Today is a first here at DaHubbz! Our first Anime Movie Review (Hopefully the first of many). I’m reviewing The Cat Returns.
The Cat Returns is Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away, Only Yesterday) 12th film. It was directed by Hiroyuki Morita and Reiko Yoshida and was released in Japan in 2002.
We’re about jump into this but I want to add a couple disclaimers before we go.
I watched the Blu Ray English dub from Disney. The Cat Returns moved to America in 2005 and starred Anne Hathaway in the lead role of Haru.
I watched Spirited Away in my younger years, so for review purposes, The Cat Returns is my first Studio Ghibli film.
Spoilers: Spoiler free as I can get.
Okay, here we go!
Studio Ghibli is a studio known for it’s heart warming characters, enduring animations, and timeless story telling. The Cat Returns delivers on all three fronts. After my first viewing I was torn. I knew it was a good movie, but I struggled to stick with a score. The best part of it for me the first go round were the characters. Anne Hathaway was great as Haru. Peter Boyle (Everybody Loves Raymond) as Muta and Kristen Bell (Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Frozen) as Hiromi and the other cast I think all did great jobs with their respective roles. After it was said and done I struggled to find the meaning of the film. I was getting hung up in the stuff that bothered me and did not make sense.
For starters, The Cat Bureau. It seemed like such a cool idea. Objects are given souls and come to life. Unfortunately, we only see the Cat Bureau once. I also struggled with a purpose for the film. Honestly, I think that boils down to being so caught up in everything else, the meaning just went right over my head.
Thankfully, I watched it a second time. It hit me and stuck with me. Biggest mistake I made going into it was assuming this was a movie about Baron, the kitty cat on the cover. Well it is not. This is a story about Haru. As cool as they try to make Baron out to be, he has to take a backseat to Haru. This was not something I was willing to let happen my first viewing. I wanted more of Baron and Muta and the Bureau. Big mistake on my part.
I’ll break it down by topics moving forward.
Plot: The Cat Returns is a story of Haru, a young teenage girl. She oversleeps, has secret, little crushes, and most noticeable struggles with who she is. This is very apparent through dialogue with her friend and mother. She saves prince Lune, prince of the cats, and news travels fast to the cat kingdom. The king makes it his priority to return the favor. This part is cute as the cats offer her several live mice among other gifts. The most noteworthy is Lune’s hand in marriage. She tries to run away from the cats, but these cats are willing to risk all nine of their lives to get Haru to the kingdom. Baron leaves her with more or less these words, “never forget who you are and you will be fine.” Good stuff. Needless to say, Haru gets caught up immediately in the kingdom. Haru turns away from her human side and becomes a cat. I’ll avoid major plot spoilers. Baron shows up and save hers in more words then that.
Characters: While I said the characters were the best part of this movie, and stick by it, there really is only one character to do a major analyze on. For starters I think this movie is great, but so much of it depends on Haru. Haru is a character we have been taught has issues. She begins thinking maybe the cat kingdom is where she belongs, but she does it everywhere new. First, it is the Cat Bureau, then the kingdom. It is at least consistent in that regard. Watching her evolution is a beautiful yet unfulfilling event. I think getting wrapped up in the kingdom and the other characters is why I did not realize how much of this movie hinged on Haru. This is why I’m sad it did not hit me the way I had hoped. When she has the dramatic change from cat back to human it felt rushed or unexplained, I guess. I felt the urgency from Baron to get Haru back to the human world, but not Haru’s. Maybe that is just me. Even in the end, she has to be saved from falling off the tower. I guess the one big take away is that she did choose to ultimately leave the cat kingdom, even if I’m not sold on it. This makes me doubt the Haru seen at the end, even though I do enjoy that Haru.
The World: Another great part of this movie. The Cat Bureau and Cat Kingdom are great, beautiful, and lively. The cat kingdom is bustling with heart, character, and humor. This place is filled with secret agents, explosions, mazes of death, epic falls, and a crazy ruler. I never got a sense of dread or darkness. Seriously, even during all these crazy parts, it is still fun, energetic, and up beat.
Verdict: What I’m ultimately judging this film on is this movie through Haru’s eyes. This differs from the score I’d give if I was just judging it as a whole.
Score: 7.5 out of 10.
Conclusion: This movie is awesome and well worth the watch. I dare say it could be a classic. It is charming and enduring. It bolsters amazing characters, well timed humor, and a vibrant world. Haru did not connect with me the way I wanted her to, and the grade reflects that. In the end I do not actually believe she has undergone any change, or more so, the change feels forced. Her coffee line at the end did not hit me the way I think the studio had hoped.