The Cat Returns has never been my favorite Ghibli film… but that’s a lot like saying Cadburys is not my favorite brand of Chocolate. It was directed by Morita hiroyuki, and began its life as a short film… then was expanded to full length (80 minutes). There is much to enjoy about this little film, especially for cat lovers. Magic and parallel worlds, beautiful animation and a solid story. The film is a sequel to Whispers of the Heart, and those of you familiar with that film will recognize some characters like the Baron, and fat Muta (Moon).
Haru is a girl overwhelmed by life… school, boys, the usual teen-angst. Walking home from school one day, she rescues a mysterious cat (carrying a small wrapped package) from certain death by truck. The cat thanks her… by bowing and speaking with her. She presumes it was a delusion, until that night, when she is visited by a procession of cats and the King of Cats. The cat she rescued, Lune, is heir to the kingdom.
The cats have decided to repay her for her bravery. (BTW… small aside… the real translation of the movie should be “The Cat REPAYS”, makes much more sense).
She wakes up to find a yard full of cattails… a pocket full of catnip…. and a locker full of MICE!
While the idea has merit… lazing around all day, trouble-free…. Haru looks for a way to get out of this mess. She is led to the Cat Bureau by Muta, where she meets the Baron. He invites her for tea (in an Alice in Wonderland sort of scene). And this is where the theme of the movie is hammered home.
Always believe in yourself and be true to who you are.
She is kidnapped by the cats, and taken to the kingdom. Turns out, she feels right at home there, and she starts turning into a cat. At the banquet in her honor, she begins to realize what a huge mistake it all is… and what a psycho the Cat King is (really, he is my least favorite character… too cartoonish?)
The Baron appears… and it’s time to escape.
I won’t share it all… it’s a movie you will want to see for yourself.
Truly, there are magical moments in this film. Funny moments and even moments where you can forget it’s animated. The message is strong. Believe in yourself.
This movie is suitable for all ages.
The Cat Returns – Review