5.0 out of 5 stars Baron the Cat Baron
This is the third volume in a somewhat-related series of acclaimed manga by Hiiragi Aoi, starting with “Mimi o Sumaseba” (English title: “Whispers of the Heart”), followed by “Shiawase na Jikan” (English title: “Happy Time) and now “Neko no Danshaku, Baron” (Literal translation “Baron the Cat Baron.”) Whereas the first two books tell the coming-of-age love story between two Jr. High School students, Shizuku and Seiji, this third book makes a radical departure to a fantasy world, the home of Baron the Cat Baron, who is no more than a doll (although an important one!) in the first volumes.
In this story, a shy young girl named Haru (“Spring”) is having a rough day; late to school, stepping in puddles and embarrassing herself in front of the boy she has a crush on. After this wretched day, she saves a cat from being hit by a car, using her lacrosse racket, which is broken in the rescue. Much to her shock and surprise, the earring-wearing cat then stands up, bows, and thanks her for her assistance. A sequence of cat-related incidents follow, until finally Haru follows the massively fat kitty Muta (returning from “Whispers of the Heat”) into the home of Baron, a suave, adventuring cat of sophistication and style.
Baron’s house leads to a Cat World, where Haru is quickly kidnapped to become the bride of the Cat Prince whom she saved. However, for this to work Haru must be transformed into a cat herself, a proposition which she does not like at all. Appealing to the Baron and Muta, Haru attempts to escape the Cat World and find her way back home.
“Baron: The Cat Returns” is a charming story in the Alice in Wonderland mode, with Haru very much the stranger in a strange land. Baron is a dashing character, a tuxedo-wearing swordfighter who is always willing to help a lady in distress. Muta is a perfect sidekick, rough and ready to scrap with anyone. A great comic for kids, it is a straight-forward fantasy adventure with enough surprises and delights to keep entertaining.
Two of Hiiragi Aoi’s manga in this series, “Whispers of the Heart” and “The Cat Returns,” were adapted into animated films by Japan’s most renowned animators at Studio Ghibli. Although “Baron: The Cat Returns” is the third in the series, due to its nature it can be read alone without any previous knowledge of the preceding books.