A surprising choice . . .
MildCritter | Rome, GA United States | 11/10/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I am not doing this review based on the Disney release, but on the original Japanese release. This charming little story is a product of Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli, but it is directed by Miyazaki's associate, Hiroyuki Morita. It is actually a sequel to the excellent and equally charming Whisper of the Heart, another beautiful though very low-key Ghibli product. The strange thing is that Whisper of the Heart has never been released in the U.S.; releasing the sequel before the original is a bit odd.
That being said, a wealth of details about the films (and everything from Studio Ghibli) can be found on the tremendously informative nausicaa.net Web site. Since this film is being released with Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind and Porco Rosso on February 22, it can only be hoped that it will ride somewhat on the coattails of the two better-known Miyazaki works and will have decent sales. It's an excellent family film and is a refreshing change (like all of Ghibli's works) from giant robots, ninjas, vampires, brainless lowbrow comedy mixed with mindless violence, and the other junk that pervades way too much of contemporary anime releases."
Hiroyuki Morita shows strong promise as anime director...
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 02/26/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The studio that released brilliant films such as Grave of the Fireflies (1988), Kiki's Delivery Service (1989), and Spirited Away (2001) brings the audience another fantasy tale. This script was passed over by the anime master Hiyao Miyazaki and the first time director Hiroyuki Morita got his chance to make a film. Morita proves that it is very difficult to follow in the footsteps of his mentor Hiyao Miyazaki with whom he worked when they made Kiki's Delivery Service. Nonetheless, Hiroyuki Morita gives his best effort, as he presents to the world his first feature, Cat Returns.
The young high school girl Haru struggles with her life, as she frequently oversleeps, her clumsiness surface due to stress, and she often arrives late to school. Her peers only notice her when she comes late, or something awkward happens to her. On top of this she seems to be a magnet for accidents, as balls hit her head and she is at the wrong place at the wrong time. This leads Haru to question why these bad events happen to her. Her best friend points out that it might be a bad omen, and her life might get much worse in the near future.
On the way home from school Haru notices a cat that is about to cross the road. What the cat does not see is that a truck is about to run him over, but fortunately to the cat's best interest Haru leaps across the street and saves the cat with her lacrosse stick. When they land the cat stands up on his two back paws and brushes off the dust. Haru cannot believe her eyes and when the cat begins to talk it is too much for her. The cat promises to return later to properly express his gratitude, which only leaves Haru in a stammering bewilderment.
During the night Haru receives a Royal visit from the Cat King of the Cat Kingdom who wants to personally display his appreciation of the brave rescue of his son. The Cat King on the other hand is a laidback furry thing that seems to enjoy his sleep more than anything, as he ushers out the words "Thanks a lot, babe." The cats hand over a parchment to her, which states what they promise to give her, as a gift of their deepest appreciation. These gifts, however, are more suitable for cats, as Haru is overwhelmed with cattail plants, catnip, and neatly packaged mice.
After a tough day Haru bumps into one of the Cat King's clerks to whom she vents her anger and expresses that she has no use for the gifts that were given to her, as she is not a cat. Embarrassed for the mistake the cat clerk seeks to rectify the error, as he hears about Haru's troubles. This leads the cat clerk to disclose that the Cat King has decided to make Haru his daughter-in-law.
Troubled by the Cat King's persistence she fears that she might not escape the planned marriage to the cat. When her anxiety is at its strongest, in regards to the cat marriage, she hears a voice out of thin air that tells her to go to the Cat Bureau for help. Haru follows the voice's suggestion, which leads her to meet Baron Humbert von Gikkingen, Muta, and Toto. Together with her new friends she is about to embark on an adventure to try to stop the arranged cat marriage, which does not come with little difficulty.
The use of humanoid felines brings a cheerful, yet bizarre atmosphere to the story. Creepiness of the film is further enhanced through the story, as the main characters enter the Cat Kingdom. The journey into the Cat Kingdom and the Cat Kings behavior brings notions of Alice in Wonderland, which also has an eerie mood through Alice's venture with the mysterious land that she entered. The Cat King's true nature appears later when the audience meets him for the second time, and he is not the same nice and laidback pussycat that he was the first time.
Cat Returns borrows some elements from other animated films such as Whisper of the Heart (1995), which introduced the Baron. The strong element of felines is also present in Kiki's Delivery Service, which seems to follow the director. These borrowed elements do not harm the cinematic experience. On contrary, it enhances the film, and its value. However, the character development is rather narrow and limited, unlike Spirited Away or Kiki's Delivery Service. This could possibly have something to do with the short running time of the film, which is no more than 75 minutes and within this narrow time frame much must be covered. In addition, the theme does not seem to be fully developed, as there seems to be some plot holes in the story. This means that Morita does not measure up with his mentors, but he shows a strong promise as a future anime artist. Nonetheless, Cat Returns offers a joyous cinematic experience that will most likely be mostly enjoyed by anime fans, children, and feline lovers."
The Next Generation of Studio Ghibli...
ewomack | MN USA | 01/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Cat Returns" has all of the charm, incredible animation, and intensity of a Hayao Miyazaki film. But it's not directed by Miyazaki. As the documentary included on this DVD says, Miyazaki began wondering about the future of Ghibli because the founders are "getting on in years". The hunt began for a new young director. They found Hiroyuki Morita who ended up creating such incredible storyboards for "the Cat Project" that Ghibli decided to let him direct it as a feature. Their instincts served them well. "The Cat Returns", at only 75 minutes, contains all of the magic of other Studio Ghibli releases. It also contains Miyazaki's favorite theme: a young girl who finds herself through a strange journey (Miyazaki receives credit for "Project Concept"). In this case Haru, a Japanese schoolgirl - complete with signature outfit - saves the life of a cat with a lacrosse stick and finds herself transported into a surreal and bizarre world of ensouled creations. She finds herself semi-forcefully betrothed to this same cat, but the Baron (a right and proper aristocratic cat who runs "the Cat Bureau" and who first appeared in "Whispers of the Heart") comes to her aid with the help of the enormous Muta (who usually steals the scene). Even though the movie runs 75 minutes the incredible volume of action makes it feel like a full-length feature. The animation, as always, is incredible. If Morita represents the next generation of Ghibli directors, the studio should prepare itself for years upon years of further successful releases.
Voiceover talent in English includes Cary Elwes ("Farm Boy" from "The Princess Bride") perfectly cast as the Baron, Elliot Gould (from too many things to list) as the Crow, Anne Hathaway ("The Princess Diaries") as Haru and Tim Curry ("Rocky Horror Picture Show") as the Cat King. The English and Japanese versions play differently mostly due to the voices. Curry's King has more of a hippy feel whereas the original sounds more like a corrupt and evil king. Regardless of the differences, it's great to have both versions on one DVD.
The DVD also includes a great documentary on the making of "The Cat Returns" including scenes from the voice sessions for the Japanese version, interviews with Miyazaki, Morita, Toshio Suzuki (longtime Ghibli producer), and others. It also discusses the movie's music with Yuji Nomi and the ukulele-playing Ayano Tsuji. And, as on other Disney/Ghibli releases, "Behind the Microphone" lets the english voice talent talk about their experiences with dubbing the film into English.
Any Studio Ghibli fan will enjoy "The Cat Returns". It has everything anyone would expect from one of the world's best animation houses. And, judging by this release, it will likely remain one of the best well into the future."
First time viewers and long time fans alike will enjoy this
Talon Icewind | Canada B.C | 01/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The cat returns is all about trusting yourself no matter what, it is a confidance booster and is filled with many funny and touching senes.
The cat returns was released in 2002 but its release was overshadowed by sprited away and so did not recive the publicity it was due.
This movie is suitable for all ages and I highly recomend it for younger viewers who are questioning themselves and do not have trust in their own judgement.
The whole family will love this picture, it is somthing I can watch over and over again, the animation is very smooth and the voices fit the characters perfectly, this is quite possably one of the only anime movies that I have not had the need to watch with subtitles instead of the americanized voice overs because the voice acters did a terific job and were cast so well.
The movie caries the lession that if you act with your heart and you trust yourself everything will work out. its a lession most children and some adults (such as myself) need to learn/relearn.
once again I highly recomend this movie."