Sunday, 23 June 2013

Neko no Ongaeshi (The Cat Returns)

Neko no Ongaeshi
(The Cat Returns)

Synopsis - Page 1

The story opens with an alarm bell ringing and a hand reaching out to turn it off. Under the blanket, Haru moved into a more comfortable position; then realized that she was late for school, and quickly rushed to get ready, albeit without first doing a vanity check. She greeted her mother in the kitchen who told her to eat first. When Haru refused, she playfully tempted Haru by biting into her own topped-up bread and saying how delicious it was, while Haru looked on in a very jittery manner. Finally she said that it wasn't fair and ran off.

Things got off to a very bad start even before she got to school. Sneaking in wasn't going to work that day. Apparently, she was so frequently late that her teacher did not even bother to look up as he told Haru to sit down quickly. Her classmates, of course, laughed at her, and Haru was even more disappointed when she saw that the boy she had a crush on was laughing as well.

After school, Haru and her friend Hiromi were walking home, talking about Haru's unfortunate start of the day and their respective crushes (Machida for Haru and Tsuge for Hiromi). Haru had just learned that Machida already has a girlfriend who was a freshman and was arguing with Hiromi when they both noticed a cat carrying a parcel walking past them.

The cat was carrying a parcel in its mouth and the girls were wondering if it was stolen property. The cat had stopped just by the curb and was looking out for traffic. Hiromi shouted at it to be careful but it just crossed the road anyway. It's just a cat, decided Hiromi finally.

The traffic lights had turned green and traffic was on the move again. Right in the middle of the road, the cat dropped its parcel and was having a hard time trying to pick it up with its mouth. A truck was fast moving towards it but both the driver, who was talking on his cellphone, nor the cat seemed to notice each other until it was too late. Instinctively, Haru, with Hiromi's stick in her hands, ran towards the cat, swept it up, and made a dash just as the truck drove past her.

The stick crashed into a post and Haru lost her balance as both she and the the broken stick dropped onto the pavement. Panting from her escapade, she looked up to see if the cat was alright.

The cat was standing on both legs and dusting itself like a human being would. It noticed Haru staring at it and faced her, smiling- and thanked her for saving him, even bowing as well. It took a dumbfounded Haru a moment to say anything at all and bow back. When she looked up, the cat was already on his way again.

By then, Hiromi had caught up with her. As she lamented about her broken stick, Haru just looked on as the cat paused at a corner, bowed again, and scampered away again. She asked Hiromi if she saw what she saw. Hiromi hadn't obviously, but instead asked if she was okay.

Back home, she finds her mother in the kitchen in the middle of a pile of mess. She asks her mother if cats can talk. Her mother, too engrossed in her work, just said that she wouldn't know. It took a while for Haru's words to sink in.

Over dinner, Haru's mother told her about how she used to say that she could talk to cats when she was a child. Haru couldn't remember it and sat back as her mother related the story to her.

Synopsis - Page 2

The next scene sees Haru eating a pack of fish snacks while a small white cat follows her from behind. She soon noticed the cat and asked it what the matter was. The cat simply gave a meow and Haru asked it if it was hungry and proceeded to give it some of the fish snacks from her box. Seeing how happy it was, she gave the cat the whole box. Her mother soon arrived to pick her up.

That night, as Haru slept, the neighborhood cats were aroused by glowing lights traversing the road. Their meowing woke Haru up, who got up to see what was going on.

The lights revealed a procession of cats, all walking on two legs. The neighborhood cats tried to interfere with the procession but were chased off by the guards. By then, Haru had come out of her house to see for herself what was going on. As the main carriage stopped infront of her gate, Haru hid behind a pillar. A messenger coughed and was about to begin delivering his message when it noticed Haru hiding. After beckoning her forward, the messenger related the incident earlier on and told her that the cat she saved earlier happened to be the prince of the cat world. As such, the king himself has come to personally thank her. The king gave a groan, then casually thanked her. Haru giggled nervously, then startled back as a scroll was pushed into her face. The bearer of the scroll told her that the entire kingdom would try to repay her as best as they can. The king then groaned again and said goodbye. The procession of cats then left as mysteriously as they had arrived.

The next morning, Haru woke up wondering if it was all a dream. Hiromi called her soon after to ask her if she had sent her new sticks to compensate for her broken one. Haru denied it, so Hiromi was left wondering who had sent her hundreds of replacement sticks.

As Haru looked at the scroll on her desk, she heard her mother call for her downstairs and saw, to her surprise, her front and backyard covered with cattails, much to the dismay of her mother. When Haru left for school later, a trail of cats followed her all the way to school, drawing stares from her friends and earning her a scolding from her teacher. She wasn't spared yet; she found boxes of mice in her locker, which scattered on the floor, causing the cats to chase after them while Haru made her getaway.

In class, Haru opened the scroll. By the pictographs, her fears were confirmed; it was the cats' doing after all. She was counting the number of 'gifts' she had already received when Hiromi called her from behind. Haru desperately tried to hide it from her but Hiromi didn't seem to even bother what it was. She did, however, wanted to ask Haru if she could do her class chores that day. Tsuge was having his ping-pong match that day and she would be late if she was to do her chores. Haru agreed.

As Haru was bringing out the trash, she saw Machida walking with a girl along the covered pathway. She gazed at them walking together so intently that she failed to notice the barrier in front of her and fell terribly. Machida, on the other hand, was seen cautioning his girlfriend about the steps in front of her.

Haru quickly tossed the trash back into the bin. She missed one and went to retrieve it. She paused before bending down, then grabbing the piece of trash, tried to vent her anger by throwing the trash back on the ground, then decided against it. As she lamented, a cat called out to her behind the gate. It grinned.

Haru grabbed it by the neck and accused it for causing all the trouble she had that day. The cat denied it, saying that it was only there to see if she was happy with her gifts. She didn't, obviously, and let the cat know that she liked neither the catnip nor mice.

It was now the cat's turn to be worried, wondering how it was going to report to the king. Haru tried to pacify it by saying that she wasn't really that angry, and that she was just having a bad day. The cat later told her that she was invited to the kingdom. The prince, Lune, would be expected home soon, and there she will be married to him. Haru, who until then just nodded her head, objected strongly, stating that he was a cat and she was not. The cat asked her what the problem was, since the prince was a 'cool' guy.

Synopsis - Page 3

Haru thought for a moment. She thought aloud about how it might be possible that being a cat might be great after all, eating and sleeping all the time, but then said that marrying the prince was going too far. Too late, the cat interpreted Haru's babbling as a yes and was already leaving. A panicky Haru fell over another barricade as she tried to stop it. By then, the cat was long gone.

Haru was in serious trouble now with seemingly no way out. Her head filled with images of her and the cat prince in a marriage ceremony when suddenly, a voice called out to her, telling her that the only way out of the mess was to go to the 'Cat's Business Office'. A fat white cat at the Crossroad would lead her there.

Haru went to the Crossroad after school in search of the said cat. After walking for a while, she decided to take a break at the nearby cafe and sat on- of all things- a big white cat. In the confusion, she accidentally called it 'buta neko' or pig-cat. Realizing that it could be the cat she was looking for, she whispered to the cat that she was looking for the Cat's Office. The cat turned its head around and stared at her as she stared back. After a long moment of no reaction from the cat, Haru decided that she was talking to the wrong cat and was about to leave when the cat told her to follow it.

The cat led her across alleyways, parapets, walls and rooftops, anywhere but an open space. Haru shouted after it if it was doing it because she had called it fat earlier on because it seemed like it was taking the hardest route on purpose. At the end of an alley, Haru bent down and peeped around the corner at the cat. There was an arch ahead of her. As soon as the cat passed it, it immediately stood on two legs. Haru gasped in surprise, then followed it.

The town was exceedingly small. Everything, from the buildings to the tower in the middle, was of miniature size. The cat she was following was walking up to one of the smaller houses, took out the newspaper from the letter box, and sat down on the chair outside it to read. It completely ignored Haru as she complained about her problem.

A cat figurine in the window caught Haru's eyes. Admiring it, she soon came to realize that the house might be the Cat's Business Office after all. As the sun set, every single window facing the sun reflected the sun's rays in a glimmering display at that particular house. The white cat shouted at "Baron" and told it that he had a visitor, so stop with the pretence already. When the sun disappeared completely, the lamp post outside the house lit up and the door opened.

A figure in smart European clothing walked up to Haru. It introduced itself as the Baron. The cat was the same one that had been standing in the window, so Haru asked how come it was alive. The Baron explained that when an artisan creates something full of hope and soul, the creation itself will have a soul. Like the gargoyle crow on the tower. Haru spun around just in time to see the gargoyle turn into a living crow. The Baron introduced her to it as Toto.

The Baron asked Haru why she had come to see him. She explained her predicament about how she saved the prince of cats from an accident, and how in trying to return the favor, she was to marry the prince.

At this point, the white cat stopped reading his newspaper to scold Haru for saving the prince, and quoted Haru's predicament as an example of what happens to a busybody. The crow starting arguing with the cat, Muta, and a brawl ensued, of which the Baron took no interest in, and invited Haru in.