In class today, we were looking at how a movie is set up - how characters and intrigue are created, how the world is explained and how the Crossing of the Threshold can have many applications. I have to say that, after watching many a movie, The Cat Returns is still one of my favourites.
Like Kung Fu Panda and Meet the Robinsons, The Cat Returns leaves me feeling happy, satisfied, and a little teary. It's about a girl who saves a cat from being hit by a truck, and is thanked by the ruler of the cat kingdom with many gifts and the offer of marriage to Prince Lune, the cat she saved. She goes seeking the help of the Baron, who turns out to be a rather charming statue that becomes real-size when they enter the world of the Cat Kingdom :
Being a cat surely can't be all that bad, as Haru thinks. This was something my students had trouble with - the idea that Haru could fall for a cat, when she is human, or is for most of the movie. This is difficult to say without it coming across in the wrong way, but, given the personality of the Baron, it's definitely a romance-adventure. If you've only seen it in English, the mistranslation would have covered this up quite well. If you know even basic Japanese, you'll understand the ending for what it's meant to be - a frank discussion of the boundaries of reality. Even that, though, is putting it in too harsh a light - it's a fun little movie, perfect for kids and restless students, and for cheering oneself up on a rainy day. Sadly, I think Haru is actually quite a lot cuter as a cat, but that also fits well with the theme of being yourself, and being content, rather than trying to be something you're not.
If my spoilers haven't ruined it completely for you, please do go borrow or rent it and take a look at the subtext between Haru and the Baron. There's a lot going on there, if you take the time to look, but it's all completely G-rated. This is a girl with a crush, and nothing at all more sinister. I certainly had a crush on the Baron by the time the film was over and, judging by the voice actor :
I'd bet a fair amount that was intended. Even though he's a cat. Who doubles as a statue during the day.
Since a big component of love (or, in this case, a crush) is respect, I don't see anything wrong with either Haru's or my reaction. Try explaining that to a bunch of 17-year-olds, though. I simply told them to watch how the romance was implied, and try to take notes. They're still learning about subtext, and if any relationship is subtextual, it's going to be the one between the high school girl and the cat statue who saves her from a fate worse than death, by dancing at a masked ball. Did I mention he's stylish?