“A Whole-Hearted Thanks” – The Cat Returns (anime) – 9/10 Black Cats

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving. ~Albert Einstein

Genre: Fantasy/Adventure/Comedy

Review Status: Complete (1 Movie/1 Movie)

Licensed: Yes, this anime is licensed in the US

Art/Animation: The lines look cleaner and the colors brighter than some of the earlier Ghibli films. However, the character designs still remain characteristic of Studio Ghibli.

Dub Vs. Sub: Both are just fantastic.

Summary: Haru, a schoolgirl bored by her ordinary routine, saves the life of an unusual cat, and suddenly her world is transformed beyond anything she ever imagined. The Cat King rewards her good deed with a flurry of presents, including a very shocking proposal of marriage to his son! Haru then embarks on an unexpected journey to the Kingdom of Cats, where her eyes are opened to a whole other world and her destiny is uncertain. To change her fate, she’ll need to learn to believe in herself and, in the process, she will learn to appreciate her everyday life. (back cover of DVD case)

Review: Generally considered a sequel to ‘Whisper of the Heart’, ‘The Cat Returns’ is the tale of a girl who discovers herself in a bit of trouble, and must turn to the Baron- the statue that is featured in ‘Whisper’- for help. From the start, this is an engaging tale. After setting the scene, the ordinary turns to the extraordinary in a single moment. Our heroine finds it easy to pass it off as a dream or imagination, as I imagine many in a similar situation would. However, it becomes inescapably obvious that it’s not.

This might confuse some viewers in why the cats are so grateful. The main idea behind how this all began is a Japanese concept of thanking people. When someone does something for you, you reciprocate with a gift. Gifts are given for everything- coming over to someone’s house, the neighbors you move in next to, coming back from vacation, birthdays, celebrations, holidays… There is hardly an occasion that gifts aren’t called for! To save someone’s life, especially of someone important to you, calls for a gift of the highest order. For the king, this means his son in marriage. Thankfully, the Baron knows that it’s not exactly a delight to be forced into marriage, and calls his band of friends in to help.

It’s a delight to watch the characters interact. They’re full of witty, memorable banter, and it feels like friendship of the deepest sort- the kind where you can insult each other but still love each other at the end of the day. They create quite a memorable cast. Especially the Baron! He steals the show, strangely debonair and easily as charming as any human. Haru notices, and is quite taken with him.

Of course, the whole story is about freeing Haru from her arranged marriage. There is adventure and hijinks galore in it, with the Baron using his wit and skill to get her out of a sticky situation. The things that they get into are definitely amusing, from a maze with moving walls to a daring escape through the halls of the castle.

Its lighthearted tone and innocent adventure make ths a delight to watch. At the same time, it highlights what Ghibli is- a studio that focuses on films that can delight both children and adults, and this is a film that is mostly for the children. It lacks the depth of emotions and themes and philosophy that mark a good deal of their previous films. It is the emotional precursor to Ponyo.

Overall, while it’s a wonderful film, it lacks a certain something that makes it really stand out like most other Ghibli films.

Recommended: 5+. This is a very family-friendly film.

Other titles you might enjoy:
Whisper of the Heart (anime)
Ponyo (anime)
Kiki’s Delivery Service (anime)
+Anima (manga)


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