‘The Cat Returns’ is a 2002 film by Studio Ghibli and is just pure joy. It’s a fun, zany film about school-girl Haru who saves a cat’s life, only to learn that the feline was no ordinary animal, but the prince of the ‘cat kingdom’.
The king of the cat kingdom wants to thank Haru by getting her married to his son. How Haru tries to get herself out of the bizarre situation forms rest of the plot. As I watched the film in the comfort of my couch, I felt like a happy kid, feeling all warm and fuzzy due to the cuteness of the film. Almost all the cats in this 75 minute film are adorable.
Haru makes friends with a fat cat Muta and the suited-up Baron who was first introduced to the Ghibli audience in the 1995 film ‘Whisper of the Heart’, another gem. The three of them find themselves on a crazy adventure in the Cat Kingdom, which is shaped like a paw.
‘The Cat Returns’ infuses magic, fantasy & fun, while at the same time it subtly deals with themes like existentialism, despotism & romanticism. The animation is rich in little details and there are lots of easter-eggs to remind you of other Ghibli films.
The animators have taken a lot of effort into each character that features in the story, making them look literal representatives of their personality traits. For example, the king of the cat kingdom is obese, wears bold gold jewelry, has crazy hair – just like his greedy, autocratic, irrational self.
Baron, the soft-spoken & intelligent cat on the other hand is well-dressed and impeccable in appearance. There is Yuki, a darling feline, who is the first to come to Haru’s rescue and looks just as demure & sweet as her character is. It’s hard not to go ‘aww’ when some of these cats come on screen.
Despite being a lot shorter than most animated films from the same studio, ‘The Cat Returns’ is a sparkling little wonder from their kitty. Pun intended.
The film is available on Netflix.