The Cat Returns: Review/Synopsis

by: Roarkiller

The latest movie from the production line of Studio Ghibli, Neko no Ongaeshi is a light-hearted movie as digestible as chicken soup. Directed by Morita Hiroyuki, the movie is based on the manga Baron, Neko no Danshaku by Hiiragi Aoi, who is also the author of Mimi wo Sumaseba and its sequel Mimi wo Sumaseba: Shiawase na Jikan.

Neko no Ongaeshi is similar to the critically-acclaimed movie Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi by Miyazaki Hayao in the sense that it begins in normal Japan and shifts to a parallel world later in the story. There, the similarity stops and a whole new adventure begins.

The story is about a typical Japanese girl Haru who seems to have a nack in getting into mishaps. One day, she saves a cat from being run over by a truck. The cat turns out to be the prince of the Cat Kingdom and, in return of the favor, the king has decreed that the whole kingdom tries its best to repay her kindness. Unfortunately for her, none of the 'gifts' were fitting for a human, and to add to her troubles, she was also decreed to be married to the prince that she saved.

The movie in general borders along humor and fantasy, leaning more towards the former. Haru's naiveness and the antics of the cats will definitely put a smile and a laugh into your mouth. No one is evil and there are no bad guys. In fact, the worst character is simply an over-eccentric father whose acts seem to be more on the naughty side than evil.

The storyline is simple yet entertaining, the animation splendid as is the trademark of Studio Ghibli. The music is enlightening, although one might notice, if observant enough, that some of the music pieces are recycled from the movie Mimi wo Sumaseba. The theme song, done by Tsuji Ayano, has such a great feel-good factor that it will remain playing in your head long after you come out of the theatre.

It's hard not to like this movie, and although it is definitely not in the same level as movies like Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa and Tenkuu no Shiro Laputa, you definitely would not want to miss this movie either. If may not be a Miyazaki movie, but it is still a Ghibli movie, and that alone is reason enough to watch it.