Title: The Cat Returns
Director: Hiroyuki Morita
Original Release: 2002
Choice: Our Girl's
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Yet another top-notch film from Studio Ghibli, The Cat Returns is a follow-up (not exactly a sequel) to the 1995 film, Whisper of the Heart (see my review here). The cat in question is the Baron, a character first introduced as a figurine in an antique shop in Whisper of the Heart. In that story, he comes to life in a fantasy sequence. In this later film, he gets a tale of his own.
Haru, a teenage girl, saves a cat from getting run over by a truck. The cat, it turns out, is actually a prince of the Cat Kingdom. Out of gratitude, the king of said realm sends his emissaries to shower Haru with gifts and, most troubling, to arrange for her marriage to the prince. A mysterious voice sends Haru to the Cat Bureau for help in getting out of this predicament. That's where she meets the Baron and also Muta, another returning character from the earlier movie. Things only get more complicated from there.
The Cat Returns has all of the Ghibli hallmarks: first class animation, a sophisticated plot and a strong female lead. Haru is true-to-life: insecure about all the things teenage girls are usually nervous about, yet spunky and decisive when she's in a tight spot. One doesn't really need to see Whisper of the Heart first since the two stories are independent of one another. However, it's a safe bet that if you like the one movie, you'll enjoy the other as well.