!

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Yuki and Prince Lune [Movie Thoughts] The Cat Returns (2002) (21)- Genuinely lovely characters who are grateful and respectful to Haru! They both owe their lives to her and to see each other again, for the second time was just so beautiful and brilliant, gosh! One of the most wholesome scenes in this entire movie for sure.

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They bring up an important message that we should always be grateful for what others have done for us, as even a simple act like offering food could mean the entire world to somebody!

Despite only having a single featured song, it compensates that by being the best it can possibly be! "Kaze Ni Naru" is beautiful, melodic, charming and sweet all at the same time!

The simplicity of the song coupled with it's strong message helps make this track memorable and genuinely wonderful to hear even outside of the film!

Great vocals, great beats, great lyrics.

Conclusion: Despite being an extremely simple film in comparison with the studio's other works, The Cat Returns wonderfully succeeds at telling a story of compassion, love, kindness and purpose with fun, real characters and a fantasy setting! A very easy watch which prides itself in simplicity and the cuteness of cats!

I will 100% recommend this film to anyone wanting to delve into Studio Ghibli's works, or simply want a cute, simple film to enjoy!

Final score: 7.9/10
Word count: 2,001


Should I watch the cat returns in English or Japanese? ›

For the best experience, I recommend watching in Japanese, with subs if you need them.

What happens in the cat returns? ›

After rescuing a cat, teenage schoolgirl Haru is taken to the Kingdom Of Cats and prepared to marry said feline, who happens to be a prince ù although, more bizarrely, she develops a crush on a porcelain cat called the Baron who tries to help her escape.

Is cat Return for Kids? ›

Compact, fully formed, imaginative, and very happily NOT baby oriented fluff. G-rating is correct - Common sense missed the mark on its 10+ rating. It's age-appropriate “challenging” that wants parents to be engaged.

Who is the main character in The Cat Returns? ›

The Cat Returns

Is The Cat Returns a sad movie? ›

The cat returns is a fantasy adventure film in the classic studio ghibli mold. It has great characters and has a positive message about believing in yourself and helping others. There is some fantasy violence and mild peril but nothing too scary. If you like cats you'll love this film!

Who does Haru end up with in The Cat Returns? ›

Later, another talking cat offers Haru a trip to the Cat's Kingdom and tells her that she will marry Prince Lune.

Does the baron ever find Louise? ›

Louise was created to be his bride, made by the same creator. In Whisper of the Heart, he is one of a pair of statues created along with his bride, Louise, in a far-off country (likely Germany). Her statue went missing during the war and, despite searching by The Baron's owner, was never found.

Did Baron like Haru? ›


Why does The Cat Returns look so different? ›

The Cat Returns has a rougher style. It looks and feels more like a standard anime drawn by any other studio. It's less fluid and the characters have a more cartoonish appearance. It lacks the natural fluidness of a film like Spirited Away or Princess Mononoke or any other Ghibli film.

What age is appropriate for Studio Ghibli? ›

It's a flick that's great for all ages and at any age. It captures the magic of childhood and the bonds of family in a simple tale that will dazzle your whole family. But be warned, once you watch one Studio Ghibli movie, you may want to binge them all.

What age is cats the movie suitable for? ›

Cats is a computer-animated movie directed by Gary Wang. Mild animated violence and emotionally distressing themes make it unsuitable for children under seven years. And because of the movie's emotionally distressing themes, we recommend parental guidance for children under nine years.

What age spirited away? ›

Miyazaki created the movie specifically to appeal to the imagination of children aged 10-13 years, because he believed that other contemporary offerings for this age group were limited. Spirited Away is a creative and rich storytelling achievement, which delves deeply into Japanese Shinto and Buddhist symbolism.

Why does Haku turn into a dragon? ›

Asian Dragon Physiology: Due to Haku being a Japanese river spirit, he has thepower to take on the form of an Asian dragon, and was shown to be able to fly in this state.

What type of cat is Muta? ›

The character Muta from The Cat Returns was based on a stray Japanese Bobtail that would often visit Studio Ghibli. They also tend to appear in other anime produced in Japan.

Does Haru and Baron get together? ›

At the end of the movie Haru confess her love to him, but because he's a cat and she's a human and that they have different things to do (she must go to school and he must go to the Ministry of cats) they don't end up together, but he tells her to go meet him whenever she wants.

Is The Cat Returns a continuation of Whisper of the Heart? ›

The Cat Returns came out in 2002 and is a continuation of sorts of Whisper of the Heart, but only sort of. Whisper was based on a manga by Aoi Hiiragi and he also wrote the manga Baron, Neko no Danshaku which became The Cat Returns.

Is The Cat Returns on Netflix? ›

Watch The Cat Returns | Netflix.

What is the prequel to The Cat Returns? ›

How old is Haru The Cat Returns? ›

On her way home from school, Haru, a confused 17-year-old, prevents an elegant gray cat from being hit by a truck. She's inadvertently saved the life of Lune, Prince of the Cat Kingdom, and his royal father decides to thank her.

Who is Yuki in The Cat Returns? ›

Yuki was voiced by Aki Maeda in original Japanese release, and Judy Greer in the English dub. In the Cat Returns manga from which the film was adapted, Yuki was not a stray kitten but rather Haru's childhood cat, hence her ability to communicate with Haru throughout the film.

What happened to Louise Whisper of the Heart? ›

She died in the Holocaust. We know that Nishi knew Louise in Germany many years ago. He had to leave her there, and couldn't return for many years, because of "the war".

How old are Shizuku and Seiji? ›

He is a boy around 14 to 15 years old and a violin player attending the same school as Shizuku Tsukishima.

Who is Louise in Whisper of the Heart? ›

Luisa is a puppet featured in the film Whisper of the Heart. She is mentioned by Shirō Nishi. She was whittled alongside Baron Humbert von Gikkingen, because they made a couple. Shiro brought the couple in Germany, but he didn't take Luisa, because she is on repairing.

How is Whisper of the Heart and The Cat Returns connected? ›

The story of "The Cat Returns" was inspired by some of the scenes shown in "Whisper of the Heart" namely the ones depicting the fantasy story the main character wrote. This story was later realized as a manga by Aoi Hiiragi who did the manga "Whisper of the Heart" was based on and then turned into a movie.

Who created Baron the cat? ›

Aoi Hiiragi

Is Muta in Whisper of the Heart? ›

Muta (also know as "Moon" in Whisper of The Heart) is the tritagonist of the 2002 Studio Ghibli film, The Cat Returns. He is a big, fat white cat, whom Haru Yoshioka finds at the crossroads, and who shows her to the Cat Bureau.

Is The Cat Returns Studio Ghibli a sequel? ›

In the initial development for the “Cat Project,” Miyazaki decided it must include the characters of Baron and Muta from Whisper of the Heart, the Studio's most famous cats apparently. The Cat Returns holds the title for Studio Ghibli's first and only sequel, well, kind of.

Who is Jiji the cat? ›

Jiji is Kiki's companion as she is training to become a full-fledged witch. One time, he has to pretend to be a stuffed cat for a boy's birthday gift. The real stuffed cat which looked exactly like him, was lost in the forest and Kiki had to go find it. This was during Kiki's first delivery.

What age is the cat returns for? ›

We would therefore recommend this movie as appropriate to children aged 3 and over.

What age is cats the movie suitable for? ›

Cats is a computer-animated movie directed by Gary Wang. Mild animated violence and emotionally distressing themes make it unsuitable for children under seven years. And because of the movie's emotionally distressing themes, we recommend parental guidance for children under nine years.

What age is appropriate for Studio Ghibli? ›

It's a flick that's great for all ages and at any age. It captures the magic of childhood and the bonds of family in a simple tale that will dazzle your whole family. But be warned, once you watch one Studio Ghibli movie, you may want to binge them all.

Is the movie cats scary? ›

It's a fun YouTube game where people recut movies that are not horror movies into horror movies, but, in the case of Cats (2019)—which is debuting on HBO tonight at 8 p.m. ET—entirely unnecessary. Cats is already a horror movie just the way Tom Hooper made it.

Is the movie cats inappropriate? ›

There's no bad language, there's no violence, but there's a bit of rude humor and suggestive movements. Cats is 2 hours long though, and there's not enough action to keep kids awake and engaged for that long. I would not recommend the Cats movie for kids under 10 unless they've seen Cats the musical and love it.

What is the purpose of the movie cats? ›

The plot of the movie hints that the goal is for the cats to be reborn, this time as exactly who they've always wanted to be. For some this means young and beautiful, and for others it means some new power. But Griz is the winner of the Jellicle Choice, so the happy ending is for her to enjoy.


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