Studio Ghibli Challenge #14: The Cat Returns (2002) Anime Movie Review
For all the cat lovers out there, how often do you think about wanting to experience what it's like to live like a cat? I mean it must be pretty nice jumping down from high places or climbing trees without worrying if you will get hurt. Since cats seem to have a different world of their own, have you also thought to yourself that there could also be a different kingdom where they rule? Or are we living in that kingdom right now?
The Cat Returns is one of the shortest Studio Ghibli films clocking at only 75 minutes it's just a little longer than Ocean Waves. It is also the spin-off of another film Whisper of the Heart but this time it focuses more on cats. And seriously there are a lot of them here.
Haru Yoshioka is just your typical high school girl who somehow has the ability to talk with cats. One day as she was going home from school, she saved a cat from being hit by a truck in the middle of the road. The cat she saved turned out to be a Prince of a certain Cat Kingdom. Showing his appreciation for her efforts, the cats from the kingdom gift her with several cat-related gifts like catnips and mice. One night she is offered to be married to him but in a confusion, the cats interpret it as an acceptance of the proposal. Haru now more confused, heard a female voice who told her to meet a cat named Muta and get directions to the cat bureau. Muta leads her there and she met Baron (the same cat figure in Whisper of the Heart) and Toto a stone raven. Soon, both Muta and Haru were kidnapped to the Cat Kingdom. Baron and Toto soon followed them. Haru was then treated to a meal. When she looked in the mirror, she noticed that she is turning into a cat. During a dance, a disguised Baron told her that as long as she is in the kingdom she will slowly turn into a cat. When the Baron was discovered they fought some guards and escaped from the castle. Haru, Baron, and Muta found themselves in a maze structure where the King devises a plan to keep her in the kingdom for as long as it takes until she becomes a cat. The prince soon returns and told the king that he will propose to Yuki, the female voice that told Haru to meet with Muta. It seems that during her childhood she saved Yuki from starvation. The three then were able to escape with the aid of the prince and Toto. The movie ends with the Baron telling her that the Cat Bureau will be open for her if the need arises.
I think the story of this film is very fun, simple and charming. Its runtime felt too short so the story really moves very quickly. I just hope they extended the story a little bit just to maybe explain more regarding the Cat Kingdom, the royalty, etc. A little information won't really hurt the story in my opinion.
I like that they made a spin-off of the Whisper of the Heart film. Maybe it raised some questions or some fans wanted to see what happened to the Baron. At the same time, I am wondering if in the future the film company will make more spin-off films like this one. Especially for those that raise more questions than answers.
The characters are quite likable, especially Haru, Muta, and the Baron. They are the ones that really drive the plot. But seriously, if you are a cat lover like myself then it's pretty obvious that all of the characters here are good to wonderful.
I suggest watching this film similar to My Neighbors the Yamadas. You know something like an in-between film like if you come from Princess Mononoke or Spirited Away. It's pretty short yet it's very fun and cute at the same time.
I think along with its simple story, it is also one of the easiest Studio Ghibli films to appreciate. It's just a film for everyone. Yeah, even dog lovers can definitely still enjoy this one.
For all of its worth, I will still give it a pretty solid 3 out of 5 stars.