Based on: Whole film
UK Distributor: Optimum Asia
Hooray! A UK cinema release for an anime that is actually showing in more than three cinemas and thankfully it isn't a bad film. The latest film to be released in the UK from the acclaimed Studio Ghibli who wowed the world with the excellent Spirited Away, The Cat Returns is a very different film to many of the other films that have been produced by Studio Ghibli but at the same time feels very familiar to their other work.
The plot of The Cat Returns is a simple one - unsuccessful 17 year old Haru saves a cat's life and it just so happens to be a talking cat from The Cat Kingdom which leads to a visit from The Cat King who wants Haru to marry his son and for Haru to live in The Cat Kingdom as a princess forever. Naturally Haru does not want to live in The Cat Kingdom (as she will slowly turn into a cat if she does) so she enlists the help of the dashing and heroic cat Baron who swears to protect Haru from The Cat King!
What? That's it? But this is a Ghibli film! Where is the hidden meaningful message? Where is the ecological stuff? Sorry guys but The Cat Returns just isn't like that as it is not directed by Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery Service, Laputa: Castle In The Sky) nor Isao Takahata (Grave Of The Fireflies, Only Yesterday) but it is directed by Ghibli first-timer Hiroyuki Morita who, like Miyazaki and Takahata, has brought is own style of film to Ghibli and has not attempted to emulate previous Ghibli films. Morita has produced a film that is simple enough for the very young to understand and yet is equally enjoyable for the older audience and he accomplishes this ensuring that the film moves at a fast pace and that the film is never too serious in it's plot by keeping the laughs coming thick and fast. Children will love the slapstick humour fighting, adults will love Baron's lazy sarcastic sidekick Muta and everyone will love Haru who is one of the most likeable heroines of recent years.
The Cat Returns really is a breath of fresh air as for once an anime has been theatrically released in the UK that is arty or will only appeal to hardcore fans. Spirited Away may have been a success but it was not a huge success as casual cinema goers felt that it's unusual gods and beasts just felt odd and this led to the film only really being restricted to art house cinemas. The Cat Returns, on the other hand, is accessible to all and the film really has a classic Disney feel to it with it's clean cut heroes and bumbling bad guys you can't help but remember all the decent films Disney used to make. That isn't to say that The Cat Returns has an American feel to it though - no, The Cat Returns has a universal feel to it. This is a film anybody of any age can enjoy. Couple this fact with some sumptuous animation and a fun music score and you are looking at the best family film of the year.
If you want the meaningful ecological film that Ghibli bash out then you had better wait for Howl's Moving Castle later this year. If you to see a brilliantly fun film that will have coming back for more then I urge you to see The Cat Returns as soon as possible. I haven't so much fun in a long time!
Best Bit: When Muta 'attempts' to stop the cat parade kidnapping Haru
Worst Bit: The Cat King's slightly odd accent just doesn't quite fit the character