The Cat Returns (2002)
Haru Through The Cat Flap
Haru is just an ordinary school girl who is always running late for school. But things for Haru take a turn for the strange when she saves a cat from being run over by a truck as the cat turns around, gets up on its hind paws and thanks her for saving his life. What Haru doesn't realise is the cat she saved is Prince Lune who happens to be the son of the Cat King. Grateful for Haru saving his son's life the Cat Kings plans for Haru to marry Prince Lune which confuses her as she is not a cat. But having met some other talking cats she finds herself being taken into the kingdom of the cats.
To call "The Cat Returns" a sequel to "Whisper of the Heart" would be wrong as it isn't a continuation of the story. Instead we have a couple of cat characters, Muta and The Baron, who return for this movie which almost has a classic feel of a young girl who finds herself taking a trip in to another world such as "Alice in Wonderland", "The Wizard of Oz" and also "Labyrinth" to name just a few. But here we have Haru ending up in not only the Kingdom of Cats but also the cat bureau with Peter Boyle bringing his sarcasm as the voice of Muta which is one of the many plus points of the movie.
I say many plus points and one of the others is that this storyline manages to deliver entertainment for the whole family as it is simple enough for children to follow and be kept entertained by whilst still delivering humour for grown ups as well. It is something which is the one failing of many a Studio Ghibli animation, they either work at a very innocent level to keep children amused or end up being animations for grown ups.
But whilst "The Cat Returns" is certainly enjoyable it is not up to the standards of "Whisper of the Heart" and the animations didn't wow me. They are beautiful in their own rights but the detail is not there, the layered look with things moving at different depths is for me lacking. Yet truth be told even an ordinary looking Studio Ghibli animation is superior to most others.
What this all boils down to is that "The Cat Returns" didn't really captivate me like other Studio Ghibli animations have. Oh it is pleasant enough but compared to other Studio Ghibli animations this feels ordinary.
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