There’s something enduring about Studio Ghibli. No matter how old or how new their productions are, the animation quality is always up to par. In addition, the writing is as well. No matter how far removed you are from Ghibli, there’s no doubt that you’ll find something enjoying or interesting about whatever movie you happen to be watching. The Cat Returns is one such movie. Strange and whimsical, The Cat Returns is a different type of fantasy anime, one that I haven’t seen before and probably will never see again.
The film tells the story of an insecure teenager named Haru who’s always late to school and a late riser. She also doesn’t believe in herself very much. While walking home from school one day, she and her friend Hiromi watch a pretty gray cat attempt to cross the street. The cat, however, isn’t paying attention and almost gets hit. Haru saves the cat, who turns out to be a Prince in the Cat World named Lune. As thanks for saving his life, the King chooses Haru to be Lune’s wife. Haru wants none of it but they won’t take no for an answer. While at school, Haru hears a mysterious voice asking her to go to the Cat Bureau to seek out the Baron, a cat statue. Baron eventually helps Haru escape from the Cat World by teaching her to believe in herself and have confidence.
This movie was strange in an interesting way. I know I’ve said that about three times in this review but there’s really no other way to describe how different this film is from anything I’ve seen before. Studio Ghibli has had plenty of fantasy films, some of them I’ve yet to see and have no interest in seeing but from what I’ve watched from their catalog, this is really the most whimsical and the most fun out of all of them.
Director Hiroyuki Morita presents The Cat Returns in a different way than other Ghibli films. While Miyazaki and Takahata’s films are beautiful and artwork in themselves, The Cat Returns isn’t quite the same. I’m not saying that the film isn’t beautiful. I wouldn’t consider it a work of art. The cats are all animated with different personalities. There is still the obvious Ghibli touch to the backgrounds where the animations thrive. This film isn’t its predecessor, Whisper of the Heart. Despite that, The Cat Returns still has a good story. Just like every Ghibli film, Morita gives the audience lessons to chew on and discuss with young one. There is something that’s missing that I couldn’t put my finger on.
Honestly, though, despite not really living up to traditional Ghibli standards, The Cat Returns is a film that should be seen if you’re a Ghibli fan. It’s fun, funky, mad in a good way, and just… strange. There just isn’t another way of putting it.