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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  • AidanAK47
    (Friday, Jul 31. 2015 11:20 PM)
    ;(, It goes against my code. If I start something then I start at the start from the start otherwise I feel like I am missing something. I gave one pieces manga and anime a pretty fair shot. Made it up to that shark pirate guy and I can sort I see why people like it but I am really not keen on getting into something with no end in sight. Plus the art style really doesn’t work for me.
  • ;(
    (Friday, Jul 31. 2015 10:52 PM)
    If this world is so overcomplicated for you, you can just quit it. I won’t mind.
  • jerkocaust
    (Friday, Jul 31. 2015 10:36 PM)
    Lord Christ what an overcomplicated world i live in when someone like ;( needs an unnecessarily complicated reason for liking/hating a show. The explanation which, btw won’t change aidanak47’s opinion on the shonen garbage that is One Piece of Shit. We just dont like the show and forcing ourself to come at it from a different angle which is what you push is disingenuous and tiring.
  • ;(
    (Friday, Jul 31. 2015 10:25 PM)
    And btw the only reason you think all these chapters are a bad thing is because you feel obliged to read all of it. Push that silly obligation aside and you have a story like any other with normal pacing that just has a long history.
    And btw, an arc just ended so now there are a few “sneak peeks of events all over the world” chapters, and soon the new arc will begin. So it’s a good point to join.
  • ;(
    (Friday, Jul 31. 2015 10:24 PM)
    -After the first few arcs the story takes place in the Grand Line an enclosed huge ocean with many strange islands.
    That’s it. You can now read the new chapters, and get into the new arc without any great reprecutions aside from a few references to the events of the previous arc which you can just read in a minute in TV tropes recap pages or something.
  • ;(
    (Friday, Jul 31. 2015 10:24 PM)
    All you really need to know to understand the current arc is the general plot I’ve just stated and some very basic info about the setting, all of which is given to you at the very start of the story:
    -There are magic fruits in this world that allow certain individuals to gain powers in exchange to being unable to move underwater.
    -pirates naturally are outlaws and are hunted down by the world government and the marines.
  • ;(
    (Friday, Jul 31. 2015 10:22 PM)
    Luffy wants to be the pirate king, a feat that he accomplishes by slowly becoming a stronger bigger deal, and finding One Piece which he is supposed to accomplish by reaching the end of a dangerous ocean. And in general terms that’s it. There’s a lot going on with conspiracies and world powers and many different sided wars…. But all of these are extras.
  • ;(
    (Friday, Jul 31. 2015 10:21 PM)
    It’s awesome when you see it and speculate and later see your speculation coming true, but if you just came in and saw these events that were foreshadows, you didn’t lose anything, the events are just a bit less awesome to you then those that waited for it to happen. The overall story has a lot to it if you get into specific details, but like I said it’s very simple and is told to you right at the start:
  • ;(
    (Friday, Jul 31. 2015 10:19 PM)
    BUT it doesn’t really ruin anything with enjoying the story. One Piece’s plot is both simple and separated into arcs. Each arc is a standalone story which while affecting the One Piece world each time isn’t really affecting the larger plot a whole lot. Even if it does it’s basically foreshadowing for future events.
  • ;(
    (Friday, Jul 31. 2015 10:18 PM)
    There are rules to manga reading now?
    Geez these law makers ruin everything!!!
    Anyway as an answer to your question; you miss on the major appeal of getting all the references and seeing the characters and world grow.

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