The Cat Returns Review
By Christopher Null
This rather simplistic entry into the feel-good anime genre comes from Kiroyuki Morita (last seen animating the raunchy Perfect Blue but also responsible for working on the kind-hearted Kiki's Delivery Service). The Cat Returns is Morita's first outing as director, and it's a fair, if ultimately unrealized experience.
The story involves young Haru (voiced for the States by Anne Hathaway), who rescues a helpless cat from an oncoming truck, only to find herself in the debt of a feline kingdom she formerly didn't know existed. Haru is awakened one night by a bizarre procession on her street: It's the king of the cats (Tim Curry), bearing gifts. Before she knows it, she's whisked into the world of the cats, where she is transformed into a half-cat/half-person, and is told she will be marrying the cat she saved, who turns out to be the cat prince.
Naturally, Haru's got little interest in living in the cat world for the rest of her life, and a helpful cat baron (Cary Elwes) swoops in to her rescue, with the help of a ragtag bunch of pals.
And so it goes, in typical anime fashion, as Haru encounters a series of odd scenarios en route to enlightenment. But messages like "You have to believe in yourself" (the mantra of The Cat Returns, repeatedly endlessly over its 75 minute running time) don't work if you simply say them outright. They need to have something to do with the story and the characters need to discover these lessons as they go along. Having every random character tell it to you doesn't get the job done.
Still, there are enough fun moments to make Cat worthwhile, especially if you're a fan of our feline friends. (My favorite moment comes during a cat proposal: "Do you accept these crackers, as a symbol of my love for you?")
Gotta love these guys.
The new DVD includes two discs, adding complete storyboards and a pair of behind the scenes featurettes.
Aka Neko no ongaeshi.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Friday 19th July 2002
Distributed by: Toho Company Ltd.
Production compaines: Studio Ghibli, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, Mitsubishi, Nippon Television Network Corporation (NTV), Toho Company, Tokuma Shoten
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Fresh: 17 Rotten: 2
Cast & Crew
Starring: Chizuru Ikewaki as Haru Yoshioka (voice), Yoshihiko Hakamada as Baron Humbert von Gikkingen (voice), Aki Maeda as Yuki (voice), Takayuki Yamada as Lune (voice), Hitomi Satô as Hiromi (voice), Kenta Satoi as Natori (voice), Mari Hamada as Natoru (voice), Tetsu Watanabe as Muta (voice), Yôsuke Saitô as Toto (voice), Kumiko Okae as Haru's Mother (voice), Tetsurō Tamba as Cat King (voice), Yo Oizumi as Additional voice (voice), Yōko Honna as Additional voice (voice), Ken Yasuda as Additional voices (voice)
Also starring: Rene Auberjonois, Kristen Bell, Andrew Bevis, Peter Boyle, Katia Coe, Tim Curry, Cary Elwes, Elliott Gould, Judy Greer, Anne Hathaway, Toshio Suzuki, Cindy Davis Hewitt