Starring: Chizuru Ikewaki, Yoshihiko Hakamada, Tetsu Watanabe
Director: Hiroyuki Morita
Running Time: 75 mins
The Cat Returns is a Japanese film about a young girl who, after saving the life of a cat, finds herself whisked away to the magical Cat Kingdom, where she is involuntarily engaged to the prince of the cat world.
This isn’t the weirdest concept in a Ghibli movie, but the way it’s carried out in a real-world setting makes it feel all the more surreal and bizarre. That said, The Cat Returns is a lot of fun to watch, and rather than providing a story that’s more emotionally taxing, it’s a pretty simple, by-the-numbers adventure movie. That means it’s not the best movie ever made, but it’s a fully enjoyable watch from start to finish.
Basically, the concept of this film is that there are some cats in the world that talk and act like humans, and they have their own magical kingdom on the other side of the portal. It doesn’t sound too weird, but when you see the cats animated to be almost exactly like humans, and with real voices, it’s just a little unsettling and surreal.
The first act of this film, where our main character, Haru, is met by the anthropomorphic felines, is definitely the best. The character is established effortlessly, and it made it very easy to support her as the film went on, whilst the odd contrast of the human-ish cats in the real world was very strange to see.
As the story goes on, it gets a little bit more generic and predictable. At times, it feels a lot like a Japanese version of Alice In Wonderland, and it captures the spirit of that story very well, but by the time we move into the final act, it feels a lot more like a Hollywood kids’ movie than a Ghibli film.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. Yes, a more original story is always the best, but The Cat Returns uses the Hollywood adventure formula very well, and makes an exciting and fun film out of it. You could see a lot of what was coming, and it’s clear that this isn’t the most emotionally deep or intelligent movie, but still, I really enjoyed watching the film, with all of its unique Ghibli quirks, and that’s what mattered most in the end, so that’s why I’ll give The Cat Returns a 7.6.