Review - The Cat Returns

This will be a collecting point for my past anime reviews and future reviews. Please note that there will be the inevitable time references in these as they have been lifted from my old LiveJournal (I'll keep the existing ones there for now)

Review - The Cat Returns

Postby mistie710 » Thu Sep 30, 2010 12:51 am

Sorry, umaa faithful, but my first review of 2009 isn't connected with anything that the Church of Mecha might be happy with. :D

I must admit that I didn't get into Studio Ghibli right away, In fact, it wasn't until I got hold of a copy of the bastardised cut of Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, the highly questionable Warriors of the Wind, that I had any real experience of the work of Miyazaki and company, though I was certainly aware of their theatrical releases, mostly because of the rave reviews from various folk in the anime press and on Usenet of many earlier works including Nausicaa, Porco Rosso, Kiki's Delivery Service and others. In fact, manga aside, my first real taste was when I managed to get the Miramax US version of Princess Mononoke some years ago which I can say I thoroughly enjoyed. So what of this title?

The Cat Returns centres itself on a young girl called Haru and the adventures she gets into following her somewhat spectacular rescue of a cat. The cat in question was in danger of being run over after dropping a package (ooer, Missus!) which it stops to pick up. Haru scoops the cat up with a lacrosse stick and dives for the verge on the other side of the road. Following this, Haru is somewhat surprised to find herself showered with unwanted gifts, then told that she will be taken to the cat kingdom to marry the prince of said kingdom (who just happens to be the very same cat that Haru rescued). She is torn between considering the future as a cat and her life as it was and, following the prompting of a mysterious voice, ends up at the Cat Bureau in the company of the Baron, a cat figurine that comes to life to resolve problems such as this.

The story is somewhat lighthearted, certainly much more so than Mononoke-hime, but doesn't suffer for it, the story being charming and the animation quality as good as Ghibli ever makes. The only thing that let the whole package down was that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find Ghibli animation with a proper translation on it. Packaged by Disney*, the emphasis was all on the big names (sic) being used on the dub while the Japanese track was lower quality, uncredited and dubtitled. While I appreciate why Disney spend so much time pushing the dub and all that goes with it, they need to remember that the subtitle track (by which I mean the translation rather than the subs for the hard of hearing which are usually expected to be dubtitles anyway) is meant for the anime fans. Putting a dubtitle on there is lazy and, ultimately, pointless.

The movie is also yet another reminder that Disney have lost the plot when it comes to animation generally as Ghibli produces yet another movie that easily outclasses anything its erstwhile American distributor can muster these days. When I compare this movie, or Spirited Away or even Castle of Cagliostro (which is showing its age a little now but is still a fine movie) with the sort of product that Disney have been pulling together in the last decade or so, I can't help thinking that Disney have not only jumped the shark but have swum to shore on the other side to take stock of which bits were bitten off.

To sum up, this is an excellent movie, despite the mishandling of its Merkan distributor, and is well worth a look, not only for anime fans but for animation lovers generally.

*Yes, I'm aware that the UK version goes via a different route but, as I am also aware, the UK distributor dubtitles anyway, despite all that has been said to them.

I've edited the above to correct a mistake that the folk on Usenet drew my attention to. Thanks, folk!
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