While over at my friend’s house, we decided to watch the one movie her young daughter was obsessed with after an episode of Star Trek. The Cat Returns is an adorable and sweet film about a girl who has to loose herself to find herself. It takes turning into a cat for her to realize how blessed she is in the human world. Although these themes are common place in literature and the cinema, they were delivered uniquely.
Haru is a young girl who lives a very ordinary life and doesn’t have very many aspirations. One day, she see’s a cat carrying a package in it’s mouth as he crosses the street on a collision course with a large truck. She runs after the cat and scopes him up with her lacrosse stick and dives away.
For being so ordinary, the audience, as well as Haru are surprised that she was capable of such an admirable feat. Haru ponders this as she sits in the bushes hyperventilating only to find that the cat she saved thanks her in her own tongue. He promises that she will be properly thanked soon but he’s too busy to at the present moment.
This event sparks something in Haru. A small dose of confidence allows her to start daydreaming, especially about cats. She opens her eyes to the world of a cat’s life and she starts to wonder if such a life would be fitting for her. How nice would it be to not have any obligations?
This movie puts a lot of care into matching the tone of story with Haru’s mellow attitude. It helped ease the audience into the fairy tale mindset as Haru discovers the magical world of the cat kingdom and dreams of a simpler life. The story revolves around an adventure, but as cat’s are involved, the adventure isn’t chaotic or overwhelming. It’s smooth – like a cat.
For the first times in her life, Haru is treated like royalty as she is whisked away – quite literally – to the Cat kingdom to marry the Cat prince as a reward for saving his life. Even though she fights back as the mob of cats drag her through a magical portal, deep inside, she’s excited to have so much attention. She realizes that cats have their own little personalities like humans, except, cats are a little bit ignorant and most of them just don’t care. This is attractive to a young shy girl as the world outside can seam intimidating and frustrating.
As her adventure continues, Haru entertains the idea of living in a world with a bunch of cats and no worries. The Cat king dresses her in royal garb as Haru continues to explain to him that two different species should not be married, only to find that she is now a cat. The longer she stays in the cat world, the more she’ll become a real cat. She now must make a decision. Her day dreams have real effects.
Such events were not exactly what she was thinking of when she decided she wanted to live in the cat world, but she still hasn’t convinced herself that it’s wrong or harmful. It takes her friends of the feline kind, the only ones who truly understand these desires of hers, to show her what is truly best. These cat friends of her, The Baron, Yuki, Muta, and even the Cat Prince stand by her with her best interests in mind as she cannot come to these conclusions on her own. They teach her that as much as she loves cats and their lives, she can’t live in their fairy tale because it causes her to forget who she was created to be. Sadly, she doesn’t have any desire to fight her circumstances because of her passive (cat like) personality.
The movie teaches that the real magic is in believing in yourself. I say that it’s believing that God created a masterpiece in each and every one of us. Once Haru starts to want her old human-self back, she starts to defeat the enemy and win the battle. These cats teach a human what passion and desire look like – how ironic.
Now the moral of the story seamed very ordinary, but it did match the whole tone of the story. It wasn’t forced, or heavily implied the whole way through. We followed Haru at her own speed and make conclusions along side her smoothly.
While having our own imaginary paradises can help us escape our harsh world, we cannot allow ourselves to become lost in them. The danger Haru faced was when the imaginary world became more real to her then the human world. In our own lives we can get lost in many things, friends, fandoms, idols. For those of us who have introverted cat-like personalities, watching Haru’s discovery of herself is inspiring. Haru starts to enjoy the life she was given.
We often forget to be thankful for the things we’re blessed with until it’s gone, or worse, we forget the value of our blessings. When we face similar problems, we won’t have a Cat kingdom to be whisked away to so that we can learn our lessons. It’s our own responsibility to live our lives with intention and discipline.
For me personally, the second greatest blessing God has given me is purpose. The first being grace, which allows me to experience purpose. I watch others like Haru who live life without such a thing and it pains me. In a world without God working in their lives, people start to live for themselves with a lack of focus. One of the greatest pleasures I have as a Christian is knowing that God works in my life to give me purpose and tell me that I matter. I don’t need a cat to tell me these things, I have the creator of the universe to.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV