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The Cat Returns

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.

Info & Credits

Title The Cat Returns
Japanese Title 猫の恩返し
Japanese Title Neko no Ongaeshi
Release Date 2002
Rated G
Duration 1 hr 15 min

The characters

 image001 Haru Yoshioka
A schoolgirl whose life seems to be in constant disarray. This all changes when she saves Prince Lune. As a thank-you, the Cat King plans to take her to his kingdom with the intention of having her marry Lune. It seems no one who can save her; that is, until the eccentric Baron comes into her life.
 image002 Hiromi
Haru’s best friend who, unlike Haru, seems to have things pretty planned out.
 image003 Haru’s Mother
Haru’s mother is….. Well, Haru’s mother?
 image004 The Baron
As the owner of the strange ‘Cat Bureau’ he is known as helper to all. He is an artisan’s statue somehow been brought to life. When Haru comes to him for help, he is happy to come to her aid. Whether it’s storming the Cat King’s castle or fighting for his life, he does it all with a cane and top hat.
 image005 Muta
The grumpy assistant of the Baron. He’s hard to please but deep down he’s just a big marshmallow! (Literally!) (Also seen in Whisper of the Heart as Moon)
 image006 Toto
The figurehead of a statue that sits outside the Cat Bureau, he can be brought to life as a large, intelligent crow, who has an extreme dislike of Muta (Muta returns these feelings)
 image008 The Cat King
The Cat King is fat and deranged and is instantly devoted to Haru and quickly becomes over-protective of her and refuses to listen to her protests at marrying Lune. When she tries to escape he gives chase, seemingly oblivious to her unwillingness to go through with the wedding.
 image009 Prince Lune
Prince of the Cat Kingdom and, he is the entire opposite of his father, The Cat King. He is unaware of the schemings of his father; when he discovers his father’s plan, he steps in to save the day.
 image010 Yuki
Saved as a kitten by Haru, Yuki is determined to set things right and does her best to get Haru back to the human kingdom. She is a beautiful cat and has found an admirer in Prince Lune…
 image011 Natoru
A determined cat who is endlessly running after Haru, he is a high-standing servant of the King and is blissfully ignorant of the havoc he wreaks in kidnapping Haru. He is a classic lackey and yes-man.
 image012 Natori
The Cat King’s elderly and extremely loyal adviser, he is not entirely trustful of the King’s arranged marriage and does his best to quietly stop it. Unfortunately, Natoru is constantly getting under foot and ruining his plans.
 image013 Machida
A schoolmate who Haru has a big crush on. One obstacle: he doesn’t even know she exists.
 image014 Tsuge
Another of Haru and Hiromi’s schoolmates who is a competitive table tennis player. Hiromi is attracted to him.

Production Credits

Director Hiroyuki Morita
Original Work Aoi Hîragi
Screenplay Reiko Yoshida
Producer Toshio Suzuki, Nozomu Takahashi, Ned Lott
Executive Producer Hayao Miyazaki, Hironori Aihara, Rick Dempsey, Koji Hoshino, Takeyoshi Matsushita, Hideyuki Takai, Seiichiro Ujiie
Original Music Yuji Nomi
Casting Ned Lott
Art Director Naoya Tanaka

Voice Casting

Character English Japanese
Haru Yoshioka Anne Hathaway

Katia Coe (younger Haru)

Chizuru Ikewaki
Hiromi Kristen Bell Hitomi Sato
Haru’s Mother Kristine Sutherland Kumiko Okae
Baron Cary Elwes Yoshihiko Hakamada
Muta Peter Boyle Tetsu Watanabe
Toto Elliot Gould Yôsuke Saitô
The Cat Emperor Tim Curry Tetsuro Tamba
Lune Andrew Bevis Takayuki Yamada
Yuki Judy Greer Aki Maeda
Natoru Andy Richter Mari Hamada
Natori Rene Auberjonois Kenta Satoi

The Cat Returns Trailer

Screenshots from the movie
QualitŽ: deuxime gŽnŽration.   Titre: Le Royaume Des Chats.

QualitŽ: deuxime gŽnŽration.   Titre: Le Royaume Des Chats.

QualitŽ: deuxime gŽnŽration.   Titre: Le Royaume Des Chats.





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