The Cat Returns
Headline: Studio Ghibli Review 2
Originally posted October 7, 2014
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Cat Returns was the first Studio Ghibli film to be released after the academy award-winning, Spirited Away (2001). And judging by its content, it’s clear the company was going for something a little bit different this time around. Differences from Spirited Away include having an older heroine, an animation style that’s brighter and more child-friendly, and a shorter runtime of about 75mins. Doing this may’ve been a good decision. Obviously, Studio Ghibli still wants to make successful movies, but topping Spirited Away would’ve been a huge challenge. That’s why The Cat Returns is simpler and avoids anything that would make it reminiscent of its predecessor. This isn’t to say Studio Ghibli weren’t trying with this film; it just gives their audiences a breath of fresh air after their last feature. The Cat Returns is the first U-rated Ghibli film since 1989’s Whisper of the Heart.
Speaking of Whisper of the Heart, The Cat Returns is actually a spin-off of this movie, because it brings back the characters Baron Humbert von Gikkingen and Muta / Renaldo Moon. In Whisper of the Heart, the main character, Shizuku Tsukishima, attempts to write a story based on a statue of the Baron she finds in an antique shop. The Cat Returns envisions the kind of story she would eventually publish.
The film itself centres on Haru, a stressful and klutzy girl, who’s barely able to keep up with her teenage life. One day, after saving the life of a cat (a prince from the Cat Kingdom), she is rewarded by the Cat King and his servants. However, their ideas of repayment only succeed in making her life more troubling. To top it off, they plan on turning her into a cat and marrying her to their prince. She, of course, wants none of this and seeks help from the Baron, at the Cat Bureau.
I remember seeing trailers of this movie and wanting to know what it was called, so I could watch the English Dub. I wasn’t disappointed when I did. The plot, though simple, really captures the heart of Studio Ghibli with its humour and fairy-tale-like feel. It’s the kind of movie you’d always remember watching as a child – like The Wizard of Oz or The Nutcracker.
If there’s one thing I have to criticise about the story though, it’s that I’m not sure what the main moral is. Usually, Studio Ghibli films have a single universal message which drives the plot forward. In The Cat Returns, however, there appear to be several. These include Haru realising where she belongs, believing in herself and learning the value of good choices despite their consequences. They’re all good messages, but it’s hard to tell which one is most important.
The last thing worth mentioning is some of the voice actors in the English Dub. A lot of them are really good, like Anne Hathaway (as Haru), Kristen Bell (as Hiromi) and Cary Elwes – who also voiced the Baron in Whisper of the Heart. Others like Elliot Gould and Peter Boyle (Toto and Muta, respectively) are funny. But the actor who really stands out to me, is Tim Curry as the Cat King. His portrayal of the character, as an un-kingly womaniser, is so entertaining you can easily remember every line he says in his macho voice.
Overall, I really like The Cat Returns. It has beautiful animation, strong voice acting and a plot that makes a simple story feel special. I’m not sure it’s as good as the other Studio Ghibli films after Spirited Away, but it’s definitely something worth showing your children – they’ll enjoy it as much as My Neighbour Totoro.
My next Studio Ghibli review will be on Porco Rosso. Stay tuned.
After my review on Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind didn’t turn out so well, I wanted to make up for it with my second Studio Ghibli review. It was written a lot better and more people found it helpful. But I noticed some of my previous flaws carried over as well.
For example, I don’t think it was necessary to talk so much about Spirited Away in the introduction. It would’ve been better to discuss more of the history behind The Cat Returns and how Whisper of the Heart was its main inspiration.
Also, the story’s summary was longer compared the one I wrote for my Nausicaa review, but it still felt relatively short after reading it back. Plus, I don’t think it scratched the surface of the plot as much as it could have.
Other small issues included the uncreative headline (Studio Ghibli Reviews 2), pieces of information that were mentioned at bad times, and sentences that could’ve been written shorter with one word replacing several.
I suppose the main problem was thinking I didn’t have much to talk about in this review. That’s why I focused more on the things surrounding the movie, rather than the story itself. I didn’t want anybody to think I was being lazy, because I hadn’t written enough.
I would try to include better content in my later Ghibli reviews. But this was around the time I started university…
(Image courtesy of http://homemcr.org/film/the-cat-returns/)