The Cat Returns strikes me as one of the lesser known Studio Ghibli titles. There was a showing in theaters on Monday as part of Ghibli Fest 2018. Today is the last day to see The Cat Returns in theaters, and I hope my dear readers are able to take advantage of it if they have the time. Because no one talks about The Cat Returns, I assumed it was a mediocre film. What I discovered on Monday was that it’s a splendid movie reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland and better than the Disney film of Lewis Caroll’s famous book.
Before talking about the film, I must mention how vexatious Fathom Event’s presentation of the movie proved to be. Having arrived twenty minutes early, I settled down to read some of Dostoyevsky’s short story “The Crocodile.” It’s a very amusing short story which mocks capitalism and socialism at the same time. The capitalist character basically lacks compassion for the poor and is overly academic. The socialist character, who happens to get swallowed by a crocodile early in the short story, does not even live in reality. This gentleman somehow manages to live after being swallowed by the crocodile and feels that his position, that of one cut off from humanity and in complete darkness, somehow qualifies him to propose new economic and social theories to mankind. It has to be one of Dostoyevsky’s funniest pieces, and I’d recommend “The Crocodile” to anyone with some spare time.
When the time for the showing began, I was dismayed by seeing in the lower right corner of the screen “Advertised time to showing: 30:00.” No, the advertised time was now–not half an hour from now! I suppose Fathom Events needed time to show their own advertisements and coming attractions–and, I would have resigned myself even to half an hour of coming attractions and ads. BUT THEY SPENT TWENTY MINUTES OF THE TIME WITH TRIVIA QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CAT RETURNS! I don’t want to guess at trivia about a movie I’ve never seen! And they repeated the same questions over again! The movie did not even begin half an hour later: THERE WERE MORE ADS EVEN AFTER HALF HOUR WAS UP! If only I had known I was arriving an hour before the movie started. I used this extra time to finish reading “The Crocodile” and moved on to Dostoyevsky’s Poor Folk before the feature actually began.
At any rate, the actual film was spectacular. Haru, our heroine, has the good fortune to save the prince of the magical Cat Kingdom. For which, the king of that land wishes to marry Haru to his son by way of reward. Naturally, our Japanese high school girl has no wish to be married off to a cat. To prevent this marriage, she seeks the help of Baron Humbert von Gikkingen and his two associates, Toto and Muta. (The latter of whom, a large white cat, amusingly gets called Buta–“Pig”–by two of the characters in the show. I wonder how they conveyed that pun in the English dub?) Baron Humbert’s attitude and poise rather reminds one of Sherlock Holmes, which is no accident considering the great popularity of Sherlock Holmes in Japan. (There’s even a statue of Holmes in Karuizawa.) Things immediately get worse as soon as Baron Humbert agrees to help her, and the audience is treated to a great adventure in the Cat Kingdom.
One might wonder whether the animation from 2002 would hold up in 2018. It looked great to me; though, I am a fan of the older cel style of animation–the kind Megalo Box is trying to emulate. The adventure in The Cat Returns reminded me a lot of Alice in Wonderland. Our heroine shrinks once she arrives in Cat Kingdom. It turns out that the king is a crazy despot. The Baron must help Haru escape before she becomes a permanent resident. Throughout, the animation and music score keep the audience fascinated as the time passes all too quickly. If anything, the main drawback to this movie is that it feels a bit rushed. One wishes that it lasted a good half an hour more.
So, my advice is to go watch The Cat Returns in theaters while you have the chance. If you miss the last showing today, it’s still very much worth watching at home. Overall, I have to give it…