Baron: the Cat Returns Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B-

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 3 & Up
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 9.95
  • Pages: 220
  • ISBN: 1-59116-956-9
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Baron: the Cat Returns Vol. #01

By Eduardo M. Chavez     March 15, 2005
Release Date: April 13, 2005

Baron: the Cat Returns Vol.#01
© Viz Media

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Hiragi Aoi
Translated by:Amemiya Naoko
Adapted by:

What They Say
When awkward schoolgirl Haru rescues a cat on her way home from school one day, the last thing she expects in return is to be honored by the feline royal family! Before she knows what's happening to her, Haru is drawn into a world inhabited entirely by talking cats - and recruited to be the next Cat Princess! Only the dapper cat Barron and his friends, a magical crow and a comical fat cat, along with a friend from Haru's past, can help her return home.

The Review
In an uncharacteristic move, Viz decided to go very simple with the presentation of Baron. Done on a matted finish, the cover is completely free of Viz's usual framing. Instead, they only use an image of Baron, on a yellow background, with the title laid over his lower half and a banner above him noting this is what the film the Cat Returns is based on. The opposite image has a piece with the three main characters of this story - Baron, Haru and Muta - above the volume description.

Inside, there is no volume header or contents page, Viz jumps straight to the story. The printing some of the best I have seen from any publisher in a while. I cannot say it is Nausicaa good, but it is right beneath that, which is really impressive. The print is very clean, clearly showing Hiiragi’s use light tone and her line work equally well. No special extras, but Viz did keep the omake manga the Cat King.

Hiiragi’s art is very interesting. The more I check it out, the more impressed I am with it. Her character designs are very simple. Most of the characters have very little detail to them. Haru and Muta often have little detailing done for their facial features, usually only having eyes and mouths (with shading done for expressions). Baron is also pretty simple, but as he is a caricature of a cat, his features are a little extreme - wide face, sharp ears and very long and lean. The rest of the cat cast tend to have very little variety in regards to breeds and fur patterns, but they are much more humanized - rounder bellies and very human expressions and mannerisms. Characters are nicely done to scale and this is important because Hiiragi creates a whole world for her cat cast. This world is difficult to describe as it defies physics and logic, but it is designed with concepts from the Mediterranean and Southern Asia - filled with tall grasses, water-trees and hieroglyphs. When she uses her backgrounds one can see how creative Hiiragi is, because the designs are very nicely done and mixes cat symbolism and ideas from old civilizations.

The layout is very good. It moves very well and sets up the story nicely. It really does a good job showing off this unique cat world Hiiragi made and also presents what little action there is in this title well.

Viz does a solid job with the translation for this series. If there was anything unique about this title, it has to be how cat-speak is infused into the dialogue. Mews and meows are added in, just as one would expect. The results flowed very well and the personalities of these characters were never compromised. Honorifics are not used at all in this series. This title has its SFX translated in a glossary. I tend to like this technique the best as I do not get to lose manga art, but I can understand how some readers can get annoyed after having to check a few dozen times each chapter. Viz also decided to not translate signage, which I thought was funny since they could have put those details in the glossary.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Haru is having a bout of terrible luck recently. Accidents, lost items and problems with her classmates have been making her life hell. And when she thought her day could not get any worse, she might have just gone crazy. Maybe it was the moment when she accidentally humiliated the guy she likes in front of his friends, or it could have been the shock of almost seeing a cat get flattened by a car. Either way, now she is hearing things, seeing things and not believing her senses. All of this has just come on so sudden, but really, this is all just the beginning of an adventure she never would have thought she could have found herself in.

Maybe all of her bad luck resulted from this random occurrence, but let's go back a bit. Haru, on her bad luck day, saves a cat from being hit by a car. Well turns out that even cats like to repay those who help them in times of need. This was a life-or-death situation, so the payment was much more spectacular than Haru could have imagined. In all truth, Haru really did not think about what she did, it was the right thing to do, but now her good deed has brought her more unwanted bad luck. See, the cat she rescued happened to be a member of the Cat royal family. His father, the King, and his kingdom have decided to shower her with feline riches and grant her every female cat's wish... a chance to marry the prince. Well, all of this was very generous but not necessary according to a human like Haru. However, these felines do not seem to understand humility very well. Thus, Haru begins her adventure in a world of fantasy. From this point on, Haru's only goal is to get out of this mess any way she can. With the help of old friends and new friends made along the way, she crosses from this realm of humans to the world of the objects with souls and eventually the Kingdom of Cats trying her best to fix this situation, show her appreciation and return to her normal life (as unlucky as it used to be). Her path will be filled with cat-magic and feline mysticism. Haru may not have wanted to be spirited away like this, but now that she has, she realizes that the little things, like friendships and memories, should not be ignored or abused. They must be cherished and respected. Haru will find out that they could come back and save you some day.

There are times in everyone's life when nothing seems to be going right. In those moments, most people tend to obsess on the negative. They get preoccupied on all that is happening in the present and their attitudes might even propagate more negativity. The funny thing about times like that is that we often do not realize what we are doing wrong. We even forget how to get out of circumstances like that.

Haru is having a streak of bad luck. Problem here is that she does not take it in stride. It is bothering her and every new problem is making it worse. When she has a chance to break from this rut, she jumps on it not realizing the trouble she put herself into. From this point on she makes more of an effort to be more open, more vocal and more aware of what can get her out of her problems. Her friends and her memories, all of the little things that people often forget about are all important parts of our lives. These things are not very tangible, they cannot be bought or found in any particular place. They are things people share and they are truly priceless. Haru comes to understand what these things mean to some people. They are nothing to be taken for granted. These people and their memories and feelings will bring her out of her rut. They will also give her an adventure she will never forget. All those things will also make readers rethink their own memories and adventures - those they went on and those they wished to go on.

As much as I love the concept of Baron, it really left so much open I felt a little disappointed. I know why this went so fast, as this was merely a couple days in Haru’s life, but those days went much faster than the animated version and they were not as magical either. Instead I got to read about a friendship lost that crosses time and space to a cool world of fantasy, and as fun as that can be there is so much more I wanted. I guess I wanted to get to know these characters better. None of the characters got much time to shine, apart from Baron and Muta. Even the lead character appeared to just be there for the ride most of the time. I understood her fear of her life changing, but given her personality (or lack of) I had a difficult time her reasons. She could have happily changed and possibly have lived a decent life. She had very little to go back to but she just did the obvious thing and gave this fantasy world up. Very little was explained here and maybe that was purposely done, but it had me feeling Ghibli handled this property much better than the original source. Maybe as a short story or a picture book, this would have worked better but maybe I am too old now but my imagination did not get going with this. That said this would be a great title for younger audiences. There is a little cat-fighting but apart from that it is a fun time with some cute characters. Definitely an adventure I would like to share with a niece or nephew. Hiiragi might have me wanting more, but I it is because the world she created is so fun I wanted to explore it more.


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