Posted by psgels on 14 November 2007 with categories: Anime Reviews


To be honest, for the past few weeks, I’ve been watching the various Ghibli-movies and while I admit that I haven’t touched the rumoured best of the bunch yet, I’ve yet to understand why people consider them as legends. At the moment, I see them more as a bunch of movie-makers who excel at realism, just like how Shaft excels in strange art-styles. The Ghibli-movies I’ve seen thus far are great, but I’ve seen many other studios with equally good or even better productions, and I’ve also yet to see a bit of really addictive storytelling mixed with their movies. Luckily, The Cat Returns changed this opinion, and showed me that Ghibli is good at more than just realism.

I went in this movie, expecting something like Sprited Away. A girl gets taken to the cat world, and needs to get out. Well, up till here, the stories match, though that’s also exactly where the similarities end. Instead, this turned into a light-hearted shoujo-adventure, with several playful jabs at despotisms. The setting is smaller than you’d expect, and it’s refreshing to see a movie that doesn’t try to be as epic as possible.

Yet, despite this, The Cat Returns actually has the above-mentioned addictive storytelling for me. This is probably the shortest major Ghibli-movie out there, with the length of just over an hour, and because of that, the pacing is a tad faster than the others. Haru, the main character, is interesting and fun to watch, the major side-characters are delightful and creative and the chemistry between the characters is genuine and excellent.

The short length is also a bad point, though. Especially the antagonists could have been more fleshed out and they seem just a bit too silly. While I believe that the creators were well aware of this problem, and I suspect that it was their intention in the beginning, I think that the scenes would have turned out even better if the evil king and his minions would have gotten a bit more development. I do appreciate how this movie managed to give an identity to the different guards that accompany the king. You rarely see that in anime.

The director for this movie is Morita Hiroyuki, the director of Bokura no and who successfully rewrote the final half of the manga into a true masterpiece, and The Cat Returns really shows the same creativity in its story. While you won’t get any of the grand plot twists of the former, you will get an addictive pacing that never turns dull and is varied enough to keep you interested. The guy is really talented at this, and for this movie, he was actually supervised by Hayao Miyazaki. If this movie took itself a bit more seriously, it would have been an epic one, but for now I’ll call this a fun and innocent way to spend an hour.

7 Responses

  1. Martin says:

    I really enjoyed The Cat Returns too. Sure, I’m a cat person anyway (currently living with three overfed and spoilt specimens right now) but it’s a really lighthearted and feelgood family movie…it’s hard to dislike really.

    The running time was a bit on the short side but then it’s probably more comfortable for youngsters to sit through without feeling bored; besides, it has that less epic vibe you mentioned, which makes it a bit more accessible. I loved the characters too: Haru’s a great protagonist, the Baron’s appearance will please Whisper of the Heart fans and the deranged Cat King is hilarious!

    All in all it’s a great debut effort from Morita…kinda hard to believe he took on an epic and angsty series like Bokurano and made such a good job of it really.

  2. asd says:

    I guess Ghibli movies were legends simply because they are, for the most part “feel good films”.
    Like Disney the directors for ghibli know how to make and direct structured stories better than anyone.

  3. marmot says:

    Spot on psgels, this film had a great shoujo atmosphere and story but so many great characters and interactions were squeezed into such a short time that it feels like it’s missing at least half an hour. Porco rosso is another ghibli film i’ve seen that has that almost but not quite a masterpiece feel to it. Still worth watching.

  4. Senna says:

    The Cat Returns didn’t match my expectations either; it felt more aimed /specifically/ at little girls than Ghibli’s other films, but I adored it nonetheless (perhaps because I am a little girl at heart who has always loved cats … ^^). Yet it still retained a quality of being enjoyable for all ages; it didn’t talk down to its audience or anything. To me, it just felt … simpler, maybe? Less epic is probably a good description too ^_^

  5. Lika says:

    I guess Ghibli movies were legends simply because they are, for the most part “feel good filmsâ€�.

    *cough*Graveyard of the Fireflies*cough*

    I mostly love their films because of the detail that goes into the art, and Spirited Away and Mononoke Hime has some of the best stories ever. The manga for Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was a lot better than the movie (because the movie only covered about a quarter of it), but I loved it nonetheless for the lack of villains and the message it gives. Besides, any movie that can make giant bugs seem cute is an awesome movie to me. xD

  6. LA says:

    I don’t understand….
    You say The Cat Returns is better than The Whisper of the Heart????

  7. psgels psgels says:

    LA: Yes, I actually enjoyed The Cat Returns more than Whisper of the Heart. It’s probably because the latter, while it has lots of realism, missed the addictive storytelling that drew me in the movie.

    Senna: True, this, along with Ocean Waves, is probably the only Ghibli-movie that isn’t aimed towards all ages. Still, I’m a fan of shoujo-stories, so I didn’t mind. ^^;

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  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:47 AM)
    I remember that same guy, during end of eva, pausing it over and over during that scene where asuka dies with all of those fast moving clips too.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:39 AM)
    I remember catching it also when I was young with a friend and we looked back on a fanservice scene with shinji and rei and he mentioned “You know if you think about it that scene is damn disturbing when you think she’s a clone of/modelled after you know who…”
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:36 AM)
    Before Eva, when I was 11 or so my image of a mech anime was Nadesico…then it was eva and then I was like…Whoah…whoah God halp! =O
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:34 AM)
    I suppose credit where I feel it due, the angel designs are excellent and I remember getting the shock of my life when shinji’s eva went nuts and then there was a bit with Bardiel infect Toji’s unit. I remember at least Masatos boyfriend being a likeable character.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:31 AM)
    I don’t think anyone was prepared for Eva, whether they liked the show or not, at 11 I can remember being horrified by end of eva and the series original ending as well as having my first moment of “Feck…theres a first…an anime that did something that scrambled my mind, I actually feel kind of thick now, this show is smarter than I am”.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:27 AM)
    It really wouldn’t have been that hard to put a satisfying ending to the original series, wrap up the threads nicely and put a pretty ribbon on the package to finish it off. But Anno and friends took a risk and went against the tide and end up becoming the trope-namer for the Gainax Endings. That took balls and made things unexpected and fresh, cuz god knows that ,good guys win the day ‘is tired and boring.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:26 AM)
    Requiem for a dream. I remember the guy who recommended that film saying to me “Even someone such as yourself who finds it hard to find/has high standards an emotionally investing film will get something out of requiem for a dream”
  • Bam
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:17 AM)
    @Emma: leaving a bad taste is pretty much the point of Eva, just as getting bummed out by Requiem For a Dream is the naturally intended effect. I don’t mind that you don’t enjoy Eva all that much Emma, l actually appreciate it over dishonest admiration. Just keep in mind that Eva deserves it’s special place in anime.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 01:32 AM)
    But Eva just left a bad taste in my mouth as a whole, I understand that Bam you are very passinette about it and thats fine, I wasn’t aiming to provoke. I just feel that its frustrating that like alot of certain anime, that I am not allowed to dislike it or have reason to.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 01:32 AM)
    If anything at least I found Ikuhara’s symbolism while obvious at least in utena and straightforward was at least visually interesting to look at.
    I love every David Lynch film and again I thought Lain was exceptional.

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