Neko no Ongaeshi
- The Cat Returns
- by Hiroyuki Morita
- Studio Ghibli
- is a spin off from ‘The Whisper of the Heart’
Haru Yoshioka is a young girl who is not really good in making decisions by herself. One day, she witnessed a cat crossing the street with a present in his mouth. Carelessly as the cat is, a truck comes by but Haru manages to save the cat. However, the cat is indeed not a common cat, he is Lune: the prince of the cats. So, she gets the offer from the King himself to marry his son as a gratitude for her life saving act from which she cannot escape. In company of other cats Muta (the big white cat) and Baron and with the help of the raven Toto, they must travel to the cat world to clear the misunderstanding and stop the marriage. In fact, the travel is filled with several adventures and it is tougher as they thought.
The anime movie has an interesting plot and message: a girl who goes through character development. She gains more self confidence and learns a lot about herself after having met the cats. She suffered from lack of self confidence. The story is told like a fairytale and it consists of many adorable moments such as Haru feeding a tiny homeless kitten. One can say that it is a family movie but it caught our attention.
The dominant aspect is fantasy. The movie is about talking cats who behave like humans. They walk on two legs, wear clothes and even read newspapers. There exists also a Cat Kingdom, a place where only cats live. This kingdom is reigned by a king who is accompanied by many cat soldiers. Beside the cats, there is also a talking raven, Toto, who plays an important role. In fact, ‘Neko no Ongaeshi’ contains fantasy elements similar to Alice in Wonderland: Haru shrinks as she enters the cat world, the same happened to Alice as she got carried into a magical world to learn about herself.
Apart from the fantasy elements, the anime can also be considered as a comedy. Especially the disputes between the raven and the big cat named Muto. Both seem to not like each other very much and they like to tease one another. Indeed, all actions done by Muto such as the fighting against other cats are really funny. He is the funniest character or rather cat in the anime movie. We also like the fact that Muto is sometimes called Buto which might be a reference to bu(ta) meaning fat. The whole movie contains many funny elements such as cats walking on only two legs.
The characters are good depicted. The movie shows a very realistic attitude of a high school girl (Haru) because she still has to learn about herself. This realistic depiction makes the anime authentic. In addition, Baron and his heroic attitude entertains and attracts the attention of the audience. He acts more human like and can be considered as the hero of the movie.
The animation of the anime is very well done. However, it is nothing remarkable or memorable as one is used to for Ghibli movies. The characters are very simply drawn and there is nothing special neither about the landscape nor about the environment.
All in all, ‘Neko no Ongaeshi’ is a very amusing and enjoyable movie to watch. It is a lovely and sweet tale which sometimes seems a bit too childish. It contains sweet depictions of cats and it is also filled with enough suspense so that you do not get bored. We think that the anime might attract more female audiences because of the lovely depiction of cats and Haru as a female protagonist.