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The Cat Returns



Imaginative adventure anime has some fantasy violence.
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Release Year: 2005
  • Running Time: 75 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Strong messages about staying true to yourself.

Positive role models

Haru is a great role model for girls. She learns to stand up for herself, and declares that "nobody decides who I am but me!" 


Haru is nearly run over by a truck while rescuing a cat in the middle of the road. Lots of scenes of cartoonish violence, with cats fighting with swords, spears, and chains. The King of the Cats detonates a tower, causing Haru to freefall from the sky. A cat is thrown out of the tower. Another cat is shown seemingly dead, in a giant bowl of catnip jelly.


Haru is a normal tween who talks with her friends about her crush on a boy. 

Not applicable
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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this imaginative offshoot of Whispers of the Heart has violent scenes of cartoon cats engaged in battles with swords, spears, and chains. But the overarching story of Haru learning that "nobody decides who I am but me" is an inspiring story for mature tweens and up.

What's the story?

Haru (voiced by Anne Hathaway) walks home with her friend after a tough day at school when she rescues a cat from nearly getting run over by a truck. The cat is actually the Prince of the Cats, hailing from the Kingdom of Cats. In gratitude, cats everywhere bring gift-wrapped mice to her school locker, and want to take her to the Kingdom so she can marry the Prince. Her only escape from this odd fate comes in the form of a mysterious voice summoning her to the Cat Bureau, where the dashing feline Baron (Cary Elwes) and his portly companion Muta (Peter Boyle) (both of whom were characters in the charming anime Whispers of the Heart) try to rescue Haru from both marriage to -- and transforming into -- a cat.

Is it any good?


This movie's as strange as it is imaginative. A human girl is summoned to marry a princely cat, cats fight with swords, spears, and chains, a girl transforms (metamorphosizes?) into a cat, a jester cat substitutes squid-throwing for knife-throwing to entertain a cat king, etc. But for parents and kids wearied of the trite and formulaic, THE CAT RETURNS should be a refreshing change from the typical. It brings back two of the characters from the charming coming-of-age anime Whisper of the Heart, but don't expect this to be a sequel. The Cat Returns is its own surreal deal. 

Counterbalancing the highly-creative adventure story is the inspirational story of Haru's self-affirmation, as The Baron and Muta inspire her to believe in herself and to not allow her destiny to be controlled by others. (Especially cats.) There is a fair amount of cartoon violence as Haru tries to make her escape from the Kingdom of Cats, but all-in-all, The Cat Returns is a fun -- and unusual -- adventure tale. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Haru's social, school, and home life are depicted in the film. How is it similar or different to your life?

  • How is this anime's portrayal of tween life similar and different to tween life shown in American films? 

  • In the midst of an argument, Haru proclaims, "Nobody decides who I am but me!" What does this mean, and how might these principles be applied in daily life? 

Movie details

DVD/Streaming release date:February 22, 2005
Cast:Anne Hathaway, Cary Elwes, Peter Boyle
Director:Hiroyuki Morita
Studio:Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Topics:Magic and fantasy
Run time:75 minutes
MPAA rating:G

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Parent of a 6 year old Written bymcgintymk March 9, 2012

Delightful for your cat lover

I think the rating for 10 year olds is too high. My daughter is 6 and loved it. She adores cats and was thrilled when the first cat stands up and speaks to Haru. She wasn't scared by the cartoon violence. She was distressed by the cat seemingly dead in the catnip jelly but that turns out fine in the end. The story has a good message but is not quite as well written as other Studio Ghibili films like Ponyo and My Neighbor Totoro. Overall, very entertaining young kids.
Kid, 10 years old June 29, 2012

Stop looking for the perfect family film. YOU FOUND IT!!

This is a great family film! I don't know why it says 10+. The most it has is a little fight moments (no blood. The most....a scratch.) Haru is a great role model. She tells people to believe in their actions. Over all this movie is a great, action-packed masterpiece. EVEN TEENS WILL LOVE IT!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written byeclairdelune January 25, 2012

Delightful film for adults and little children

The recommendation for age 10 on this site is too high. I saw this film with two boys aged 9 and 13 and with two girls aged 5 and 6. The girls loved it, often laughing delightedly. (The adult liked it a lot too.) The boys complained about its being for little kids. There is a little unrealistic violence, but it's not scary (unlike The Beauty and the Beast and even Ponyo, which were suspenseful and quite frightening, Ponyo less than Beauty). The violence would not frighten, even if it wouldn't be politically correct over here. Don't worry about the title The Cat Returns as indicating its being a sequel. It has a vestigial connection to a film called Whisper of the Heart but it stands alone and the connection is irrelevant. Some flashbacks in this film refer to this film alone, not the other one.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models