This 2002 manga adaptation follows a high school student (Chizuru Ikewaki) who saves a cat from being run over and is spirited away to the magical Cat Kingdom, where the Cat King offers her his son’s paw in marriage as a reward. Or as my friend put it: so she likes pussy now?
Where Princess Kaguya uses her wits to escape an unwanted marriage, Haru relies on her feline friends for help. But while Hiroyuki Morita’s fairy tail lacks the feminist, dark or adult qualities of Hayao Miyazaki’s epics, it has a litter of collarful cat characters and surreal comedy sequences that place it com-fur-tabby-ly at the funnier (and furrier) end of the Studio Kibbly repurrtoire.
With a fantasy plot that might best be described as Alyssinian Wonderland, this delightful yarn touches on themes of nature and friendship but mostly acts as an excuse for a parade of charming anthropomorphised moggies: fat cats, mad cats, aristocats… and Haru herself even starts to turn into a kitty, like Catwoman but more realistic somemeow.
The Cat Returns may be less substantial than Pom Poko, but it avoids mentioning animal genitals and maintains a consistently light and playful tone throughout its brief runtime. Mewtifully animated and mad as a bag of cats, this is pure anime catnip.