Friday, March 30, 2012

The Cat Returns Anime Review

The Cat Returns
Buena Vista Home Entertainment (Disney)
Movie - 75 mins. - 2 discs
$29.99 (2005)
ISBN 786936268836
Japanese/English Audio - English Subtitles
Director - Hiroyuki Morita
Studio - Studio Ghibli

Synopsis: Haru is a typical high school girl who likes to sleep in late and has a crush on a popular boy.  She is an awkward teenager cruising through life without any real drive or purpose.  Her life changes one day when she saves a cat from being run down in the street.  The cat turns to her after the miraculous rescue and says "Thank you".  Speechless at what she has seen, Haru goes home and attempts to brush off the bizarre encounter.
Haru performs a daring rescue of a cat
In the middle of the night she is visited by a strange procession of cats and the even-stranger Cat King.  He thanks her for saving his only son and says she will receive a succession of gifts.  The next day she awakes to a field of catnip and her locker is filled with mice at school.  The gifts of the Cat King are driving her crazy, but the biggest revelation is yet to come - she is going to be married off to the Cat King's son! 
Haru meets the Cat King - I love the tuxedo cats as the King's 'secret
service' agents
Haru has nowhere to turn except the Cat Bureau where she befriends the Baron (a living cat figurine) and Muta (an obese, but very strong cat).  The wedding day draws near and Haru is whisked away to the Cat Kingdom - can her new friends rescue her?
Haru enlists the help of Muta and the Baron
Pros: Great animation and backgrounds, charming story with some humor and excitement, nice bonus features including dub cast interviews and making of featurette

Cons: Dub scripting has a few dud lines (mostly for the Cat King and Haru) and Anne Hathaway's performance is just okay, film is short at 75 minutes, subtitles are based on the English dub and not the original Japanese audio (i.e. 'dubtitles')
I don't know why, but I bet the Cat Kingdom is nearby
Mike Tells It Straight: The Cat Returns is not quite a sequel to Whisper of the Heart, another film by Studio Ghibli, although it brings back two characters from that feature - Baron Von Gikkingen and Muta (who were both shown in fictional scenes based on the main character's writings).  The director of Whisper of the Heart, Yoshifumi Kondo, passed away a few years after the release of that film and The Cat Returns was given to Hiroyuki Morita as his directorial debut.  It remains one of the few films not directed by Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata
Haru and Muta on the outskirts of the Cat Kingdom
This film is a charming addition to the Studio Ghibli works, but not one of their best efforts.  The comparatively short duration and use of a rookie director seem to be the cause of this shortfall.  The animation quality is very nice with all the lush backgrounds the studio is known.  I would have preferred a longer feature allowing the characters to develop further and the Cat Kingdom could have been explored. 
How would you like this guy as your father-in-law?  Snarf!
My biggest gripe is the dub scripting and voice actors - several lines were butchered and ended up sounding off.  Anne Hathaway's performance was so-so.  The subtitles weren't based on the original Japanese, but instead the English dub (i.e. 'dubtitles') which made watching in original language inaccurate. 

My two-year-old loves this film and it's easily an all-ages favorite, especially for those who love cats.  Overall I would recommend watching the movie, but perhaps not purchasing it unless you find it more than passably interesting.

TO BUY and Recommendations: