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The Cat Returns
Reviewer: Rowena Lim Lei 01/16/2004

When Haru saves a cat from being run over by a truck, she gets more gratitude than she's prepared for. The cat Haru saved turns out to be the prince of the Cat Kingdom, and his father the king has decreed that all cats are to repay Haru every way they can! From a front yard full of catnip to a school locker full of mice, just about everything a cat wants is handed to Haru on a silver platter. As Haru tries to explain that what a cat wants is different from what a human wants, the cat king decides to give Haru the ultimate gift: his son in marriage! Will Haru end up being the cat prince's bride?

When our family vacationed in Hong Kong last December 2002, The Cat Returns was showing in theaters there. Aside from the fact that it was a Studio Ghibli production, all I knew about the film was that the cats called Baron and Muta from "Whisper of the Heart" would be counted among its main characters. Last month, we had our family vacation in Hong Kong once again -- and this time, The Cat Returns was already out on DVD and I got it without further ado.

The Cat Returns is about a young girl named Haru. She trudges on the daily routine which is her life, and the only thing different about that certain day is that she saves a cat from a speeding truck. That one good deed brings about so many drastic changes to Haru's once mundane existence that she starts pondering if what she did was right. Soon, our girl finds herself whisked off by dozens of cats with the promise of marriage to the Cat Kingdom's prince -- but not before she enlists the help of the dashing cat Baron, the chubby and sarcastic cat Muta, and the talkative crow Toto. Baron, Muta, and Toto have to save Haru before dawn, or else Haru will lose her humanity and transform into a cat completely.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Cat Returns' perfectly paced and straightforward plot, even if I could already more or less guess how things were going to turn out. It's like a modern day fairy tale, and once again Studio Ghibli's impeccable knack for merging reality and fantasy takes over. The characters are all very likeable as well. Baron is so charismatic and eloquent that I completely understood why Haru eventually developed a crush on him.

Art and animation-wise, The Cat Returns is exceptionally suave and flawless. From the bustling Japanese cityscape to the serene rustic environment of the Cat Kingdom, each setting was just breathtaking to behold in all its detail and splendor. Character designs are much cuter, less austere, and more anime-sque compared to other Studio Ghibli works. The musical scoring also enhances the overall mood of the film very nicely.

The Cat Returns is nothing short of pure entertainment and pleasure. I loved every minute of it. Since it is one of Studio Ghibli's less emotionally inclined works, it conveys a positive message while leaving the viewer in high spirits. A must-see, and definitely a must-have.

You can enjoy this film even if you have not yet watched "Whisper of the Heart".

The Cat Returns
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Review Title:
The Cat Returns
Alternative Titles:
Neko no Ongaeshi
75 Minutes
General Rating:
5 out of 5 stars
Suitable For:
Older Children
Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
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