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 sort-of sequel to Whisper of the Heartconceived 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 high-school girl learning to take confidence in her own abilities.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 living crow statue named Toto, and a handsome cat figurine called the 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.Not to be confused with The Cat Came Back.
The Cat Returns provides examples of the following tropes:
Accidental Misnaming: Haru accidentally calls the Baron's portly associate Muta "Buta",note 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.
Adaptation Distillation: The original manga is quite different, although not unrecognizably so. Some character designs are changed, the story of the kingdom isn't touched on, and The Baron does not threaten to destroy it.
Aerith and Bob: "Von Gikkingen" might sound too weird for a surname, even for Germans. It has no translation since a surname with "von" (of) in it is usually combined with an actual word.
Alternate Universe: The Baron, who is just a prop in Whisper of the Heart (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.note In fact, the whole reason why this movie was made was because the author's stories of The Baron in Whisper of the Heart were such a beloved part of the film, they decided to make a pseudo-sequel entirely about one such story.
An Aesop: "Always believe in yourself. Do this and no matter where you are, you will have nothing to fear." See Lost Aesop for a few others that aren't so explicit.
Though it's already an obvious (and intentional) case here, there are some noticeable cases in a few characters where it seems to be just hidden. Muta, for example, has tufts of hair hanging between his rear legs.
Played for Laughs with the knife-thrower's lovely assistant. When the knife (or in this case, squid) was thrown in the target, it missed her (of course) but not the straps on what she was wearing, causing it to fall off where afterwards, she covers her chest and runs away crying. Which is weird because not only are many of the cats bare-chested anyway, that's not wherethey'resupposed to go at all.
Arranged Marriage: The king tried to wed Haru to Luna. But when he found out that Luna already wanted to marry Yuki, he has no objection at all and is very happy for his son. So he tries to get Haru to marry him.
Badass: The Baron and Muta, who fend off the king and his guards .
Badass Normal: Muta. 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. Or else you're gonna turn into a cat.
Beware the Nice Ones: Baron Humbert von Gikkingen is a kind, gentle and polite guy, even during the 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.
Big Eater: Muta, who clears a whole plate of cakes in seconds. Up to Eleven when, under the name "Renaldo Moon", devoured all the fishes in a lake in the Cat Kingdom, which made him so infamous that he is mentioned in their historical frescos.
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 (it turns out, that the cat chucked out of the window survived the fall and ends up sulking at the wall).
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.
Cheshire Cat Grin / Slasher Smile: The Cat King sports one or the other very often, most notable being when he goes to see Haru after she first arrives(A) and when he blew up the tower(B).
Clever 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.
Toto summons a gigantic flock of ravens for Haru to walk down after she returns back to her world.
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.
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 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: Haru lives with her mom, and no mention is made about a father.
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.
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 the guards come along and declare, "HE'S CHEEEEEEEAAATING!"
Endless Daytime: Muta said that the Cat Kingdom is always noontime while in the real world, time still goes by normally.
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...
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.
Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The guests at the Cat King's feast look inspired by the Osman Empire, North Africa, Imperial China, Ancient Egypt, Saudi-Arabia and Old Venice.
Fish Eyes: One of the Cat King's eyes sometimes fall under this.
Fisher Kingdom: Haru slowly turns into a cat while staying in the Cat Kingdom.
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 (whose anatomy is much more human-like), and Muta have much greater poise and balance. In the original manga, only the Baron wears a full suit of clothes, while other cats use little hats and earrings instead.
Master Swordsman: Baron not only takes out about five guards with just his cane, but later breaks the Cat King's jewel crown and shaves the lower half of his body in one move.
Meaningful Name: We have a beautiful white cat named "Yuki" whose name can be Japanese for "snow".
Morphic Resonance: Haru retains her hairstyle in cat form, because her transformation from human to cat wasn't complete yet. The cats don't change her out of her uniform either, just put the ball dress over it.
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 there's the arranged marriage...
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 WOTH to precede it.
Non-Mammalian Hair: Some of the male cats in the Cat Kingdom have mustaches and facial hair.
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.
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. This is only present in the manga (they can pronounce "f" just fine - possibly a translation hiccup).
Spell My Name with a "The": Fans of this movie (or if his name is going to be used in a sentence) would often times call Baron, "The Baron". Nobody really called him by his first name, "Humbert". In-Universe, he's not mentioned by first name explicitly except when he introduces himself. However, Baron himself didn't insist anybody to spell his name with the "the" and is okay to be simply called "Baron".
Traumatic Haircut: In the manga, Haru starts out with medium-length hair. The first morning after she starts transforming into a cat, some cats sneak up behind her with a giant pair of scissors as she's waking up and chop several inches off, explaining that doing so makes her look more like a cat. Her hair does not revert to its original length after she returns to the real world. This does not happen in the movie, where Haru's hair is short throughout.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Muta and Toto, who bicker every second they're onscreen together but seem willing to work together when needed.
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 Baron had at least three different designs in each of his appearances in Whisper of the Heart and in the manga of The Cat Returns, including its film. Though WOTH!Baron and TCR!Baron had some resemblance to each other, his design in the manga where he had all-black fur with a snappy tuxedo to match, was quite the contrast. TCR!Baron's design seems to be the most well-known.
Toto, in the manga, was a magpie.
Prince Lune was an earring-wearing tabby cat in the manga. In the movie he's a sleek-looking black cat with mismatched eyes.
The Walls Have Eyes: The castle is surrounded by floating eyeballs, which serve as surveillance for the king.