Earlier, Cleave had posted a review of a wonderful Hayoa Miyazaki movie, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and I’m here to treat you to another. Any and every cat lover must own or at least have to see this movie! The Cat Returns is a story about a teen girl, Haru, who seems to be having a stream of bad luck. She’s running late for school due to little accidents, the boy she has a crush on has started dating someone new, and stupid little annoying things just keep happening to her. The movie takes place in a span of about three days. On this first day when we see Haru in her angsty state, she and her friend, Hiromi see a black cat carrying a package in its mouth and looking for traffic as he attempts to cross the street. Hiromi calls to the cat, tells him to watch out or he’ll get killed. About halfway across the street, he drops the package, and the light has turned green. A truck comes darting down the street, and is about to hit the cat, but Haru runs out into the street, and rescues him by scooping him up with a lacrosse stick, which causes the stick to break. This is where Haru’s luck changes from bad to just weird. The cat stands up on his two hind paws, and thanks her. Haru is amazed that the cat can talk, but Hiromi thinks she’s just been working too hard.
That black cat is no ordinary black cat. He is the crown prince of the Cat Kingdom, Prince Lune, and because Haru saved his life, the Cat King has taken it upon himself to reward Haru with all kinds of odd gifts. Her lacrosse stick has been replaced with about fifty more. Her yard is filled with cattails, and on her way to school, a line of cats chase her all the way there. When she gets to school, a cascade of little pink packages fall out of her locker and start jumping around, and mice pop out of them. The cats chase the mice out of the school in their attempt to catch them. Later that day, the Cat King’s representative, Natoru, comes to haru to ask her how she likes the gifts, and she goes into a tirade about how none of them are proper. Natoru says he’s sorry about the oversight, but that the best gift is yet to come, because she is to be married to Prince Lune. After Natoru leaves, a voice on the wind tells Haru to go to the Cat Bureau, where she can receive help to get her out of this awkward situation.
She meet with Muta, a fat white cat with a bad attitude, who leads her to what looks to be a small village of a 19th century Central European styling, but the buildings come up to just above her head. They are cat-sized. The fat cat gets up on his hind paws, takes a newpaper from the mailbox in front of one of the buildings, and sits on the bench and starts reading the paper, ignoring Haru. As the sun sets, all the windows in the village reflect the light to the building where Muta is, and Muta tells someone that his lightshow is cheesy. This is where Haru meets Baron Humbert von Gikkingen, but she prefers to just call him Baron.
The Baron explains that the place they are in is a depository for creations. When an artist put his or her heart and soul into creating something, the creation get a soul, and becomes part of the Cat Bureau. They are joined by Toto, a statue of a crow that comes to life. Just as they are about to settle to have tea to discuss Haru’s situation, the cats from the Cat Kingdom collect Haru, and carry her off. A chase ensues through the streets of Haru’s town, with shortcuts through magical portals, until they reach the lake, and they disappear, but they are still there, in the form of small lights, flying over what looks like a set of lakes in the shape of a paw print.
Haru has been taken to the Cat Kingdom, and all sort of misadventures take place as the arrogant and eccentric Cat King prepares her to be the next Cat Princess. She even starts to turn into a cat, with pointed ears, a pink button nose, and whiskers. During a party, the Baron comes in to rescue Haru disguised as an entertainer. Muta creates a diversion, and chaos erupts, in which a servant, Yuki, helps Baron and Haru escape. I’d best stop, because there is so much I want to say, but I don’t want to spoil this for you readers.
I’ve gone on too long, but this is one of my very very favourite movies, and if you own pets, it’s very funny to see their reactions to the sounds in some scenes in the movie. So, if you love great family movies, cats, or anything by Ghibli Studios, then you will love The Cat Returns.