The Cat Returns (Neko no Ongaeshi)

The Cat Returns (Neko no Ongaeshi) 2002

After 1995’s Whisper of the Heart I imagine at least a few folks were saying ‘I wish we could read one of Shizuku’s stories about Baron’ and luckily, that’s the premise of The Cat Returns.

It’s a loose sequel to Whisper of the Heart (as the carry-over characters are limited to the Baron and Muta) and it follows more of an adventure/isekai storyline – and those aren’t negative differences for me. The movie is also a little shorter than most Ghibli films but Aoi Hiiragi is still involved with the writing so the Baron is his usual charming self.

As ever, the animation is great. Both the real world and the Cat Kingdom that main character Haru finds herself dragged into are bright and memorable but for me, despite Haru being a good lead, I was mostly thrilled to see Baron get to take (mostly) centre stage. There’s daring rescues, thrilling chases and even a bit of swordplay, and also comedic moments here and there too – not just slapstick, but also things like the neat little pun in the form of the CIA-like tuxedo cats.

And in a way, the film is worth it to see Muta in action too 🙂

During the years of Ghibli powering along and releasing back to back blockbusters, it seemed like maybe there wasn’t much time for the leaders of the studio to support new directors as much as they’d perhaps like… although, I haven’t read deeply on the subject but I’m very curious nevertheless.

Because obviously Miyazaki, Takahata and Suzuki have at times given the reins to other staff members and results have mostly been great, I reckon – especially with the most obvious choice in Yoshifumi Kondō (who directed Whisper of the Heart.) Here, in The Cat Returns, Hiroyuki Morita was given director’s chair. Over the years, he’d been involved in a lot of impressive titles before being given the spotlight, like Akira, Lupin III, Memories, My Neighbors the Yamadas and GITS2 among others.

In the end, I don’t know if The Cat Returns ended up being overall as enchanting for me as Whisper of the Heart but obviously they’re different films by design, and The Cat Returns is still worth watching at least once.

3 Stars

Popular Reviews from the First 6 Months

I think I might do one of these twice a year if I remember – a post where I highlight reviews that ended up being the most popular across a certain span of time, today it’ll be one that covers the first 6 months of The Review Heap in action.

Below I’ve got a few links to the reviews that got the most attention – maybe they’re not always the best ones in terms of me being especially fluent or insightful 😀 but some do at least reflect what a lot of viewers were watching in that month, I suspect.

Okay, here we go:

June – Whisper of the Heart

July – Sirius the Jaeger

August – Iria

September – Granblue Fantasy

October – Demon Slayer

November – Expelled from Paradise

And there it is! I might do an ‘answer’ to this post with 6 reviews that I thought I did a good job re: the writing of them and post it next, just to offer some contrast. Not sure if a following up style post will become a regular like this one but who knows? 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Ashley

Whisper of the Heart (Mimi o Sumaseba)

Compared to my last Ghibli-related post, this time I’ve chosen a film not directed by Miyazaki (though he did write the script) but instead by Yoshifumi Kondo.

Whisper of the Heart is another Ghibli adaptation, this time of a manga written by Aoi Hiiragi. While Whisper of the Heart has less action than early Ghibli works, it is full of conflict – and not simply the cliched teen angst to be found in many works aimed (unfairly?) at younger audiences.

Whisper of the Heart (Mimi o Sumaseba)
1995

Instead it focuses on the conflict of the writer which immediately hooked me of course, or perhaps, the conflict of the creative person – whether it’s main character Shizuku (who desperately wants to be a writer) or Seiji, her love interest, who is striving to become a violin-maker.

Most of the film focuses on the struggle these characters go through, trying to please themselves, take their dreams seriously, to work for them, while also trying to accommodate their families’ wishes and deal with their feelings for each other.

Woven within the film’s central narrative are smaller stories, the mystery of the cat Muta, the story behind the fantastic statue ‘The Baron’ and his lost love Louise, and the story young Shizuku is writing (starring the Baron), and finally the struggle to produce a complete draft that she is happy with.

Any writer or creative person should be able to relate to her frustration and excitement. On one hand, she can’t wait for someone to read it, on the other she’s convinced she’s not good enough yet. I definitely relate, and it’s part of why the movie appeals to me so much, I reckon.

Whisper of the Heart also features a classic country song written by John Denver as something more than simply soundtrack – throughout the film Take me Home, Country Roads is rewritten and performed by Shizuku, and also by Shizuku and Seiji in addition to appearing over the opening sequence – I’ll got youtube links for each (John’s version, the very earnest Olivia version and the English dub of Shizuku and Seiji on vocals and violin).

And before I wrap up the review – I should mention the ending – apparently some folks feel the proposal scene is a little too much, and years ago I remember thinking I was in agreement… but I since the, I’ve come to feel that it was meant to be a sweet (perhaps somewhat naive) gesture, which suits youth pretty well.

And here’s Miyazaki on the ending (taken from Nausicaa.net):

Q: Wasn’t Seiji’s proposal a bit too sudden?

Many thought so. In the manga, Seiji merely says “I love you”, but Miyazaki changed it to “Will you marry me?” Miyazaki defended his position by saying, “I wanted to make a conclusion, a definite sense of ending. Too many young people now are afraid of commitment, and stay on moratorium forever. I wanted these two to just commit to something, not just ‘well, we’ll see what will happen’.”

5 Stars

Ah yes, the terror of asking someone to read your work for the first time.