The Cat Returns (Neko no Ongaeshi) is an animated feature film, also known as an anime, that was created to appease the fans of Whisper of the Heart, a movie that was written by Aoi Hiiragi. The Cat Returns was directed by Hiroyuka Morita and was produced by the same studio that produced Whisper of the Heart: Studio Ghibli. This short movie was released in 2002.
Whisper of the Heart was released in Japan in 1995. In the story, the main character, Shizuku Tsukishima, a 14 year old girl, is entranced in the world of books and fairy stories. She meets a boy named Seiji Amasawa who has seemingly unreachable goals, as Shizuku herself does. After Seiji leaves for Italy, Shizuku decides to attempt to reach her goals by writing a story. She follows a cat to a strange shop one afternoon, where she meets an old man who is fixing a clock. He spins her a fantastic story about dwarf princes and elven princesses, and Shizuku, entranced by the story and by the little cat figurine named Baron, returns home to write the story. Whisper of the Heart is a sweet coming of age, teenage love story, and none of it is in the fantasy world.
The Cat Returns was written for the fans of Whisper of the Heart who were clamoring for more of Shizuku’s fantastical story than the brief flashbacks that are seen during the movie.
Haru is the main character in this story. She is a shy, quiet girl who has the unique ability to be able to talk to cats. One seemingly normal day, she saves a cat from being hit. The cat introduces himself as Lune, Prince of the Cat Kingdom. Lune thanks her and offers her his hand in marriage, and when she replies, Lune takes it as a yes and whisks her away to the cat kingdom.
At the cat kingdom, Haru slowly starts to turn into a cat so that she will be a suitable bride for the prince. They give a big feast and the Baron, a cat who has come to save Haru from her fate, rescues her at the feast and helps to get her home. Haru ends up a little wiser, a little more mature, and a lot more respectful of Baron.
The voice-over actors for The Cat Returns, the American version, are some of the Hollywood elite. These actors are the ones that are known merely by name, and do not need a picture for explanation. Their acting takes The Cat Returns to the next level.
The Cat Returns is a movie for any child who loves fantasy, as well as for any adult who remembers the mystical enchantment that can only occur during a good fairy tale story.