Film Review: The Cat Returns (2002)

The Cat ReturnsThis year, I’ve been slowly working my way through all of Studio Ghibli’s films (see my “review” for Howl’s Moving Castle). I’m not very far along (four movies in—hence the “slowly”), but I’ve been enjoying myself so far. It’s funny that I somehow missed out on the anime craze when I was in high school. I never watched a single Studio Ghibli film until I was an adult. The same thing goes with anime television shows (I’m also slowly working my way through Fullmetal Alchemist at the moment).

My most recent Studio Ghibli film was The Cat Returns, and this time I decided to do a proper review for it because I have quite a bit of fangirling to share.

The Cat Returns centers around Haru. She’s a klutzy and seemingly unlucky girl who has a hard time a school (and at life in general). Things get worse for her, though, after she saves a cat from being hit by a car. Suddenly, all of the cats in the Cat Kingdom are trying to repay her for saving their prince. Since things, of course, have to get EVEN worse before they can get better, she also finds herself engaged to the cat prince. Needing to escape from her impending marriage, she tracks down the Baron—a cat figurine who can help stop the cats from the Cat Kingdom from invading her life and forcing her to marry a feline.

The Cat Returns was an adorable movie. The art wasn’t quite as gorgeous as the other Studio Ghibli movies I’ve seen, but I think that comes from this taking place in a primarily urban setting. The characters were still well drawn, but I just missed the gorgeous scenery of My Neighbor Totoro and the intricate art of Howl’s Moving Castle. The cuteness of the cats did make up for that, though. My favorites were Yuki (who looked like a grown up Marie from Aristocats) and Natoru who had those cute floppy ears and pink cheeks.

Speaking of cats, the Baron was an absolutely fantastic character. I loved that Cary Elwes was chosen to voice him. The suave, British accent he affected was perfect for the character. It’s, of course, a tad unusual that Haru develops a crush on the Baron, but it’s all part of the fun (especially since I feel like most of us Disney nerds can’t judge because of the whole Robin Hood-fox-thing). Throughout the whole movie, I truthfully couldn’t get over how cool the Baron was—especially when he got to fight off villains with his cane or don a cape and mask. What’s not to love about a “cat” in a top hat?the-cat-returns

I also loved Haru. She was sweet and funny and very dramatic. She looked pretty sweet as a cat girl too. (You can understand why she might have been reticent about changing back.) She never quite turned into an action heroine despite her adventurous story, but I was okay with that. I liked that she had to learn to trust herself. It was amusing that her transformation was framed by the “I can’t tell this school boy that I like him” confession to her friend and her eagerness to tell the Baron that she had a bit of a crush on him.

I’m very surprised at how much I loved The Cat Returns. It was such a sweet and exciting movie that I got totally swept up in it. I’d definitely recommend putting this on your must watch list if you’ve never seen it.

My Current Studio Ghibli Movie Rankings

  1. Howl’s Moving Castle
  2. The Cat Returns
  3. My Neighbor Totoro
  4. Ponyo

Have you ever had a crush on a non-human character from an animated film?

Images from Studio Ghibli Screencaps

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