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Tama-Neko's The Cat Returns Tv Review

The Cat Returns tv Review

Story & Characters

Neko no Ongaeshi (The Cat Returns) is a light-hearted story following the adventures of a high schooler, Haru, in extraordinary circumstances. The story begins one day after Haru, having a most miserable day at school, rescues the life of a cat - who happens to be the Cat Prince. The Cat Kingdom is so grateful to Haru that they send her a barrage of gifts, including the Prince's paw in marriage! Although Haru tries to enlist the help of the Cat Bureau, she ends up dragged to the Cat Kingdom, where she must find a way back to her own world.
Although the movie follows the typical "girl gets transported to another world" plot, unlike other stories in this genre, Haru is neither the world's savior nor destroyer. She just manages to get tangled up in Cat Politics and has to figure her way out of the mess. Haru is helped by the Baron, a dashing ginger cat statue with a soul, and the incredibly fat, grumbling, but good-hearted cat Muta. Arrayed against her are the Cat King, an aging monarch who is far too used to getting his own way, and his retainers who are more than happy to give it to him. Each of these characters has a fairly distinct personality, and all of them are likable - Haru with her spunk, the Baron with is chivalry, Muta with his bumbling antics -- even the Cat King is not evil, merely selfish and stubborn, who delights just a little too much in mucking up the plans of others.
With just an hour and half of running time, the movie starts off running and never lags. Events happen at regular intervals without any wandering off of the plot line or rushing into the next scene, wrapping up smoothly with a little bow tied into it. In order to keep the story moving, the movie relies on numerous plot devices, but keeping in with the light-hearted nature of the story, it gleefully acknowledges the fact that they are plot devices. When Haru and company learn they must travel through an elaborate maze and climb an enormous tower to escape the kingdom, the Baron remarks drying, "Naturally." When a portion of tower breaks away under the feet of the guards, the king's adviser merely rolls his eyes and remarks, "Well, the tower IS getting old..."
Being a movie focused on a younger audience, there are several moral lessons sprinkled throughout the story, mostly in the vein of knowing and accepting yourself for who you are, and the rewards of generosity. The moral lessons are fairly obvious, but handled lightly and without too much lingering, and don't really detract from the fun romp of a plot. The story is mostly fluff, and doesn't pretend to be anything different.

Rating: 7

Art

The Cat Returns is a movie, which generally means lavish money spent on artwork. It is also made by Studio Ghibli, which generally means lavish detail spent on artwork. As a result, The Cat Returns is visually smart and aesthetically pleasing with its bright color palette, suiting the whimsical nature of the story and settings. Backgrounds are richly painted and detailed, including lots of fun little details in the Cat Kingdom, like paintings of fish decorating the windowsills. Character animation is smooth and fluid. The animated cats are detailed and look and move like you'd expect real cats to do, instead of being exaggerated or caricatured. The Baron looks dapper in his white suit with top hat and cane. The King is a rather shaggy mess, but as ruler of the Cat Kingdom, he can get away with just about anything, even a sloppy appearance.
The best part about the animation is the coloring and design of the cats that live in the Cat Kingdom. The King's secret service detail are black and white cats with patterning that suggests they're wearing suits and shades a la Men in Black. The castle guards have mottled camoflauge coloring. In the banquet scene, the King is surrounded by cats from different nations - Egyptian cats with Pharaoh headdresses, Chinese cats with Mandarin hats, and British cats with stiff and frilly collars.
As a movie, and a Studio Ghibli movie at that, it's no surprise that the art is excellent.

Rating: 9

Sound

Music: The Cat Returns has a generally off-beat, whimsical soundtrack. The music is generally low-key and quietly sets the mood of each scene, but as there aren't any big dramatic scenes, or action-packed fight scenes, there's not much need for rousing or moving orchestral pieces. Instead, the music tends to rely on strings and occasionally horns. The soundtrack is fitting, but not particularly memorable. The theme song, "Kaze ni Naru" (Become the wind) is again a bouncy, light piece sung by Ayano Tsuji. It's a cute song, but not something you would probably get stuck in your head. 6/10
Japanese cast: The Japanese cast performs solidly, helping to quickly establish the moods and personality of each of the characters. There aren't really any breakout performances here, though. 7/10
English cast: The English cast is a bit more spotty compared to the Japanese cast. Anne Hathaway brings forth a lot of the spunk and vitality that define Haru, even when Haru is depressed, but Peter Boyle's Muta doesn't show enough emotion - Muta sounds the same whether merely grumbling over an inconvenience or genuinely angry at something. Curry's Cat King is a bit odd (he likes to call everyone "Babe") but helps portrays the King as selfish, not evil. Cary Elwes makes an excellent Baron. His slight British accent and dry humor render the Baron as genteel yet dashing, and gives him an immediate air of respectability, making it easy to see why Haru develops a minor and temporary crush on him. 7/10 (but 99999999/10 for the Baron)

Rating: 7

Presentation

The Cat Returns is a light piece of fluff that can be enjoyed by animation fans of all ages, but which probably works best for a younger female crowd. There are moral lessons, but it's also got a good story with lots of humor and just enough action scenes to keep your attention from wandering. Otherwise there's not a whole lot of substance -- if you're looking for a more serious and slightly darker Ghibli film where a character gets drawn into another world, I would recommend "Spirited Away". The Cat Returns is a good movie if you want to sit back and relax and watch something for pure entertainment value, and is probably not a bad movie to watch with a group of friends, who can share in the laughter and absurdity together.
The Cat Returns is also available as the one-volume manga, "Baron, the Cat Returns" by Aoi Hiiraga, which is fairly similar to the movie, although there are some minor differences in Haru and Yuki's relationship.
If you like the Baron's character, you should also check out "Mimi wo Sumaseba" (Whispers of the Heart) in which a young girl named Shizuku struggles to write her first story. The story was about the Baron character, based off of a cat statue Shizuku finds in a little curio shop. One might imagine The Cat Returns as Shizuku's full-length novel on the Baron, although except for Muta (who is in both stories), there is little connecting these two movies, and both can be enjoyed separately.

Rating: 8

Final Verdict

7.67 (good)

Reviewed by Tama-Neko, Jun 20, 2007

Comments

  1. Ionae Jun 22, 2007

    Hm... good review, but a litttle spoilerish imho...
    Like you said, this is a wonderful "family movie" and perfect for a relaxing and cozy evening ;)

  2. SpikeyApples Jun 28, 2007

    i love watching this film..its great! the theme song is really cute too! heheh! :D

  3. jaderabbit Jul 02, 2007

    All of miyazaki's films are soothing, and brilliant artwork, i think u gave it a proper score of 8 "7.6 rounds up", kinda felt like a 8 lol.

  4. Eliane21 Jul 29, 2007

    the movie was great...but it's so sad...that they can't stay together 4ever! :o)

  5. nonoharameiko Aug 16, 2007

    I wonder, is there a relation between this movie and "Mimi wo Sumaseba", also by Studio Ghibli? The statue of a cat named "Baron", and the fat cat named "Muta", seem to be taken straight from this movie (or is it the other way round?).

  6. ShadowDreamer16 Sep 13, 2007

    I read somewhere that " The Cat Returns" is a story written by Shizuku from "Whisper of the Heart", that's why the title is "The Cat RETURNS". It could be false, but it makes sense, plus I think I read that on a Ghibli site. Anyways it's a good family movie, not a masterpiece, but still enjoyable.

  7. Bubbachibi18 Sep 30, 2007

    The Cat Returns was a really good Miyazaki movie, it was fun to watch and come on...who doesn't love Muta, he just made the movie for me. :)

  8. SchRita Dec 22, 2009

    Thanks for the review!

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