7 CommentsFavourite and Forgotten / By Scamp /

2002 Anime: The Cat Returns

Neko no Ongaeshi - [HQR.remux-DualAudio][NTV.1280x692.h264](0CDC2145).mkv_snapshot_00.41.03_[2013.01.15_19.35.54]BREAKING NEWS!!

THIS JUST IN:

STUDIO GHIBLI MAKE REALLY GOOD ANIME!

Neko no Ongaeshi - [HQR.remux-DualAudio][NTV.1280x692.h264](0CDC2145).mkv_snapshot_00.23.25_[2013.01.15_19.17.54]

Cat Returns is a bit of an anomaly Ghibli movie. It isn’t directed by Miyazaki or Takahata, but instead by Hiroyuki Morita, dude who went onto direct Bokurano. It’s a spin-off story from Whisper of the Heart, and was originally only supposed to be a 20 minute piece, but for various reasons kept spiralling up and up in length until we got this full blown movie. Not that you need to know any of this going in. It’s about a girl who saves a cat from being hit by a truck. The cat hails from the Cat Kingdom, who promises to repay her by being a huge nuisance. A bit like how cats cough up dead animals on your chest and expect to be congratulated.

Cat Returns doesn’t get a whole lot of publicity next to its Ghibli movie compatriots. It’s not a sprawling epic fantasy, nor a deeply personal human tale like their other movies. Cat Returns is firmly a comedy. It’s trade is primarily visual slapstick, but there’s enough cleverness to the way its presented that it doesn’t feel juvenile or get old quickly. They’re usually one-note things, like the bodyguard cats having a fur pattern that makes them look like they’re wearing tuxedos, or the disproving look the Muslim cat wearing a burqa gives her husband after she catches him ogling another pretty lady cat. Most of the visual gags come from ‘cat lore’ ideas such as this, where they translate human ideas into cat form. What would the leader of a slightly dodgy organisation give as a present? Why, recreational drugs of course! Otherwise known as catnip in cat-lore.

Neko no Ongaeshi - [HQR.remux-DualAudio][NTV.1280x692.h264](0CDC2145).mkv_snapshot_00.42.53_[2013.01.15_19.37.59]

When it’s not trading in on its visual humour, Cat Returns goes to that stable of Ghibli tricks to bring out the wonder as the magical enters the mundane world. Statues coming to life, cats parading down the street, entering a street that you’re clearly too big for. I’ve never been as big on the massive sprawling fantasy epics Ghibli do, because they feel like they get a bit lost in what they’re trying to do and end up getting all a bit silly. Where I love them is Porco Rosso, Arrietty or the start of Spirited Away where it’s the injection of a little bit of magic into the regular world, and time and time again they nail those scenes. The way the music tees up the scene, how there’s little hints of reveals that something’s up before it actually happens. The movie does lose this edge when they enter The Cat Kingdom, but the visual comedy picks up the slack there. It gets all a bit silly, but since its played for jokes, it remains thoroughly entertaining.

Cat Returns doesn’t have an annoyingly perfect female lead either! The lead character is an humanly flawed teenage girl who feels she’s sucking at life and wouldn’t mind a change in identity to escape from it all. Her story of self-confidence, while obviously not the main attraction while you’ve got cats wearing burqas, wraps up quite nicely in its own way. She’s animated quite strangely, in a different way to how Ghibli usually operate it. She stumbles a lot, moves like she’s uncomfortable in her skin, and has lots of little attention to detail that’s really quite noticeable and goes a long way to establishing her character using visual cues. It’s rather reminiscent of the way KyoAni animates nowadays, except without all the little cutesy details like inward pointing toes and other animation tricks sacrificed towards the Unholy Alter of Moe. Although considering the Cat Returns girl falls over a lot and is generally really clumsy, maybe she is a K-ON girl after all? She even has the eyes for it.

Neko no Ongaeshi - [HQR.remux-DualAudio][NTV.1280x692.h264](0CDC2145).mkv_snapshot_00.23.26_[2013.01.15_19.17.57]See what I mean? I’d always thought that animation style started with Kannagi, but it turns out Ghibli were way ahead of the trend.

As an aside, the English Dub is possibly the best I’ve ever heard. Disney usually do good jobs anyway, but they really knocked it out of the park with Cat Returns. Every single role is nailed, from the gentlemen cat’s posh Britishness to the king cat’s opening “heeeyyy babe” line. The main girl in particular is so fantastically done, and she wouldn’t have come across as human as she did without it. I know poor old Bang Zoom can’t afford to bring on friggen Anne Hathaway to voice their main characters like Disney did for Cat Returns, but it really is nice to watch an anime of this quality and not either flinch every 5 minutes because of bad line delivery or resort to subs and have my eyes glued to the bottom 6 inches of the screen.

Cat Returns doesn’t leave a huge impact. Its comedy, being of the silly variety, doesn’t hold a lot of weight. The story is quite pedestrian too, if at least still well executed. But the movie is a huge amount of fun, and genuinely laugh out loud in a way Ghibli normally are not. It’s magical, doesn’t outstay its welcome, and I’m hard pushed to think of a way the movie could have been any better. So yeah, Ghibli make good movies. News at 11.

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7 Comments

  1. Fumoffu!!
    Posted January 28, 2013 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    So far I would actually say that The Cat Returns is my favourite Ghibli movie, although I have yet to see Porco Rosso (I’ve made a mental note to watch it).

    Then again, I’m not that much of a fan of Ghibli films in general, they are always solid and all, but I gave pretty much all of the them either 6 or 7.

    • Scamp
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

      Yo, you should really watch Porco Rosso. I’m not the world biggest Ghibli fan either, but Porco Rosso is fucking great

  2. Posted January 28, 2013 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Wait, the Bokurano director did this one? Must have missed that part. But yeah, Cat Returns is a good movie. Need to rewatch it sometime.

    And yes, I really recommend you check out Whisper of the Heart someday. It’s a little too long, but it’s one of the best young love stories I’ve ever seen. I think E.Minor considered it his favorite Ghibli (mine too). Pity the director died due to overwork.

  3. Posted January 29, 2013 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    I think Tim Curry as the Cat King is my favorite. Has Tim Curry ever not been utterly wonderful?

  4. anon
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    I caught the last part of this the other day on our local disney channel. I was wondering why the animation looks japanese. and then I read this post. looks like the universe is telling me to watch it.

    • Scamp
      Posted January 30, 2013 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

      The universe has good taste

  5. Erif
    Posted April 28, 2013 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    I watched this when I was younger but I remember not being very fond of it.

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