|“||Just for the record...I think I have a little crush on you.||„|
|~ Haru to Baron.|
Haru Yoshioka is the main protagonist in the 2002 animated Studio Ghibli film, The Cat Returns. She is a high-school student who saved a cat, who turned out to be the Cat King's only son Prince Lune, from getting hit by a truck, and got shocked when he talked. She didn't wanted any repayment but the Cat King intended for her to marry Prince Lune as repayment.
Haru Yoshioka is a typical teenager, she is a little clumsy and seems that anything she does ends well. She has many difficulties to be responsible, She often remains asleep in the morning and arrives late to her class. The day she saved Prince Lune from being killed she was mocked by her classmates for this, even by her crush, a handsome guy who already has a girlfriend. This makes Haru to get sad and think that she has no good luck on her life.
When she is walking back home with her best friend Hiromi. They spot a black cat who carries a tiny box on its muzzle. When the cat is about to be crushed by a truck. Haru takes Hiromi's lacrosse stick and uses it to take the animal out of way risking her own life in the process.
When they are safe and nobody is looking, the cat stands up in his two back legs and thanks Haru for saving him. Telling her that she will have a reward for saving his life. The cat goes away leaving the girl awestruck. Then she tells Hiromi that the cat talked to her.
Later, Haru asks her mother if the cats can talk. Naoko tells her daughter that she already had asked that once when she was younger. After she gave a box of fish-shaped crackers to a starving female white kitten.
That night a group of cats arrive to Haru's house, The Cat King, an old gray, fat and hairy heterochromic cat himself thanks her for saving his only son and tells Haru that she will get gifts of gratitude from them.
The following morning many strange things starts to happen. Hiromi finds a lot of lacrosse sticks and cat grass grew overnight in Haru's yard. When she is walking to the school, she is followed by a number of cats, and her locker contains a lot of little boxes with mice. Which are eaten by the cats that chased Haru.
Later, another talking cat offers Haru a trip to the Cat's Kingdom and tells her that she will marry Prince Lune. Warning her that the cats will pick her up at night to take her to the kingdom. Haru freaks out at the idea of marrying a cat, but a soft, female voice is heard on his head telling her to look for the Cat's office. Where she will be helped, all she has to do is to look for a white cat that will lead her to the place. Haru almost sat down on a fat white cat, which leads her by a difficult road full of obstacles to a tiny house. Where she meets Baron Hubert Von Gikkingen, a talking cat figure who reveals himself as an object with a soul. The fat cat is Muta, a friend of Baron. The girl also meets Toto, a raven who always fights with Muta.
Baron offers Haru a cup of tea, telling her that his tea is a mixture of ingredients and its flavor is always different. Meanwhile, the cats arrive to Barons house and knock the door. Thinking that is Toto who is calling. Haru opens the door and they kidnap her.
Muta is sent to follow them walking and he enters the Cat's World portal first. Baron and Toto follows a flock of lights that takes them to a lake that resembles a cat paw.
Haru finds out that in the Cat's world she shrinked to a cat's size and she feels strangely relaxed in that place. A white female cat warns her about going to the royal palace, but the the king's servants arrive to take her and Muta to the palace. She is dressed up to meet her future spouse, but she argues to the King that she can't marry his son because she is a human, then, the King and his servants laughs and say that it will not be a problem. Haru looks to the mirror and finds to her horror that she is now a brown cat. Meanwhile Muta is deceived to get trapped in jello. This makes Haru think that her friend is dead.
Baron arrives and helps Haru to escape the palace, the white cat, named Yuki, shows them a way out and reveals Haru that the only way for her to be a human again, is to reach the top of the King's Tower and going back to her world, Muta gets out of his prison and escapes with them, but they find themselves in a labyrinth around the tower, the King mocks at them as nobody had escaped the labyrinth alive yet. But the trio discovers that some soldiers carry a rock on their backs resembling the walls, and throws them down to the ground to find a way to the tower, the King orders to collapse the monument. Prince Lune arrives and is horrorized by his father's actions, Lune says that he chose Yuki, the same cat whom Haru had fed fish crackers to when they were little, as his bride, the king wanted to marry Haru himself, but she didn't want to marry a cat at all.
Muta reveals himself as Reinaldo Moon, a criminal who once ate all the fish of the Kingdom. He fights the King soldiers while Haru and Baron try to reach the top, the King tries to stop them and Baron has to fight him on a duel. Baron emerges victorious as the king is left bald and humilliated. Haru reaches the top, but as the tower collapsed the portal to her world moved and she is now high in the sky, in danger of falling and die.
Baron and Muta helps her, and she is now human again. Toto and a flock of birds arrive and helps the trio to reach the ground safely, Haru is taken to the roof of her school, and she tells Baron that she developed a crush on him, the cats and the bird fly away telling Haru that they will help her everytime she needs it.
Haru returns home. And her mother is surprised of seeing her awake so early in the morning, later Haru sees Hiromi and her friend tells her that the guy she likes is now single. Haru says that she is not interested in him anymore, as the experience grew her more mature and confident of herself.