Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Cat Returns

Intended as a sort of spiritual successor to Whisper of the Heart, The Cat Returns was released on July 19th, 2002. it follows Yoshioka Haru, as she deals with the attention of some VERY grateful cats after she saves their prince from being hit by a car. while Haru is flattered, she eventually realizes how clear she needs to be with them when she is dragged to their kingdom to be the prince's bride.
Needless to say, she's not SUPER happy about it.
Like Whisper of the Heart, The Cat Returns wasn't directed by either Miyazaki or Takahata, but instead by Morita Hiroyuki, an animator at Ghibli. even more interesting, neither of the two giants had any major hand in the film. it also holds the title as the shortest of the official Ghibli films (outside of the TV movie Ocean Waves, which might not be counted under the title of "official" Ghibli film, and it's a 3-minute difference anyway). despite this, it manages to keep the pace fast without feeling rushed, instead pacing the action to match the drama involved. Haru evolves as a character very naturally as time flows on, going so far as to stand up for herself very assertively at the end.

 Note to self: do NOT go skydiving with the pets.
While it's not a comedy, it's not solely a drama either, nor is it purely a slice of life. i'd call it somewhere in the middle of the three, its genre being hard to nail down. given its relation with Whisper of the Heart, combined with the surrealist elements and coming-of-age style plot, I like to think of this as one of Shizuku's novels after she becomes a professional writer (see Whisper of the Heart). if you think about it from that point of view when you watch it, it gives it an interesting, exciting feel to it, since it's sort of like an epilogue to the original movie.

There are some things that never change, such as The Baron being the gentleman he is.

The art style here is distinctly different than other Ghibli works. it's not more realistic in the way Only Yesterday was, nor is it photorealistic/super-cartoony/somewhere in between the way things were in Pom Poko. it remains as anime, but with bigger eyes and differently shaped noses. this could be due to the influence of a new director, or it could be because The Cat Returns started life as the beginnings of a short film for an amusement park (who dropped the project, which Miyazaki promptly scooped up and repurposed into this lovely piece of film.

I think all of us are happy that this beautiful movie didn't go to waste.
The music in this movie is rather mystical, along with most of the sound effects. it's understandable, given that the majority of the story is set in an alternate world, so i'm rather thankful it is. at the same time, though, it's very light and airy, fitting with the bright, sunny setting of the Cat Kingdom. the ending theme in particular is very cutesy and yet rather sad, playing off the bittersweet goodbyes given at the end.

Growing is done through the course of this movie.

short and sweet, the movie was clean as a whistle and clear and sharp enough as one, too. like Whisper of the Heart, there are certain things that may go over a younger viewer's head, but otherwise it's perfectly fine to show this as a follow-up (or even standalone, though I recommend watching them together). the movie received extra-positive reviews from critics, which, given its size, is even more impressive. it is available from Disney in North America and Google via torrent everywhere else.

Please be careful.


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