Cat Returns, The (2002)

Fantasy encroaches into reality in this slight if charming little anime from Studio Ghibli that might just finally make non-feline lovers realise why cats are to be fussed about.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,274

Dir. Hiroyuki Morita
2002 | Japan | Animation/Adventure/Fantasy | 75 mins | 1.85:1 | Japanese
G (passed clean)

Cast: Chizuru Ikewaki, Yoshihiko Hakamada, Aki Maeda
Plot: After helping a cat, a 17-year-old girl finds herself involuntarily engaged to a cat Prince in a magical world where her only hope of freedom lies with a dapper cat statuette come to life.
Awards: Official Selection (Cannes)
Source: Studio Ghibli

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Light/Family
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Mainstream

Viewed: Netflix
Spoilers: No

With this, I’ve finally completed all the Studio Ghibli films.  A shoutout to Netflix for helping me to plug my gaps outside of Hayao Miyazaki. 

The Cat Returns is one of the animation studio’s shortest features—despite its slight runtime, it’s a charming little piece of work, directed by Hiroyuki Morita who hasn’t made any other feature except this. 

I’m a dog lover, so I don’t quite understand why some people like cats, but this could be the movie that might just finally make non-feline lovers realise why these creatures are to be fussed about. 

Fantasy encroaches into reality as the protagonist, a teenage girl, saves a cat from onrushing traffic.  Unbeknownst to her, the cat is actually a prince in some kind of alternate reality, a Europeanised Cat World as it were.  Hidden agendas ensue when the king invites her to his palace to thank her. 

“Always believe in yourself. Do this and no matter where you are, you will have nothing to fear.”

The Cat Returns has a bit of everything—comedy, action, a race against time and sarcastic banter—and should please undemanding anime fans or kids looking for a short and sweet escapade. 

The film covers themes of courage, teamwork and the desire to stand for oneself even when the odds aren’t favourable. 

As far as the animation is concerned, it is in the typical Ghibli style—beautiful when it needs to be, and unassuming when narrative and characterisation kick in. 

My favourite scene has got to be the magical cat procession in the middle of the night—the kind of stuff that Ghibli is so good at. 

Grade: B



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