Japanese poster, image source from TVTropes.org

Japanese poster, image source from TVTropes.org

The Cat Returns is a light, enjoyable, short film that is a sort-of spinoff to Whisper of the Heart.

The relationship between the two films:

One of the core elements of Whisper of the Heart is the main character of that film, Shizuku, writing a first, clumsy, novel called Whisper of the Heart. This novel used an intricate cat doll named Baron Humbert von Gikkingen as one of the two main characters [1].

The Cat Returns is effectively an anime adaptation of Shizuku’s first successful light novel; one where Shizuku is still using the Baron as a leading character but her female lead is now less of a self insert [2]. Even the timing is roughly right if you assume that Shizuku kept writing through high school and now has 6 – 7 years of growth and maturity to draw on in her writing.

In which I actually talk about The Cat Returns:

The Cat Returns has a slightly odd character design style, a deliberate roughness somewhere between most Studio Ghibli films and My Neighbours the Yamadas [3]. Although initially a bit disconcerting, this actually works well with the lead character Haru’s general lack of confidence.

The story itself is a light hearted mix of no good deed goes unpunished, being spirited away to a fairy cat kingdom, and needing to know who you are to go home again.

At about 70 minutes The Cat Returns is a short, tightly edited film that doesn’t overstay its welcome.

In a comment on the Whisper of the Heart review, Grant Watson said “I like Cat Returns a lot, but it’s a very slight and fluffy kind of a film.” [4]

I think I agree with that assessment, and it’s certainly a film that I’d be happy watching every so often for light diversion.

[1] The other main character in this novel is a fairly obvious Self Insert of Shizuku, which is hardly surprising for a first novel by a teenager.

[2] I initially called this wild speculation unsupported by evidence. Now it’s wild speculation thinly supported by a claim on TV Tropes.

[3] The director of The Cat Returns, Hiroyuki Morita, was an animator on My Neighbours the Yamadas

[4] Grant also said that the dub is awesome, and I may give that a run later this week. Stay tuned.