The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

The Cat Returns

Title: The Cat Returns aka Neko no Ongaeshi
Genre: Comedy/Romance
Company: Studio Ghibli
Format: Movie; 75 minutes.
Date: 20 Jul 2002

Synopsis: Haru is your typical junior-high schoolgirl who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. After saving a cat from traffic, she is showered with gifts such as catnip, which she really has no use for. As if that wasn’t bad enough, her “greatest” reward is having the “privilege” of marrying the cat she saved, which turned out to be a prince. With the help of the noble and heroic Baron and the overweight and cranky Muta, Haru tries to stop this marriage from taking place and return to her normal life.

The Highlights
Plot: Simple, yet fun.
Characters: The only way Ghibli makes them: wonderful.
Appeal: Somewhat limited.

The cat came back the very next day, thought he was a goner…never mind. While the character of the Baron returns from Studio Ghibli’s Whisper of the Heart, the two movies have little else in common. An atypical Ghibli anime in that it lacks the universal appeal that characterizes Studio Ghibli’s work, The Cat Returns is an enjoyable tale in its own right and is sure to please Ghibli fans with its heartfelt story and loveable bunch of characters.

The plot of The Cat Returns is nothing original or fascinating; rather it feels more like a long bedtime story than anything else. Seventy-five minutes of cat antics and ‘damsel in distress’ will surely not appeal to those who want a more serious or deep plot. Even so, The Cat Returns can be quite enjoyable, action packed and even funny at times despite its innocence and seemingly childish plot. Thankfully, Miyazaki Hayao did not force his ever recurring theme of “Industrialization is bad” on his viewers, which would have limited its appeal even more as well as frustrate those who got his point a long time ago.

Like everything Ghibli touches, it is the characters that truly make The Cat Returns shine. Baron is just plain cool, and Muta made me smile almost every time he opened his furry mouth. Haru is easy to sympathize with, because she never did anything to deserve her fate (no good deed goes unpunished). The minor characters are just as entertaining as the major ones. The Cat king with his over zealousness and the Cat prince were just as much fun to watch as Baron, Muta, and Haru. None of the characters are well developed due to time constraints, but I was enjoying myself enough not to care.

The one thing that The Cat Returns does not lack in any way is quality of artwork. With backgrounds animated by Production I.G. and excellent character designs, The Cat Returns was always a pleasure to regard. This excellent animation brought the story to life by livening up the many scenes in which everything takes place.

People who like cats will get a kick out of The Cat Returns, and so will Ghibli fans. It’s also a good way to keep kids occupied for an hour while exposing them to anime. Regrettably, that is the extent of the audience of this well made, albeit a little short, anime. While not Studio Ghibli’s greatest work, it is far from the worst and is worthy of its place among Ghibli’s other films in terms of its technical achievements.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: Kuma

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