Version reviewed: Japanese Subtitled
Date of Review: 23 Mar 2008
A sequel of sorts to the wonderful Whisper of the Heart, if this is the future of Ghibli, I can’t wait to see more!
Haru is a high school girl who just can’t seem to get things to go her way. One day on the way home from school, she sees an unfamiliar cat. The cat starts to cross the street in front of oncoming traffic, and Haru quickly runs into the street to save the cat from getting hit, using the lacrosse stick which she had with her that day. After tumbling into the bushes after saving the cat, it proceeds to stand up and speak to Haru, thanking her. This strange event leads Haru into an adventure she could never have prepared for.
The future of Ghibli is in good hands, if this movie is anything to go by. This movie also makes it clear that Ghibli can produce “light” entertainment as well as it can the epic stories. Hiroyuki Morita is the director here, so once more we get a glimpse of what is to come from Studio Ghibli once Miyazaki and Takahata step down from the throne.
The Cat Returns is a fairy tale, plain and simple. It’s also the “sequel” to Whisper of the Heart. One link is the cat known as The Baron, and I believe that this is probably a story that Shizuku writes sometime after the conclusion of that movie, with The Baron as her inspiration.
At first glance, this doesn’t appear to be a Ghibli production. The usual character designs associated with Ghibli are not in play here, so in some ways characters look a little more “mainstream”. That said, production values are still very high, and the overall look of the film sits comfortably along the rest of the Ghibli catalogue, character designs aside. One common bond that isn’t left out is the presence of a strong female lead, something which Ghibli fims, especially those of Hayao Miyazaki, are known for. One slight difference here is that Haru starts out discouraged, but gains strength through her ordeals in the movie.
As for the story, it is a simple fairy tale, and going into too much detail would simply spoil some of the charm of the movie, so I won’t. I will say, however, that a certain character type which I never thought I’d see in a Ghibli film makes an appearance here, and it works perfectly. The story is also fun to watch, and clocking in at a mere 75 minutes, The Cat Returns is a great movie to put on when you want something good to watch but don’t have a lot of time. This movie packs a lot of good stuff into just over an hour. If you want to see part of the future of Ghibli, you can’t miss The Cat Returns.