Monday, April 23, 2018

REVIEW: The Cat Returns (anime movie)

Ghibli Fest 2018 continues with the next movie in its lineup, The Cat Returns. Once again, I decided to turn this into a little event for myself and spring for popcorn and a drink. I attended the first of the English-dubbed showings.


I knew I'd seen The Cat Returns before, but I couldn't remember what it was about or even whether I'd liked it. Still, cats are always nice, so I figured I'd enjoy at least that much.

Haru is a high school girl who has trouble getting up on time in the morning and is nursing a crush on one of her classmates, a cool-looking guy who's already dating someone else. One day, Haru saves a strange cat just as it's about to get run over and, to her shock, it speaks to her. The cat, Prince Lune, tells her that he has to go but that he'll be back to thank her properly later.

Haru learns that this isn't the first time she's heard a cat talk. When she was a child, she fed a stray kitten who also spoke to her. However, rescuing Prince Lune turns into a much bigger and more annoying event, as Haru keeps getting showered with unwanted gifts designed more for a cat's tastes than a human's. Things go from bad to worse as Haru finds herself accidentally engaged to Prince Lune. The only one who can save her from being forcibly brought to the Cat Kingdom and married off to a cat is the Baron Humbert von Gikkingen, a cat figurine with a soul, and his two friends, Toto and Muta.

This was...okay. I could see why I had forgotten so much about it. It wasn't bad, but it also wasn't nearly as memorable as my more favorite Studio Ghibli films, like Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, and My Neighbor Totoro.

My favorite part of the movie was probably the beginning, before Haru ended up in the Cat Kingdom. The various gifts she was given were hilarious, and I enjoyed her introduction to the Baron. I honestly wouldn't mind a series of movies focused on the Baron's life and adventures. The Cat King's first appearance also had some fun aspects - I particularly loved the bodyguard tuxedo cats.

Haru morphed into a more frustrating heroine after ending up in the Cat Kingdom. Maybe there was something about the atmosphere that dulled her wits, but instead of freaking out upon being kidnapped and dragged to the Cat Kingdom, she just calmly and happily accepted it. It wasn't until after she started transforming into a cat and thought her one companion had died that she really seemed to remember what kind of mess she was in. She spent most of the rest of the movie as a damsel in distress.

The positive side of that was that the Baron got lots of chances to be cool. He was fun to watch, although he didn't really have much depth to him. Again, I kind of wish this were part of a series of movies devoted to the Baron, since there was so much more that could have been done with him.

I'm a little amazed that Prince Lune and the Cat King were really related. Whereas Prince Lune was level-headed and dignified, the Cat King was just...not. He probably should have abdicated the throne ages ago.

All in all, this was an okay re-watch experience, but definitely not the best Studio Ghibli has to offer.

Additional Comments:

The repeated fat jokes aimed at Muta were a bit irksome, and Haru's last instance of calling him Fatso seemed particularly unnecessary and out-of-place.


  1. The Baron makes his first appearance as a statue in Whisper of the Heart. It seems to me that you may have reviewed it previously.

    1. Hmm, I know I've seen Whisper of the Heart but can't find my review of it, so I'm guessing it's been at least ten years since I last saw it. The Fathom Events extras mentioned that he'd had an appearance in that movie, although I don't recall ever noticing that there was any crossover between the two movies. I may need to see if I can get a copy of Whisper of the Heart for a re-watch.

  2. Oh! Thanks for sharing an honest review. I was lining up some new shows for my kids because vacation is about to start. Last year I made them watch Andy Yeatman shows and it was an amazingly entertaining and educating vacation. Want it to happen this time as well.